Carolina Liar are playing their first London gig tonight at Camden Barfly, and as they’re in the UK for promo purposes, I got the chance to interview the lead singer, Chad. This was pretty exciting, not just cos Carolina Liar are a great new band, but also because they worked with pop legend Max Martin on their debut album. Speaking with a good friend of Max Martin is as close as I’ll probably ever get to the great man himself. I also found out exciting news about their plans for more UK gigs and recording their second album.
So first, can I ask you, cos I’m a huge fan of Max Martin, what was it like working with him?
It was great! He’s probably one of the nicest, salt of the earth human beings. If you didn’t have a shirt he’d give you the shirt off his back. I went to his place and I didn’t have any clothes and he actually gave me a shirt and a pair of shoes! He’s such a caretaker. At first I was just a friend of the family, and once we were hanging at a bar in LA and he heard everyone telling me about the Swedish summer. I was so poor at the time, there was no way I could go to Sweden, so he offered to buy me a plane ticket to hang out and see how he worked in the studio. It didn’t have anything to do with my own music at all, he was just being a nice guy.
Did you help out with other projects he was working on as well?
No, never. I never got involved with anything else that he was working on. I didn’t want to get in the way of the friendship. He’s such a nice guy, it’s better to have a friend!
Can you tell us any interesting facts about Max that we might not know, because he’s a very secretive guy and never does interviews?
He is a bit of recluse. He doesn’t do interviews but he still goes out, and I guess if there’s anything interesting, he’s a serious foodie. He loves really good food. I’d never experienced half of the food in my life until I started hanging out with those guys! My God, they know how to cook, they eat well! Maybe that’s the secret to his songwriting.
Did he have a big influence over the Carolina Liar sound?
Yeah, of course. He took a lot from the demos, but as soon as he walks in, the sound starts changing. He comes in and has these ears which know what to do and how to fix things and make it translatable for people.
And how about Diane Warren, who you worked with before Max? Did she have a big influence on your songwriting?
Yeah, I actually got to work with her again about 3 weeks ago and did a song with her, possibly for the next record. She’s one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. She never stops working! It shows that no matter how successful you are, you’re never gonna be successful enough that you can stop working. She is in her office every day from 9am til 8pm. She’s a little crazy too, she’s got a real dirty mouth! She has so many bad jokes.
Which current bands would you most like to be compared to, and what would be the most offensive comparison a journalist could make?
I’d never be offended… there’s nothing I can think of, anyway. We got a really cool review from Rolling Stone comparing us to The Killers and U2. We’d never say it ourselves, we’d seem like such assholes! I’m glad they said it cos then we could stand up a little taller that day, and think, that’s from Rolling Stone magazine, that’s pretty cool!
I’ve heard your songs a lot on TV, especially teen shows such as Gossip Girl and 90210. Why do you think your music particularly fits with these kinds of shows?
I don’t know, we never really expected it. The stories behind the songs are quite dark, with twisted subject matter about somebody nowhere near being a teenager. The fact that it translates down to these teen shows is amazing. It’s great exposure for us as well. We get young kids in the audience but lots of families too, lots of moms watch those teen shows with their husbands. The husbands thank us cos it makes the teen shows more bearable for them when they have good music on the soundtrack!
Did you enjoy performing on 90210?
Yeah! The guy who does the soundtrack works on KCRW radio, Nic Harcourt, and he introduced me to bands like Coldplay and David Gray, so it was great to meet him.
It took about a year after the album was released in America for Show Me What I’m Looking For to start getting people’s attention. Did you ever feel like Carolina Liar might not work out?
Oh sure, I still think that even with everything that’s going on now, I still wonder. It could go away any second. You don’t make that much money in music anymore so it’s up to the label whether they keep working with us.
What are your plans to build a following for Carolina Liar in the UK?
Well, tonight we’re playing at the Barfly in London. We played this weekend at Oxegen and T in the Park and a festival in Wales, and we’ll be back to tour in August, then hopefully do a support slot in November. We’ll be here until they kick us out! The crowds this weekend were insane. They don’t get that excited in the US. Thousands of kids showed up, getting on each other’s shoulders. They were so rowdy!
They were probably drunk!
That’s even better!
Everyone in the band is Swedish except for you – do you ever feel left out when everyone else is speaking Swedish?
I’ve actually managed to learn a lot more than I realise. Often I can’t talk cos I have to save my voice for singing, so everyone speaks Swedish and I can just be quiet, zone out and listen. I love the sound of Swedish, it’s so melodic. It must be connected to their songwriting ability.
After that we had a little chat about the bands featured in the This Must Be Pop banner. Chad spotted Patrick Wolf and The Saturdays (he must have meant Girls Aloud), and said he had met the Pipettes the other day and thought they were really nice girls. He’s obviously been learning a lot about British music while over here!