Cal from Post-Punk band Liquid Face: “Playing music is a good way to let the devil out”

Original photo by Dougal Gorman, courtesy of Liquid Face. Handmade collage by B.

Northern New South Wales band Liquid Face’s sets are hectic, chaotically energetic and in your face; if anger is an energy, guitarist-vocalist Cal’s performance may have enough to power the entire world! Their recordings are gut-wrenchingly emotional yet at times defensively apathetic. Aggressive and abrasive yet melodic with quirky synth lines and unnatural bleeps, bloops and effects taking the band beyond your traditional thrashy punk band into a futuristic slipstream where they’re riding their own wave; their wall of noise is impressive, you can’t help but feel compelled to climb, taking it in. We interviewed Cal to get an insight into Liquid Face.

CAL: Playing music is a good way to let the devil out [laughs].

I noticed when I was dialling your number that you have 666 in it!

CAL: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess it’s meant to be!

What have you been listening to lately?

CAL: A lot of Billy Childish stuff. I just came out of a late set Slayer phase after going to their show at the end of last year which was pretty inspiring haha.

In what way?

CAL: The fucking power of the riffs, the fucking huge energy haha! In a way It’s sort of what I try to channel in Liquid Face, just being as expressive as you can and letting as much out as you can in playing.

When we’ve seen you play, we totally felt that! What else have you been listening to?

CAL: Still a lot of Lumpy & The Dumpers. Still on The Coneheads as well, that really kicked off the Liquid Face stuff for me. Still all the classics too like Gary Numan and Devo. A bit of the Radiators.

Do you have any particular songs that you listen to when you want to cheer yourself up?

CAL: [Laughs] Cheer myself up, ‘ey? I’m not too good at that [laughs]. Usually I just channel it into a riff or something.

Is there a band that you listen to when you want to indulge your bad mood?

CAL: Warthog is a good one, it really brings that out [laughs]… more Lumpy! Stuff like Sonic Youth, the real early stuff where it’s not afraid to be a super ugly recording.

Photo by Nat Collins, courtesy of Liquid Face.

Who or what was one of your first musical influences?

CAL: Probably seeing Unknown Pleasures [by Joy Division] in my dad’s CD collection; my dad introduced me to that and Warsaw. That was my first introduction into something really cool with a lot happening.

What attracted you to making music yourself?

CAL: I guess, just wanting to play and having a way to express yourself creatively. It’s pretty tempting. And I’m pretty much a recluse and an isolationist! So it’s a good way to fill your time. [laughs]. I like figuring shit out myself. When I was a kid I used to plug out of the back of my guitar amp and plug that into the headphone jack of the computer and make some fuck up recordings. That progressed into getting a bit of a set-up and trying to actually write songs.

How did you come up with the idea for Liquid Face?

CAL: I was playing in the bands DRAGGS and Gee Tee for a bit, there was a lot of music happening in the house I was living in at the time, so it just kinda happened naturally. I was going through a bit of a fucked up phase in my life and I had a lot of shit to get out! [laughs]. Had my drum kit n’ amps in my room and that turned into Liquid Face.

Drums would be a good instrument to get lots of stuff out on!

CAL: Yeah, it’s my favourite instrument for that. There’s nothing like the feeling of beating on the tubs! My parents bought me a drum kit when I was a kid, they got rid of it soon after getting it [laughs], that really sparked my interest in making music though. I got a guitar a bit after that.

When you started Liquid Face I know you did demos yourself and you started doing it using voice memos on your phone…

CAL: Yeah, I did. Then it went into Garageband from that. I tried to do the first recording on tape and I put it in a tape recorder and it just spat the thing out everywhere, then I was kind of done with that format for a bit [laughs]. I’ve been living in the digital age now.

When you started it was just you by yourself, then you had a line-up with two drummers, when I saw you play you had one drummer and now you’re back to recording by yourself again, right?

CAL: Yeah, we’ve had a bit of roller coaster ride of members in Liquid Face. It’s been a pleasure with everyone but it changes quite a bit and now I’m living out in Mullumbimby where I haven’t found people play a similar kind of music, so I’m just going to do it all myself for now.

Nice! That’s kind of cool though because you can do absolutely anything you want.

CAL: Absolutely! We were meant to start jamming for new recordings with our drummer Lachie but then all of this [Coronavirus] shit happened and we can’t get through the borders, so it’s just me again.

You recently just dropped a new song ‘Animosity’; what was inspiring that?

CAL: A lot of bad feelings [laughs]. Sometimes I use making music as a way to not have to think about stuff, I guess. It’s a bit of a mix of everything really, disillusionment, I don’t know what the fuck is going on with anything in my life really. I just got fucking fired, all the good stuff. It’s pretty much record how I’m feeling or a life of crime! [laughs].

You also released the track ‘Teen Man’ recently too.

