Track by Track: LIES – ‘LIES’

Posted: by The Editor

Cousins Nate and Mike Kinsella are currently best known for their work with math-emo vets American Football, but they’re making a new name for themselves with their latest project LIES. The duo just dropped their self-titled LP, and it’s a completely different sound from anything either Kinsella has attempted before. It’s a balmy synthpop album, replete with shimmery keys and danceable beats. It pairs nicely with the springtime weather, and the Kinsellas were kind enough to walk us through the writing of every song on LIES.


Nate Kinsella: This was one of the first songs on the album to really come together. The pulsing mid-rangy synth part drew us in because it sounded so positive and energetic. I chopped up a bunch of vocal samples to give the track a more organic feel and that added a playful-bubbliness that was really inviting. It was a bit of a challenge to lean into music with that feeling, but it was also harder to fight it off.

Mike Kinsella: I’d been sitting on the “Pixels of you” pun for a while, thinking it was maybe too dumb to actually use, but then I finally found a song to put it to that’s playful enough to do it justice.


Nate: When figuring out what to do with this song we talked a lot about Peter Gabriel and Tears for Fears (there’s an obvious nod to them in the drum beat). I listened to a bunch of songs by those bands and took notes on their song arrangements. We spent a lot of time figuring out how to pace this one out and I’m really happy with where it landed.

Mike: I swear to god I was trying to do my best Paul Simon impersonation on this song (I’m terrible at impersonations…).


Nate: This song started with Mike’s strummy acoustic guitar part. We went for a lush, My Bloody Valentine style soundscape. Floral and pastoral. I used samples from a horror movie sample pack to create the drum beat (chains dropping on a concrete floor and pounding on a steel door) and it somehow fit.

Mike: My brother Tim gave me a book of Brautigan poems for Christmas a couple years ago and it inspired me to write a little less plot-driven / a little more vague.


Nate: The working title of this one was “Robyn.” When tracking the drums for this one we opened up some doors that led to a long concrete hallway and set up mics in there so they’d sound super huge. I like how twinkly the synths sound on this one – they really dance on the ceiling. Adding those intense tremolo violins really brought everything up above the clouds for me (and also nearly gave the violinist carpal tunnel).

Mike: Possibly the sexiest song in my oeuvre, definitely the most fun to play live. Coincidence?


Nate: We imagined this intro as feeling like you’re slowly coming into consciousness in a dark bar, stumbling toward the door, and then opening it only to be blinded by the sunlight. If I remember correctly the “Broken” beat is a bicycle wheel and the sound of smashing walnuts in a wooden bowl. I like how the outro juxtaposes a marching band with angelic cathedral-vocals. Special thanks to Angel Deradoorian for singing on this one!

Mike: I believe I had most of the “Broken” lines written before Nate made the junk-beat. Was so excited the first time I heard all the chaos – really brought it all together.

“Camera Chimera”

Nate: We kept coming back to Depeche Mode on this track, except more dark and gritty. It’s definitely nighttime in this song, but you’re wearing sunglasses.

Mike: I tried to match the dark tone of the music with equally ominous lyrics. I think it landed somewhere between Depeche Mode and Morrissey’s “November Spawned a Monster.”

“Summer Somewhere”

Nate: … or was it this track that had the working title “Robyn?” When we were putting this one together, I could stand to listen to a loop of it for a reeeeeealy long time. I just never grew tired of hearing it. We kept the arrangement relatively simple and added an extended outro so we could spend some time in it for a while…. or was it this one that gave the violinist carpal tunnel??

Mike: I may have accidentally turned this Robyn song into an emo song, and that’s on me.

“No Shame”

Nate: Mike pushed me to make this one as blissed out as possible. I added super long reverb tails to everything and tried to make it sound like a big pile of blankets and pillows. Special thank you to Miya Folick for adding suuuuper-dreamy vocals. I feel like I’m looking out an airplane window when listening to this one – clouds as far as the eye can see.

Mike: It’s true – there is no shame in anything. You’re alive, it’s alright.

“Rouge Vermouth”

Nate: We recorded this track with Sonny DiPerri and I’m so grateful that he talked me into using some super trashy cymbals on this one. We leaned into what we love about The Cure (everything). More chorus on the guitar! More weather sound effects!

Mike: Romantically threatening? Is that a genre or did I invent it?


Nate: We had multiple Zoom meetings just to figure out the chord and melody progression for the bridge on this one – a tough one to crack! Funny accident: we got the first mix back from Sonny and it sounded like there was a phaser on all the cymbals. Turns out my headphones were broken, but I loved the phaser so much that I had to mix one in.

Mike: This one definitely took me out of my comfort zone a bit. The lows are low and the highs are high, and it’s almost like I’m playing a character that’s playing me (hence the breaking of the third wall with applause at the end.)

“Sympathetic Eyes”

Nate: This was an Owen demo that Mike sent me as something that we could potentially use for the album. I loved it instantly and threw in some creepy strings and ominous explosions to round out the vibe.

Mike: We intentionally wanted to keep this one more stripped down, so lyrically it’s pretty sparse. Big proponent of only going to the chorus one (satisfying) time…


Nate: This one ended up feeling a lot like a Joan of Arc track, or something that The Books would make. It features a voicemail that my sister Katie left me on my birthday.

Mike: Nate cut up a voicemail message from his sister and somehow completely context-less you feel like you just watched an entire movie as your mind is forced to connect and/or fill in the gaps between the phrases.

Catch LIES on tour at the end of the month:

04/23 – Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village

04/24 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe

04/28 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right

04/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Ukie Club

04/30 – Washington, DC @ DC9

Lies is out now on Polyvinyl.

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison

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