Screamer Magazine - February 2013
by Mike Gamms
New Liberty are far too young to rock n’ roll. A simple look at Billboard’s list of the top grossing tours of 2012 will tell you that. The only genuine rockers in the top 10, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters, and Van Halen likely have underwear older than any member of New Liberty. It’s easy to believe that if rock n’ roll isn’t dead, it’s at the very least on life support.
It seems as though the torch of rock n’ roll was dropped somewhere along the way. Since the dawn of rock n’ roll, each generation of rockers has paved the way for those that followed. Expanding upon their predecessors, and adding something new to the world of rock. From Elvis to The Beatles to Led Zeppelin to Van Halen to Nirvana and everything in between, rock n’ roll continued to move forward and evolve. But considering that the most popular rock and roll acts of 2012 belong to our parent’s generation, it’s easy for younger rockers to think that rock n’ roll might actually be dead.
Fortunately, not everyone is so quick to order a “Do Not Resuscitate.” Lead by bands like The Black Keys and Rival Sons, New Liberty are among a growing group of bands dedicated to revitalizing rock n’ roll. This new movement of old-fashioned hard rock are administering some much needed CPR, but instead of chest-compressions, New Liberty delivers a swift kick to the lungs.
Despite the comparisons, New Liberty are much more than a clone of The Black Keys or Rival Sons. Like those bands, New Liberty has certainly drawn inspiration from Led Zeppelin, Cream and other blues-based guitar rock of the 1970s. But what distinguishes New Liberty are their blistering 1980s heavy metal roots. New Liberty’s guitar riffs are so damn heavy that it’s entirely plausible to believe that Mick Marrs has left his deteriorating body and has entered New Liberty guitarist Armand John Lizzy’s body as an avatar. But considering Mick Marrs is alive and well and touring with Motley Crue, Lizzy’s guitar talents are all his own. In addition to his ten ton guitar licks, Lizzy’s ferocious solos, particularly in New Liberty’s cocaine anthem Burn It, are enough to make both Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen fans weak in the knees.
After a few minutes at a New Liberty show, you’ll quickly learn that Lizzy is much more than a magnificent guitar player, he’s also a dynamic showman. No matter the gig, Lizzy is determined to hold nothing back. ”I just like to get wild and give people something to remember,” Lizzy declared while packing up his gear after a show at O’ Briens Pub in Santa Monica. On this particularly night, Lizzy did just that.
Despite the modest crowd of around 100 or so bar patrons, Lizzy gave it his all. Halfway through the set, and mid-solo, Lizzy realized the grimy bar stage couldn’t contain his throat kicking fret work. So he jumped up onto a table in the middle of the bar. The table, which was barely sturdy enough to hold a couple of beers, was no match for Lizzy and his guitar. The table gave way, sending its contents, namely Lizzy and a few beers, crashing to the floor. Without missing a single note, he continued the solo while flat on his back on the dirty concrete floor. Frontman Shane Mac, then dragged him back onto the stage and they played out rest of the song.
Simply falling off a table, or performing a guitar solo on your back isn’t what was impressive. Any schmuck with a Stratocaster can and has played on the floor. What was truly remarkable about his performance, is that if you were to listen to an audio recording of the show, you’d have absolutely no idea that any of this transpired. Despite his body flying and crashing all over the bar, Lizzy executed a flawless and seamless solo, that would be electrifying even if he never left the stage.
The crowd pleasing stunt was a complete accident. Lizzy says, “I didn’t expect the ceiling to be that low. And I didn’t expect the table to be that rocky.” But crashing to the floor didn’t phase him in the least, he proudly declared “I’ve ate shit before, man. Just keep going. There’s no reason to ever stop.” Part of what makes New Liberty’s live show so memorable is how Lizzy and frontman Mac feed off each others energy.
