Liam Finn

When a studio and rehearsal complex, located in the Los Angeles musical community of Echo Park, decides to put on a festival that caters to no one particular genre or rules, what do you get? LA Weekly’s BedrocktoberFest.

Saturday, October 5th was a typically sunshine-y LA day as the rock, hip hop, beer, backup dancer, food truck, magician (yes, there were magicians in the mix) mélange boasted an eclectic lineup featuring the likes of Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA to New Zealander-by-way-of-Australia’s Liam Finn who now lives in Brooklyn, NY. The intent of the event hosted on the grounds that surrounded the Bedrock Studios complex was a good time and music-community building: basically a block party.

We sat down with Liam in one of Bedrock’s impressive rehearsal rooms where the conversation roamed from living in Brooklyn to Bedrock’s attitude to impressing his girlfriend via Wu-Tang Clan.

HV: Quite a while ago Brooklyn was quite the urban part of town. Generally the wealthier people lived in Manhattan. Now it’s gotten to the point where Brooklyn’s become so gentrified and Manhattan’s become so expensive, everybody’s moved to Brooklyn.
Liam: It seems that way. We live in Greenpoint. It’s like such a different place. I remember when I went to New York when I was a teenager with my family. There was no talk of ever even going over to Brooklyn or anything like that. I always knew that MCA from the Beastie Boys was from Brooklyn and so I was always really intrigued about going over there. When I finally got to play a show over there, about six, seven years ago, I was kind of nervous. Then I was like ‘Oh, this is just a normal city.’

HV: Where did you play?
Liam: First thing I did was a show at the Sound Fix record store that’s just on Berry and North 13th, something like that. I thought, oh, is this dangerous? Now I live just up the road from there and I’m like, what was I thinking? It’s so different now, I guess.

HV: You’re in Brooklyn at the right time.
Liam: Yeah, I guess it is. Some people would argue that it was the wrong time. I really enjoy it. I like that it’s become a creative hub for things. That’s in a way what I like about the feeling of this place. It seems like they’ve created that at Bedrock: a hub for bands and stuff like that. It feels like everyone knows each other. I like that. That’s what I remember talking to Kamren [Bedrock’s co-founder], who runs this place, years ago. That’s how I know them- from working with them and discussing how there’s not enough of that kind of setting up somewhere that can become the meeting ground for a lot of different people trying to do the same thing and can help each other out.

I lived in London for a long time and that was very dog-eat-dog. It wasn’t very helpful to be new on the scene. Whereas I can imagine here if you started rehearsing in one of the rooms, it wouldn’t take long before you met someone, made some connection.

HV: You’ve already picked up on this?
Liam: This is the first time I’ve actually hung out at Bedrock. We rehearsed here yesterday and everyone was just so lovely and accommodating and helpful. Like, “This guitar’s not right. I need to have a guitar.” And two minutes later they’re like, “How about this one?”

“Oh, yeah, perfect, thank you, it’s amazing.”

HV: It’s a good space. The Echo Park and Silver Lake areas- they have become, like you’ve said, that very musical center of community and some people think Williamsburg/Brooklyn is now like the East Coast version of Silver Lake and Echo Park.
Liam: It seems so and Echo Park’s probably the more Bushwick or Greenpoint.

I really like it here and actually, to be honest, it was the same thing when I first ever played in LA. It was a long time ago now. We played at the Silver Lake Lounge, my old band. I’d never been to East LA before. Never really left Hollywood or that area, so it was kind of exciting and new. It seemed like it was probably just up-and-coming at that point. Now it is, like you say, it’s a Mecca. It’s a Mecca for musicians and artists. It’s nice because LA’s always had that history as well, of a very communal kind of living and lots of bands throughout the ’60s and ’70s all living in Laurel Canyon combining forces.

HV: You know a little more about LA music history than probably a lot of people who live here.
Liam: Really?

HV: And you’re the outsider, looking in.
Liam: (laughs) Esteemed music nerd being a Neil Young fan, basically. That’s how I learned about it.

HV: Now what’s your new band called?
Liam: At the moment they want to be called the Salty Women and Man because there’s one man, my little brother. But I was happy with the Salty Women and Elroy was happy too. You can say “and man.” It doesn’t quite have the ring, but I’ll honor it.

HV: You’ll go with it.
Liam: I’ve always argued when I’ve played with a few different incarnations of a band and it’s always been really good friends. I always feel like it’s up to them to think of their name because I know it’s always an awkward thing when you get talking to someone and they say, “Oh, what band are you in?” and they go, “Oh, Liam Finn, we’re in his band.”

It’s awkward for me, going, “What band do you play in?” You go, “Oh, it’s my name.” You feel like a real dork. I figure it’s up to them to name themselves and then I can fondly refer to them at any point as that band.

HV: Now what’s the difference between the Salty Women and Man and Liam Finn?
Liam: I don’t know. They’re the foil to my mania. EJ [Eliza Jane], who I would say is the leader of the Salty Women, started singing with me without me even knowing it. She got a mic hooked up at one of my early solo shows because she knew some of the songs and she was sick of hearing me singing without harmonies.

