Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Charming Liars

Charming Liars' Karnig Manoukian, Mike Kruger and Charlie Cosser at the EggSlut Truck


At the EggSlut Truck
In front of Handsome Coffee Roasters from noon- 4 p.m. Wed.-Thurs. & 9 a.m.-1 p.m. weekends
582 Mateo St., Los Angeles (Downtown Arts District)

"It was love at first bite," declares vocalist Charlie Cosser, as he recalls the first time a friend took him and his Charming Liars bandmates to EggSlut.

Since that day, the food truck has become such a frequent stop for the trio at the helm of the band – Charlie, guitarist Karnig Manoukian and bassist Mike Kruger – that most of EggSlut's staff knows them by name and even attends some of their shows. As soon as I meet them at the truck, which is parked in front of Handsome Coffee Roasters in the Downtown Arts District for the afternoon, the three musicians excitedly start describe each menu item, pointing out what they love most.

There's the Slut: pureed potato topped with a coddled egg, gray sea salt and chives served in a mason jar with toasted bread for dipping. Mike favors the sandwiches, like the popular Fairfax with scrambled eggs, caramelized onions, Tillamook Cheddar, Sriracha mayo and chives. He orders a Sausage, Egg and Cheese Sandwich while Charlie raves about the Avo Burger, a 1/3-pound patty topped with caramelized onions, cheddar, Haas Avocado and an over-easy egg on a brioche bun. Today he opts for the Scrambled Slut (slow scrambled eggs with chives on a piece of toasted French bread) without the toast but with a sausage patty and salad, and Karnig and I follow his lead with regular Scrambled Sluts.

We take a seat inside Handsome Coffee Roasters to wait for our food and talk about the Charming Liars' transition from their native London to Los Angeles, their New Disorder EP that released this week and upcoming adventures with guitarist Nick Krein and drummer Zach Riel as part of the Uproar Festival and a national tour with Sick Puppies. It just takes a few moments for me to discover that the guys share the same saucy humor that their favorite food truck displays through its own moniker and menu item names.

"We're all pretty cheeky chaps," replies Charlie when I ask which band member is the most charming liar. "We may tell little white lies here and there, but no outrageous lies."

"We have used the one that we were in Oasis," interjects Karnig.

"When people assume you're in a band from England, you could be anyone. Karnig has even gotten the Wanted," Charlie laughs.

Aside from their cheekiness, the Brits also share the year of 2011 as being a particularly monumental one with EggSlut. Head chef Alvin Cailan began the food truck that year, and business has been doing so well that he and his partner Jeff Vales will be opening their first brick-and-mortar location in Grand Central Market in the fall. Two thousand eleven was also when the three childhood friends made the leap from the UK to West Hollywood.

"Karnig and I initially came for less than a week. We were in a band in the UK that wasn't really doing anything at the time and were getting frustrated with the scene in London. There was a producer who had been messaging us over MySpace, and we thought, 'Let's go for five days, if anything happens when we meet we'll look into it further, and if not, we know that we gave it a shot,'" Charlie remembers. "We got a development deal, so we came back for another three months – at which point Mike came with us. We could only come for 90 days at a time with our tourist visas, so we would come for 90-day period, go back to London for a bit and then come back for another 90-day period. When we got our record deal we knew we had to get our visas and commit to permanently relocating to Los Angeles."

"When we first moved out here a friend had a sublet that just happened to be just off Sunset Boulevard," Mike recalls. "It just happened to be the luck of the draw that we ended up in West Hollywood, and it had everything we needed."

"None of us could drive at the time because in London you don't really need to drive, so we came out without licenses. West Hollywood was quite a convenient area because you could walk to most places, stumble home from a bar, do the grocery shopping at Trader Joe's – you had all those things close to you," adds Charlie.

"Finding our L.A., our little niche, took a couple of months. We found EggSlut, favorite restaurants, bars, shops and finally it felt like our little version of a city," tells Mike. "Before, we were just stuck in West Hollywood or going to places that friends recommended. You need to find your own loves and your own hangs."

"To me, that really happened when I finally got my driver's license," Charlie continues. "At that point I wanted to explore everywhere: Downtown, Silver Lake, Venice, there was a hit list of places I needed to go to. We love Venice and First Fridays on Abbot Kinney – the food trucks! Even though we've been here for a while now and we do officially live here, we still try to approach it as tourists. We're constantly exploring and excited about new spots."

Although Charlie and Mike live in Hollywood and Karnig remains in WeHo, they rehearse in Silver Lake and spend a lot of time in Little Tokyo and the Arts District where EggSlut parks, especially on Saturday mornings. After our food is delivered and I taste the rich and creamy scrambled eggs, it's easy to see how the three confessed foodies could be lured across town for a bite. Aside from EggSlut's brunch specials, such as pan-seared salmon and caramelized Brussels sprouts with a poached egg and Hollandaise or Thai marinated chicken, a sunny side up egg and grilled eggplant covered in sriracha butter sauce and chives over a bed of basmati rice, the Charming Liars share some of their other L.A. favorites.