CAL: Similar stuff inspired that one but it’s almost like a self-review, aging but without the maturity and never feeling satisfied with anything that you do. I’d like to be a lot more mature and have my shit under control but, that’s not really the way things are going.

How did you record those songs?

CAL: I’m just recording them all at my house right now, just going into the old laptop. I put down a bass guide first then put drums over the top and then layer everything else over that. Vocals are done last.

One thing I’ve always loved about Liquid Face is your guitar tone, it just cuts through everything.

CAL: It’s a good representation of the feelings we’re trying to convey that it just kind of stabs ya! [laughs]. I’m really obsessed with gear, I’m a bit of a gear hoarder. The kind of gear that I was using, really bright guitars and amp, Jazzmasters, Music Man Amps, just trying to tap into that really fucking harsh sound—reminiscent of Sonic Youth and Roland S. Howard I guess.

Live I’ve seen you use a circuit bent baby doll thing! I’d never see anything like that before.

CAL: Yeah, it’s pretty cool, huh?!  Baby’s Gone to Sleep For Now. So im just using little Korg things to make some fucked up noise.

I love the weird, interesting sound you layer over the top of the guitars.

CAL: It’s hard for me to keep things simple and really not clutter I all because it’s me just writing it and I’ve never been really very good at denying myself any little pleasures. Any little bleep bloops and shit I can put on their on do!

What’s one of the most fun pieces of equipment you use?

CAL: Still the Jazzmasters, I’m really enjoying them. The trem on them! Dipping into notes and shit like that and going fucking ham on it! Good Gats. But just converted my Mustang to a 12 string. That’s pretty fun. [laughs].

Photo by Nat Collins, courtesy of Liquid Face.

Last year you release your debut LP; can you tell us a little bit about it?

CAL: It was the amalgamation, we wrote the songs two years before we put them out. We hesitated on it hell hard. We weren’t sure about the recorded sound but just though, fuck it! It is what it is, a D.I.Y. thing. We recorded at our old drummer’s jam space, I mixed it myself. Sat on it for a bit and finally put it out.

How do you feel about the LP having it out in the world for about a year now?

CAL: I’m happy with it as a statement. It was a real learning curve because it was the first full length release I’ve mixed myself. It could have been done better but it’s the intent of the sound that matters most.

Did you teach yourself to mix?

CAL: I went to Griffith Uni and TAFE in Brisbane but just dropped out of both when I learnt all that I needed it know.

So many people I know that have done courses like that usually end up dropping out, hating making music or when they do make it they just compress the fuck out of it until all the soul and fire and feeling is gone.

CAL: Yeah. All the industry shit is so twisted! It feels really dirty.

Totally! It’s so gross how the music industry operates a lot of the time. The most interesting music to me is always usually outside of the industry on the fringes.

CAL: I totally agree.

We’re big fans of your song ‘Isolate’; can tell us about making it?

CAL: Again It was inspired by the gear. I was using bass strings on a fucked up guitar with a weird tuning for writing that song. It was just about that recluse life [laughs]. The sound and the beat is what got it started; the drum beat, just getting pumped up off of that!

You do Liquid Face’s art as well?

CAL: Yeah all apart from apart from the cover of S/T. Sarah our keyboardist did that.

Did you study art or do you just like to draw?

CAL: I was really into it before I got my hands on a guitar, I filled up my time with drawing. I stopped all of that when music came along. Now I’ve started it up again so I have some thing to put on covers.

Do you have any favourite artists?

CAL: not really, I like Raymond Pettibon. Monochrome shit. album art work, that probably inspires me more than anything.

You screen print all your own merch too? Is that self-taught?

CAL: Yeah I do. My parents actually taught me to do it, they’ve been doing a little side hustle for years. keepin shit D.I.Y [laughs].. It just feels right to be doing everything yourself, especially for the music we play.

Is there anything else creative that you haven’t tried yet but would love to?

CAL: Maybe doing a bit more creative writing with other people in the future would be cool, but I’m too much of a control freak right now to give it up [laughs].

What are you working on right now?

CAL: This morning I’ve been working on the next song we’re going to release. We’re sitting on a bit of a stockpile of demos right now! The plan is with all this isolation shit is to just keep locked indoors and keep recording. I’d love to put them all together into a physical release, the plan is just to keep sprinkling them out there for the time being, give people time to digest them and think about them.

Is it the same kinds of themes you’ve been writing about it the past that’s been shaping the new songs?

CAL: Yeah pretty much, indulgence, anger, impending doom, confusion, finding your place in the world. I’ve pretty much done all of the instrumentation for the next batch and now I’ve painted myself into a corner where I have to figure out lyrics for them now.

Why is music important to you?

CAL: Music gives you a feeling like nothing else. It makes me excited when nothing else does. It’s something that I can always get stoked about!

Please check out: LIQUID FACE. Liquid Face on Instagram. LF’s song ‘Animosity’ features in cassette compilation A Long Time Alone out on Blow Blood Records – get it here.

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