Lizzy bluntly states, “we fucking push each other man.” Short of jumping onto bar tables, there’s not much anyone can do to avert the crowd’s attention from Mac. The entire venue is Mac’s playground. Like a dog who marks his territory by pissing on everything in sight; Mac screamed, danced, and kicked in every inch of the dingy Santa Monica bar.
Mac says “Fuck it. You’re on stage, might as well have fun. If you’re not moving, if you’re not doing something, what’s the point?” Mac prides himself on his stage presence. He adds, “If I can be in the 60th or 70th percentile as a singer, but the 100th as a performer, I’d be totally cool with that.”
Don’t let Mac’s modesty fool you. He’s more than just a blond haired frontman with dance moves. He’s also a hell of a singer with a wide range of vocal abilities. His voice is incredibly unique and hard to compare to one particular vocalist. While he can roar like James Hetfield and scream like Axl Rose, his voice isn’t 100% metal. Between the screams he manages to add some southern rock soul, and even a little bit of early 90s punk.
Mac also writes all of New Liberty’s lyrics, which cover the spectrum of rock n’ roll topics: sex, drugs, booze and the devil. Despite treading familiar ground, Mac’s lyrics are more than just a regurgitation of the words of those who came before him. Mac, and the rest of the New Liberty crew, have certainly lived an interesting life.
Sick of fighting for stage time with cover bands and rappers in their hometown of Philadelphia, New Liberty piled into a beat up 1976 RV and headed west for Los Angeles. They spent the next year living, and partying, in the often broke down RV. Frequently camped out in parking lots, uninvited. Being uninvited is somewhat of a theme for New Liberty, as well as the namesake of their first album, The Uninvited.
Mac recalls stumbling into a biker bar days after arriving in Ventura, California. After a drink, Mac quickly learned they were not welcome. Mac recalls “we got up, checked out, and walked out the door. On our way out, we got shoved from behind. So I spun around and grabbed the first guy in front of me and headbutted him. Another guy looks like he’s going to hit me, so I take a swing, but miss and hit Willi right in the face.” Mac had inadvertently hit his own bassist, Willi Love, knocking him out. Mac adds, “his nose blew up. Blood everywhere. Everyone took off running and we took Willi to the hospital.”
Despite the incident, Mac insists causing trouble isn’t what New Liberty is all about. He says, “Ultimately man, we just like to respect people. We’re not trying to cause problems. It’s not why we do what we do. Occasionally people just want to fuck with you because you’re different.” For Mac and the rest of New Liberty it’s all about the music.
Mac and Lizzy may be the dynamic duo that lead New Liberty, but bassist Willi Love and drummer Diezel Bottoms are the glue that hold the band together. Love and Bottoms have been playing together for longer than anyone else in the band, and their chemistry is a big part of what makes New Liberty work so well. Love says, “I’ve gotten really in tune with Diezel. I can follow whatever he does, even if it’s completely improvised.” As a bassist, Love provides a much needed consistency and presence to the band. He adds, “I try to keep it simple, hold it down, and make it punchy.”
Drummer Bottoms, who has a Poison tattoo on his arm, brings a strong hair metal background to New Liberty’s diverse sound. He proudly declared, ”I’m the only 80s hair metal fan in the band.” He also added, “all my favorite bands were in Screamer Magazine. Poison, Ratt, Tesla, Faster Pussycat, Whitesnake, Cinderella, Metallica, Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses. The list goes on.”
Despite a lack of mainstream popularity, New Liberty continue to fight the good fight, keeping rock n’ roll alive. Bottoms adds, “it didn’t die. It’s coming back. At a time when people think rock n’ roll is on the downfall, something is churning underneath and building up again. I tend to think it goes full circle.”
The band has a busy year ahead of them. Starting with the release of Black Tooth Betty in mid-February, the band will be releasing a new single every month, as well as a seven-inch vinyl every quarter, culminating in the release of a full length album. Also, Red Sparrow Media will be releasing a documentary, featuring the band on and off the stage. They will also be once again returning to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.