By Erin Christie
Los Angeles-based heavy-hitting five-piece Liily is on the cusp of a breakthrough, despite the fact that the pandemic briefly left them stalled, still in their tracks, in the midst of the creation of their much-anticipated debut record.
With their upcoming release in the wings, the band — comprised of members Dylan Nash (vocals), Sam De La Torre (guitar, visuals), Charlie Anastasis (bass), and Maxx Morando (drums), with the unofficial addition of Desi Scaglione (guitar)— have persisted throughout the past few months, attempting to navigate writing and recording while pondering, simply, how to survive under the looming threat of a worldwide catastrophe. All the while, they've kept much to themselves, limiting their online presence to basketball commentary from Dylan, the occasional post of a piece-in-progress from Sam, and some vague in-studio posting from time-to-time. Aside from this though, it's almost impossible to know just what they've got under their sleeves, leaving an air of mystery in their wake.
Currently, the band have just a few tracks under their belt, but each is indicative of their strong backbone and razor-sharp musical inclinations. From Maxx's effortlessly entrancing drumming capabilities (which serve as the glue for each track) to Sam's masterful, quick-paced riffing, every track they've released thus far — including those on their excellent debut EP, I Can Fool Anybody In This Town — packs a vicious punch. Their most recent single, "Wash," a percussion-led, wildly gritty headbanger, practically begs you to get in the ring and try your hand at punching back.
Over email, I chatted with Charlie to learn about how he and the band have been coping since the pandemic, and how the current climate has affected the creation of their first (and even second) LP.
Since March, how have you guys been adapting to being in a band and, overall, just existing as a musician in a world that looks like this?
The past six months in our world have definitely varied in different types of extremities, as I’m sure it has been for most collaborative artists. The first three months came with a sudden halt to all physical interaction with the five of us and moved solely to isolated work from home, which, at first, was pretty world-shattering for the same reasons as everyone else in the country, given the uncertainty and the unparalleled modern examples of something like this happening.
The other main concern was we were half way through making a record which, ultimately, came to a full stop. However, it turned out to be a very lucrative period of creativity for all of us and we ended up writing most of what is now on the record. As soon as June came around, we all got tested and began to rehearse in a locked out rehearsal space and began to put the record together in the same room. Since then, we have finished the first record and are beginning to work on record number 2.
Generally speaking, how has working in a pandemic affected your mindset in regard to music-creation? Do you feel motivated? Discouraged?
What I believe this has ultimately done for us is force some very important introspection on our part as to where our values lay. Without the prospect of touring, and focusing on the physical aspect of performing was all we needed to understand what kind of value we have for creativity, just for the sake of it. It’s turned out to be a very important kind of motivation.
How, then, did you guys approach the writing/recording process?
As far as recording is concerned, we couldn’t have been more lucky to find ourselves in the right place and right time to find people to work with and places to record. We managed to finish making our first record by the end of September.
Can you give any details regarding the kind of material you guys have under your belts? How would you say Liily's sound/thematic material has shifted, if at all?
I think, really, with all of the time we have had recently, our work has definitely taken a chameleon kind of form. We have been all over the place in terms of trying different sounds but the overall effect has paradoxically focused our overall ideas about what we can actually try to accomplish with this band. I know that is pretty vague in terms of the question, the simplest answer would be that the material is constantly shifting in hopefully a very forward way.
On the surface, the difference between the music that is currently available and the music that will be out soon might seem like a pretty dramatic departure in sound and overall ethos, but the reality of the change in sound has been a very gradual and natural evolution. The ideas on the record definitely gravitate towards a more abrasive and harsher sound, but there are also moments that are far more digestible. This is hugely due to the amount of time spent writing and rewriting songs over the course of a year and the evolving tastes that naturally occurred over such a big chunk of time. The overall effect is pretty eclectic (or it might come off as all over the place) but I think it's a pretty honest representation of a band trying to grow together and trying to set the least amount of creative barriers possible.
Did you guys have any set intentions when going about your official debut (as in, was there anything you specially wanted to say or get across sonically)?