She got a hook up to a mic on the side of the stage and I was hearing these harmonies and I was like, “Am I just imagining it?” I saw EJ lying on a couch with a microphone and a glass of whiskey, just singing, without even knowing the words but making it sound great. From that moment on she was in my band and we were a two-piece for about four years.

She’s great because I get quite adrenalized. I get very manic in guitar solos and playing drums and stuff. That gets me kind of worked up but she’s always been this kind of- even though she’s quite wild, too- she’s sort of a calming force. She keeps me in check. Jesse and CC have only added to this enjoyable aura of calmness. It’ll still get probably quite manic but they have smiles on their faces so it’s not menacing.

HV: Note to self: not so menacing. I think the last time I saw you was the Echoplex. That was three…?
Liam: Yeah, right, that was probably three years ago.

HV: I haven’t seen you since.
Liam: I’ve played one show here since then and it was like a little unannounced solo show at Largo. I’ve been making a record; it’s taken about a year. I’ve had to really fight for this one, to get it finished. It’s been really good but I had labels pull out during the making of it, mostly just because I’m just not living in Australia.

New Zealand and Australian labels are all kind of like, “We don’t know what you’re doing and we don’t even know if we want to know what you’re doing.” I ended up having to take everything back into my own hands. I always ended up being reminded that that’s the only way to get anything done in this world- not to rely on anybody.

HV: D-I-Y.
Liam: Yeah exactly, it’s been a big year of getting this thing finished and now it’s done. I’m very excited. This was a great way to kick off the new phase and come back and have a fun way to start playing shows and it not feel like it’s the beginning of a tour. It feels like a relatively stress-free, come and enjoy making music in front of people that obviously are music lovers. It’s pretty cool to get to play with RZA as well.

HV: Kind of interesting.
Liam: Yeah, I know. Well, it was a big reason of why I was interested in doing it [Bedrocktoberfest]. Not because I thought it was a great match-up. I think it’s great that they’re making a really un-genre specific festival that’s celebrating the area and this place. Also my girlfriend’s a massive Wu-Tang fan so I finally impressed her.

HV: It took how many years for you to impress her?
Liam: Yeah no, she’s never been impressed. I remember when Kamren was like “We want you to do this show,” and it’s going to be a one-off thing. I was like I don’t even know if I can bring a band all that way for one show. He was like RZA’s playing and I was like “Yeah, all right, we’ll do it.”

HV: Nice. The things you will do for your girlfriend.
Liam: I’m a fan of Wu-Tang as well, but she’s like a mega-fan. I’m really glad we get to see RZA play with a full band, which is really awesome.

HV: When do you think the album will come out?
Liam: I’d say March, April. I don’t want to rush it out because my last record I finished I did the same thing- basically finished it and then went straight on an actual tour, went straight to South By Southwest and all that craziness. The record came out one and a half months later and it just felt like I had no chance to let it breathe and enjoy a finished record. All of a sudden it was promote the record.

I’m kind of excited that I’ve got the rest of this year to make some artwork, make some videos and figure out how to actually perform a lot of it. It’s going to be really hard to tie it in to what we’re doing as a band and stuff like that. It’ll be nice and almost feel like a routine, a few things we’ve got to achieve by the end of the year to be ready to tour it next year. We’ll definitely do a few shows and stuff like that.

HV: Are you thinking about South By Southwest at all?
Liam: Yeah. So last time I went it felt more like an operation of getting to have all my different labels that I was on around the world all be in one place and all meet each other and all hatch a plan together. That felt worth it in a way, but it wasn’t quite like the years previous on my first record when we had a bit of buzz and it was like playing four shows a day and taking every opportunity that you could, which was pretty exciting, but God, it was exhausting. Everyone loses their voice.

HV: And it’s a nightmare trying to get from Point A to Point B with all your gear.
Liam: Yeah. It’s a nuts time but I would like to go. I think it would be fun. If I got to just do two shows or one show at a party and it was all calm. I don’t know why I’m getting into this whole – maybe it’s just being in LA – because I’m like really relaxing, enjoying it. Maybe it’s also because I just finished a record and I feel like I want to relax. The idea of being back in Brooklyn is just like, oh my God! Plus I live with my entire band because we all live in a house together so it’s pretty non-stop.

HV: How many of you total?
Liam: There’re five people living in the house and five people in the band, but one of them doesn’t live with us.

HV: That’s the way to do it.
Liam: That’s the way we have to do it at this point.

HV: I think that’s a great thing. I think a lot of good art comes from it – a lot of probably weird stuff happens too, with the close quarters and all. Bands that tend to live together seem to do really well artistically.
Liam: Yeah I think it also makes you a real band. I think when you watch a band on stage or you get into a band you like the idea of them being a gang of friends that you’d like to hang out with. That’s why bands I really liked, I always dreamed of getting to hang out with them, be their friends. We’re a pretty legit band if that’s what being a band is. We all barely leave our house except to go to my little studio and make music. It’s quite idyllic, I suppose. Now that we’re talking about it, I’m getting all, “Wow, it’s going to be nice to be back!”

HV: Well it’s nice to have you back in LA, Salty Women and all!