Concert Sutra sizes up The Liabilities
by terri sapp
Photographs by Leah Yetter
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
Concert Sutra’s Photographer, Leah Yetter, lives in Macon, Georgia, a historically musical town in middle Georgia, known for many great artists as well as the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. When deciding on our feature for this month, I asked her what was hot around Macon. Her first response was The Liabilities! Made up of Aaron Irons (vocals, guitars), Justin Smith (vocals, bass, cigarettes), Brandon Fickler (vocals, lead guitar), and Josh Smith (drums), these guys are making their way around and keeping busy pleasing the fans and working the crowds. Due to scheduling conflicts, our busy multi-talented and high demand asses were unable to actually attend a show this month (what a bummer), so pictured are The Liabilities on the night of their CD release at the Hummingbird, candid and “Elph-stye (camera type),” rocking it out. Live action all the way! Totally inspired and off the cuff “gotta get a photo” action. Ladies Love The Liabilities! To check out for yourself what touches the Concert Sutra girls about The Liabilities, visit them at www.myspace.com/iamaliability. I had the opportunity to ask lead singer and guitar player Aaron Irons some questions. It went something like this:
Concert Sutra: Tell me your personal story of how you became a musician.
Aaron Irons: For my part, music started as a hobby and evolved, by about age 16, into what would become my calling. I found an outlet and stuck with it. I could ramble on about broken hearts or hard living, but the truth is once I started picking a guitar and learning to write, it was just the natural thing to do.
Concert Sutra: When and how did the Liabilities get together?
Aaron: The band had existed in various incarnations since 2003 but had dissolved by the summer of 2005. Justin and Josh Smith (bass & drums) and I joined Hank Vegas and enjoyed that until it kind of finished that particular run (Hank has a new band and a fantastic new record). Brandon Fickler was an old friend of Justin’s, and in December of 2005 we put the Liabilities together…we worked like dogs. In two months we’d assembled a show of originals and some of our favorite songs and played our first gig Feb.25th 2006. We were just enveloped by Macon, GA.
Concert Sutra: Who are you most coveted influences, musically or otherwise?
Aaron: I’m a Sun Records man…Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash, Charlie Feathers…but I got a deep punk streak. I love the Ramones, The Stooges, Sex Pistols… You’ll hear songwriters in what we do too. Steve Earle, Chris Knight, Townes…The other guys have these varied tastes and when we start the process everything comes out…And of course reality is gonna play a role. We like to tell stories as best we can, they aren’t always pretty though.
Concert Sutra: What’s the story with the band’s name?
Aaron: No grand story there—it just came to me, and everyone agreed.
Concert Sutra: Well, that was easy. From what I understand, your look is recognizable around town. Has your privacy been compromised with screaming girls or fans begging for autographs, yet?
Aaron: (I really am laughing right now) Well, Justin and I live in Macon proper and work at The Hummingbird (shameless plug for the coolest bar in town), so yeah, a lot of people know who we are.
Concert Sutra: Apparently, you are the hot item in Macon. What do you think makes you stand out from the other local bands in Georgia?
Aaron: We believe in what we do, and I think our fans know that. This is who we are above all else. We don’t lie to the fans—I don’t think we could, and they respect our honesty.
Concert Sutra: Tell me about the CD you guys have out.
Aaron: We recorded with Drew LeClair in Columbia, SC. The studio was lodged in a storage unit, and it was hot and cramped. We sweated like Luke in the hot-box! But the record wouldn’t have been as good as it is without all that. We’ve got our whole lives invested in those songs. Drew was a brilliant engineer and producer and understood what we wanted to do. It’s mostly live, and I believe you can feel everything. It’s broad in scope—there’s punk, country, rockabilly. There’s some decent stories there, too.
Concert Sutra: If you could open a show with any band or musician of today, who would it be and why?
Aaron: We’ve been fortunate enough to share the stage with the best—Billy Joe Shaver, Drive-By-Truckers, Chris Knight, Lucero, but if I had to pick a dream show…Social Distortion. Those guys are the real deal and play good rock n’ roll.
Concert Sutra: I am and always have been a geek for recording, so tell me about your process as a band when it comes to the recording studio. For example, are you all digital? Do you use any particular software or hardware?
Aaron: You know, I don’t have all of the details. We recorded digitally and mastered on analog tape for extra warmth. Justin’s the real brains there. He’s got a real future in production. But the process was like this: Lay down a live track (rhythm, lead, bass, drums) Track acoustic, rhythm, leads; lay down lead vocals; then finally back up vocals. We’d work 8 or 9 hours, sleep a few, and then go right back to work.
Concert Sutra: How do you guys travel when you have out of town shows?
Aaron: That’s the real trick. We beg, borrow, and steal! We’ll have a van soon, though.
Concert Sutra: What is your fondest memory of your time thus far playing with The Liabilities?
Aaron: We were playing a show at the Hummingbird—I believe Josh Roberts and the Hinges had opened. We were setting up on stage, and I hadn’t even looked around at the club. When I did look up, there was just this wall, I mean a mass of folks just waiting for us. It was amazing and sobering. I remember tapping Justin and saying, “Look at that, man, they’re here for us.” It was a good night.
Concert Sutra: Is it business all the time with The Liabilities, or do you guys get to still party on occasion?
Aaron: Well. . . It’s rock n’ roll, so the party is inevitable. I’m usually the responsible one. There’s gear to protect and people to thank, tabs to pay, promoters and owners to deal with. . . We’ve got management now, so I guess I’ll join the party. The best part of the night is that 90 minutes between the first and last chords.
Concert Sutra: Anyone who writes knows that it isn’t just as easy as sitting down and making it happen. Do you have a method you use to write the songs? And do you write all the lyrics and music, or just one or the other? Tell me about that.
Aaron: I don’t complicate it. Songs evolve, you know? I prefer to be alone for the lyrics—some take 10 minutes, others 2 years. When I’ve got that done, we all get together and work it in parts. Justin generally gets it going musically. Everybody has a role. No one person is responsible for the finished product. I know what I want, they know what they want, and we make it happen.
Concert Sutra: Give me a current run down of any upcoming shows where folks can catch a glimpse of the buzz circulating around The Liabilities.
Aaron: We’re at the Jinx in Savannah on March 16th with the Hot Rods. We head to Winston-Salem, NC and The Garage w/ Hearts and Daggers on March 23rd, then to Greenville, SC for The Lowdown Ho-Down at Gypsy G’s. There’s a lot of bands that day. April 4th we’re on the bill at 10 High in Atlanta. We’re back in Macon at the Hummingbird on April 27th with Southern Bitch and we’re working on more. Like I always say, “Keep you ears open, we’re coming.”