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Escape Velocity

Tenebrous Liar Are Floating In The Stars And Staring At The Gutter
Alex Denney , November 13th, 2008 13:51

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Elegantly esconced in a corner of Soho's 12 Bar with suit, stubble and Bukowski volume close to hand, Steve Gullick wears the look of a man plagued by doubt. The 41-year-old music photographer of some renown has just released an album with his band, Tenebrous Liar, and he's worried that he’s going to look like a prick.

"It's a risk," he concedes, nervously fingering what we'll idly assume to be his twelfth cup of coffee of the day (it's 11am). "I just think people are gonna see me onstage and recognise me as that photographer and think, 'What the fuck is he doing up there?'"

He needn't sound so perturbed. As musical projects go, Tenebrous Liar are a blast, albeit a lugubrious, grindingly dissonant one. Musically their second album Last Stand recalls Shellac, Liars and Nirvana at their most bloody-minded and amusical.

(He's actually also a veteran of several other musical projects including Bender and Tenebrous Mitchell, Ed.)

It's also steeped in the kind of curdled, primordial folk that friend and Archie Bronson collaborator Duke Garwood specialises in.

"Duke's played with us before," Gullick says. "I think in a way we're a folk band that likes to make a lot of noise. The songs are generally written on acoustic guitar, there could be folk versions of everything on the LP.

"I loved Codeine, they just had these gentle songs shrouded with noise. Thinking about it I'd quite like to sound like Smog played by Earth, that would be ace."

Tenebrous Liar started life as Tenebrous, a solo project springing from the home recordings Gullick made during one of his periods of joblessness while feeling bored and depressed. All of his songs, Gullick claims, come from this perspective, and he "find[s] it impossible writing from a happy place".

Catharsis is the watchword, then, although Gullick claims he's snuck some belly laughs under the radar with the darkly humorous likes of 'Doomed': "I'm doomed he said / drank too much now I'm frisky / doomed he said / hold my jacket whilst I kick you / I'm doomed he said / hold steady as I piss on you / I'm doomed he said / hold my dick so I don't miss you."

Which brings us to another sore point: the lyrics. "I tend to like all the songwriting greats, you know Bonnie Prince Billy, Cat Power, Bill Callahan... it can make you a little paranoid when it comes to writing your own words. That's why I've tended to obscure them in the past, although they’re actually a little more audible on the new album I'd say."

Ah, the new album. A 'pop' record to Gullick's ears ("the noisy stuff comes really naturally so making songs with hooks is, uh, experimental to me"), Last Stand was recorded in one thirteen-hour marathon slog, and weaned on a diet of rock & roll classics for the mixing process.

"I was listening to a lot of White Light/White Heat, Raw Power and In Utero" Gullick says. "And Tonight's The Night by Neil Young, that was another big one around the time."

Weren't they all pissed when they recorded that one? Have you been taking a leaf out of Neil's book?

"Nah. We just wouldn't be able to play."

Last Stand is available now on TV Records. A four-track EP, Pretender, is released on November 23rd in download format and on limited CD via mailorder also from TV Records.