Charming Liars originally wanted to create intricate imagery to accompany their recent releases, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, those plans changed. After dropping a series of singles this year, the group are teaming up with AltPress to debut their beautifully illustrated music video for their latest track, “Flames.”
Composed of vocalist Kiliyan Maguire, guitarist Karnig Manoukian and bassist Mike Kruger, the trio’s single is touching. The instrumentation is sonically uplifting even though the words lament a broken heart. Like the imagery for “Blame,” the group enlisted the help of an artist/friend for a collaborative interpretation of the song.
With illustrations by Esmay Luck, phrases of the track are carefully laid out in pencil and paint. Though Charming Liars originally hoped to have a larger production, Maguire and Manoukian are still immensely proud of the outcome. Along with the imagery, they share how the virus affected their choice in the type of video that was created.
“Flames” has a relaxed backtrack surrounding heartfelt lyrics that sound like they’re about a lost love. Like your other releases this year, it’s quite danceable and easy to vibe with. What’s the inspiration for not only the lyrics but the instrumentation as well?
KILIYAN MAGUIRE: This song actually went through about three variations. Initially, the lyrics, and a bit of the chord structure, came about just strumming an acoustic guitar. From there, we built a driving rock song, and finally we stripped it down to what you hear today. I would have been happy with any of the variations. However, there’s something about the sounds that we went with that really complement the lyrics and the story. Lyrically, the song spawned from the first sentence “I’m sitting here in a public place,” and once I had that, the rest of the song just gently unfurled over the melody.
The music video features drawings based on the lyrics, which Esmay Luck illustrated beautifully. How did the illustrations come together? Did you have a vision for what you wanted the video to capture, or did Esmay interpret the lyrics?
KARNIG MANOUKIAN: We’ve been friends with Esmay for many years, and recently she has started to concentrate on illustrations, and we’re just big fans. So we spoke to her about working with us for this next song, and she was equally excited. In terms of the imagery, it was collaboration at its best. Kiliyan identified certain lyrical themes that could be made into a singular image or images, and then Esmay would send over rough visual representations. It went back and forth a couple times at most until we got to a point where we had 11 different illustrations.
Your last video for “Blame” also featured animations. What inspires you to forgo the typical music video that might feature just an artist? Why did you think illustrations were the best way to convey the message of “Flames”? Did the current coronavirus pandemic affect the decision to use animation?
MANOUKIAN: We had video concepts that were much more grand and elaborate for a lot of these songs, but the world changed in the space of a couple weeks, and all we could do was move forward with a new strategy. So coronavirus definitely guided us to doing simpler, smaller-budget videos, but the main goal is to have something that makes you feel and think. We definitely think we’re achieving that with videos for songs like “Blame” and “Flames.” Artists love putting out lyric videos, which we really hate. It’s an easy and gimmicky way to put out visual content, so for us, an illustration or animation or stop-motion video is our version of a lyric video but on another level.
As a band, how has your creative process evolved over the years? What’s it like writing and recording a track when the band first came together compared to now? How have you continued to grow as artists with your new releases this year, especially with “Flames”?
MANOUKIAN: Things have always improved, and our relationship and process has improved so much. At the beginning, there was a lot of feeling out and testing the waters. As time moves on, we become more comfortable. We write and record more, and then we start to figure [out] what works and doesn’t work. At this moment, any time we’re in the studio it feels like something special can be done. I think a lot of that comes down to the fact that most of last year was spent on the road, so we weren’t eroding ourselves creatively in the studio. So much time was spent away that when we got back into the studio, there was incredible creativity and [a] positive attitude to make the best songs possible. We’re eager and open to trying new things and expanding, and that’s what really excites us about the future. We’re also better songwriters today than we were four years ago. That confidence in writing and creating allows for us to get to the end result much quicker than we’ve done in the past.
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You recently started a series on YouTube called “Inceptions” where you give fans a look at the meaning behind your tracks. What inspired that decision? The first episode consisted of the back story behind “Golden State.” Do you plan on creating an explanatory video for “Flames”? How else have you been working to stay connected with your fans?
MAGUIRE: The idea of deconstructing our songs and showcasing parts that normally wouldn’t have the center stage really excited us, but honestly, the time just never presented itself. That was until we got home from our last tour and found ourselves in self-quarantine. Then it felt like the right time to take some of those dusty ideas off the shelf and give them a shot. We have a lot of fun making these videos, and we plan on creating a new “Inceptions” episode alongside each new single. In addition to the new music and content, we’ve also had an incredible time hosting a weekly livestream on our Instagram. It’s rewarding to have a place to perform but even more rewarding to stay connected with our fans during this very strange and difficult time.
“Flames” is your fourth release of the year. Can you tell us anything about what the band have planned for the next half of 2020?
MAGUIRE: Like most bands, originally we had planned on spending about half the year on the road. However, due to the virus, things changed direction a bit. Even before all the show cancellations, our goal was to release one new song each month, and we still plan to keep that going all the way through the end of the year.
Check out Charming Liars’ music video for “Flames” below.