As far as intentions go, I think they were far more subconscious than conscious. We absolutely wanted to experiment and get away from the kind of music that we can very comfortably make. But I think it was also very important to us to make a record that still felt inclusive, which meant having to really find a pretty strong sense of self awareness about the music we're making and how we genuinely felt about what we were doing.
Are there any tracks you’re particularly proud of/amped to have audiences hear?
Speaking for myself, I know there are three or four songs that I couldn't be more proud of. Unfortunately, they still don't have names, so it's hard to elaborate more on that right now.
Well, that's exciting! With the prospect of finally releasing your debut in general, how are you guys feeling? Nervous at all? Just excited to get it out there, even with the strange circumstances?
That's been the most defeating part of this whole process due to the circumstances. It's already brutally anxiety-inducing to release anything you have worked on in an environment where you can freely promote it and earn a sense of "conclusion;" the situation we're in now arguably just makes that process ten times worse.
There is this new fear, now, that whatever you make and release, no matter how good or bad it is, will still wind up falling into the void. So, my answer to that question is, yes, we are very excited to put out this album, but also terrified.
Noting that you guys also have a second release in the works (which is super commendable), is that material simply roll-off from the abundance of material you guys have had time to work on recently? Or is it totally different?
So, that is something we still haven't totally decided on. There are quite a few songs we have that didn't make it on to record number 1 that I think we all believe is worth continuing to look at, but most of the stuff we are currently working on is brand new. How that translates to the second album, I'm not sure yet.
With the release roll-out process definitely facing some changes recently, do you guys have a rough timeline sketched out yet, or is it still all up in the air?
At this point, I think it is safe to say that music will begin to be released at the beginning of next year with the album out sometime half way through next year, and then a scenario that a lot of bands are probably looking at right now is then touring on 2 albums.
With releases in mind, too, the social element of being a musician has definitely changed, with an even further emphasis on the importance of social media. Do you feel an added sense of pressure to be present online?
Our social media presence has always been pretty sparse just because we use it as a tool to promote real life things, and with the absence of real life things, there's not much to use it for at the moment.
Very fair. And in addition, many artists began using socials to host livestream sets during quarantine. Since you guys haven't personally done that, is there a specific reason not? Is it mostly the lack of need for social media in general?
Since we’ve been on the recording side of things during this time, there’s been no reason for us to throw together any virtual performance. That’s not to say we won’t do something, possibly in the future, [but] there just hasn’t been any time or need for it yet.
In line with the popularization of livestreaming, there has also been a lot of discussion regarding streaming platforms skimping out on artist payout (especially since artist income is so tight right now). How are you guys feeling about this, considering its personal impact?
Streaming revenue has been an issue for a lot longer than COVID has been, but it has absolutely floated to the top of issues facing the musical ecosystem in the wake of the pandemic. Without touring — which, even since the fall of the record-buying industry, has been more than half of how artists generate income — it has shined a light on all the giant holes in the streaming world. We, as a band, have never relied on streaming as income since the band's inception. However, I don’t really think there is much that can be done about this.
People ultimately decide the value of a product, and since people have millions of songs at their fingertips, there isn’t any reason to expect them to decide to restructure their value system for music since they are already getting it for free. If supporting artists through music streaming services is going to come from anywhere, it is going to have to come from the streaming services themselves cutting a bigger check to the bands and artists on their platforms. But, I don't see that happening.
Definitely agree. And, on another note, how are you generally feeling about the future with everything considered, especially in regard to the survival of live music?
There is no certainty with anything anymore. I’d like to think that people have been attending live performances for thousands of years and that COVID-19 being the catalyst for that to come to a grinding halt is pretty hard to believe but I think keeping expectations low is a lot healthier than not.
Is there anything you guys particularly miss most about life, pre-quarantine?
There isn’t anything we miss more than the next person regarding pre-quarantine life, but there’s a pretty big danger in the amount of thought one can put into focusing on the old normality of things because I believe it inevitably slows down forward momentum.
With Charlie's wise words in mind, make sure to keep up to date with Liily and stay tuned to learn more about what they've got brewing.