Liily: chaotic LA rock’n’roll for the internet generation
Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you’ll see opening the bill for your favourite act. This week, LA-based rockers Liily discuss their local scene and the importance shaking up rock tropes on their forthcoming debut album
Enter on a cacophony of broken trumpets. Then thumbtacks and syringes, a faucet dripping eternally, all patient in their torment. Purgatory, this is. Liily frontman Dylan Nash imagines so, anyway; this is the Lovecraftian nightmare he created on ‘The Miracle of Race Wild’, a track from the LA band’s forthcoming debut album ‘TV Or Not TV’, out later this year.
“I always see people applauding themselves because they just need to applaud themselves, and I thought it would be interesting if they knew what an actual purgatory would be like,” says Nash. “I think it [would be] terrifying to be in a room of things that are not necessarily scary at face value, but just irritate the hell out of you.”
It’s telling that Nash envisions purgatory not as nothing at all, but everything at once. The band (Nash, drummer Maxx Morando, guitarist Sam De La Torre and bassist Charlie Anastasis) are all aged between 21 and 23; they’ve grown up amid the chaos and confusion of the internet age, fed constant information at a terrifying rate. Their frenzied, abrasive, kitchen-sink approach to rock’n’roll encapsulates that perfectly.
The four have been in each other’s orbit since they met at music school as kids, but Liily kicked off for real in 2016. They introduced themselves with 2019 EP ‘I Can Fool Anybody In This Town’, and after that they were on the road tirelessly. Rather than scuppering plans for their debut full-length, the pandemic actually enhanced it. “It made us all focus on improving our creative muscle, and it taught us a lot of valuable lessons about writing,” says Morando. They strove for more variety and dynamics in their songwriting, while the intense parts became even more potent.
Meanwhile, lyrically, Nash became more intentional in focusing on the world around him instead of immediate personal feelings. “It’s important to be observant. I took things I’ve picked up on, everything I’ve seen over the past two years, regardless of what it is.” Unsurprising after the last few years, there’s an urgency to his words. Self-image and consumerism are approached on ‘Man Listening To Disc’, while the most direct reaction to society under the internet is ‘I Am Who I Think You Think I Am’, which satirises QAnon, and howls against the anxiety of an ultra-accelerated world.
The band also used the time to dive deeper into musical discovery. The album is equally inspired by Rage Against The Machine as it is Talking Heads, while flashes of electronic and jazz jostle for room too. “We made a conscious effort in the pursuit of finding new music,” says Nash. “Our whole concept is to listen to as much music as you can, and whatever you create out of that is what you should create.” It’s a signal of the streaming age, where discovery is so easy and constant that genre boundaries ultimately collapse.
In Liily’s eyes, rock music will thrive when it leaves behind categorisation. “I think it’s important that artists shouldn’t subscribe [to genre],” says Nash. “For any band that pushes the threshold, it’s either gonna do nothing or it’s gonna make major waves.” In their home country, they see a lack of kindred spirits — mostly they look to envelope-pushing bands from this side of the pond, like Black Midi and Girl Band, for inspiration. “Rock tends to hold onto anything that’s passé,” Nash continues. “The bands that we really like that are technically rock are taking tropes and reversing them, and turning it upside down and flipping it inside out. That’s moving the genre forward.”
Developments in the LA underground rock scene last year also spoke to the darker side of the traditional rock mentality, when an enormous wave of sexual misconduct allegations arose against the prominent record label Burger Records and many of its affiliated artists. Liily grew up going to Burger shows, and some of the accusers are their friends.
“A lot of those old tropes [of rock and roll behaviour] are disgusting, and life-ruining, and cruel,” says Anastasis. Liily take seriously their responsibility to fans, particularly younger ones, and emphasise their commitment to safety at their shows. “Cause if we’re not making them feel safe, how safe are they gonna feel anywhere else? It’s really important,” says Nash.
When Liily get back on the road — and get to work on a new album, which is already incubating — they’re not interested in being rock stars. They’re just interested in growing creatively, and as human beings. “I think that’s the only goal that anybody that wants to make music should have,” Nash posits. While the world turns ever faster and the ride gets ever dizzier, there’ll be plenty of noise left for Liily to make.
Liily’s debut album ‘TV Or Not TV’ is out on October 22