"Oh my god, KokeKokko is the best. The chicken hearts," Karnig exclaims. "Shabu Shabu House, is also pretty special."

"There's a ramen place called Shin-Sen-Gumi that's really good, and we go there often," offers Charlie. "After we recorded our album, we hadn't played live in so long that we decided to book a bunch of gigs that were under the radar and no one would know about. The first one was at 2nd Street Jazz. We played to like three people then went and celebrated this incredible show [he chuckles] with ramen afterwards at Shin-Sen-Gumi."

"In London we don't get much Mexican food, so when we first came over here it was our introduction to L.A. Mexican food. There's a taco place in West Hollywood called Esquela that's really good," continues Charlie. " For food trucks, Kogi and the Grilled Cheese Truck. One of my other favorites is DinTaiFung, a dumpling house in Arcadia. I think it's the most satisfying meal there is to have."

After Mike chimes in with In-N-Out, Charlie replies, "It's once a month thing; we'll have rehearsal and on the way home go to In-N-Out. That's what I'm trying to find, the really good 24-hour, late-night food."

Aside from their passion for good food, the Charming Liars have always shared an obsession with music.

"Karnig and I have been going to school together since we were 9 and were in our first band together when we were 13. We met Mike when we were 15," Charlie recounts. "We were all playing sports, in school it was rugby, and at the age of 13 or 14 people started to get really big, and I didn't. I would get my ass kicked every Saturday on the field, so I needed a new hobby. Really quick, that turned into music."

"I needed to be obsessed with something. It was sport until I realized that I didn't have the natural talent that my favorite sports players did. Then I saw someone with a guitar one day and said, 'That looks like a hell of a lot of fun,'" Mike smiles. "We were all obsessed with music, whether it was songs, production or certain bands. These guys knew each other, but I didn't at the time, and we would end up going to the same shows."

"I was really into tennis and wanted to be a tennis player. Then my coach decided to move to Canada, and I was like, 'What do I do now,'" Karnig recalls. "If you like rock music, instantly you think I could play the drums, guitar, bass or sing."

"There's something accessible about falling in love with rock music and immediately wanting to start a band and thinking you can," Charlie agrees. "You don't even need to know who can play what, you decide before any of you can go get an instrument. Because I couldn't play an instrument, I automatically became the singer whether I could sing or not. So I'll be the singer, you be the bassist, you be the drummer – and then you've got a band, that's how some of the best bands start."

While Charlie remembers his first musical memories being of the pop variety – Michael Jackson, Usher and Backstreet Boys – at age 7, the three of them grew into pop punk and nu metal bands like System of a Down, Blink-182 and New Found Glory in their early teens.

"It wasn't easy to find new music," Karnig explains. "Your favorite rock bands were on the radio, on PureVolume or MySpace, that was it. The way to reach new bands wasn't as accessible as it is now."

"What I think played an integral part in all of our lives was this music video channel called Kerrang!, where all the bands would get their videos played. We would come home from school and put Kerrang! on; you would just live and die by the Kerrang! playlist," adds Mike. "You had to watch what they put on, so it opened your mind and introduced you to bands that you might not have given the time of day. You were opened up to music from different genres."

While the Charming Liars are undeniably a rock band, the producers that they were able to work with on the New Disorder EP and their upcoming debut album – Bob Rock (Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Nelly Furtado) and John Fields ( Switchfoot, Jimmy Eat World, Miley Cyrus) – are indicative of the group's respect for all musical genres. Working with such prolific producers might have seemed daunting at first, but they quickly found both men to be vital to the finished EP and album.

Mike confesses, "Before we went in and met them there was a lot going on in my head. I think we all were having—"

"Mental diarrhea," Karnig finishes.

"You question your ability and wonder if you're good enough, but what was great about both of those producers was the way that they nurtured us and brought our performances out in different ways. They're both really good at what they do, and their track record really helped us listen to what they said. If someone says, 'Try that, there,' and they have the track record that Bob Rock does, you try it," Mike describes. "You would be amazed at some of the ideas that sound silly, but when you actually put them into practice and hear them in the midst of the rest of the song, it sounds great."

"We had all watched Some Kind of Monster and had stories about other bands who had worked with Bob Rock in our heads going in, but he ended up being so chill. We felt super comfortable around him," says Charlie.

The relaxed atmosphere going into the studio to record was a direct result of the pre-production period they spent with Rock.

"He had been busy working on Michael Buble's album, and he said, 'I can do this record, but I need you to come out to where I live in Hawaii,'" Mike says. "We thought maybe he would hire a studio, but when we got there we realized that he had built a small, basic studio in the kitchen of his house. It was such a great environment to work in. It was very relaxing, there wasn't any sort of ego; there wasn't a chance for any when we were all in shorts."

"Since that was the first experience of working with him, when we eventually took those ideas into the big studios in L.A. and Vancouver to lay down the tracks,there wasn't that intimidation of walking into a huge room with all the equipment. We had been chilling in a bungalow with no air-conditioning for the last two weeks, so we knew each other pretty well," Charlie laughs.

The three long-time friends will get to know each other even better over the next few months together on the road with Sick Puppies and the Uproar Festival, during which they are excited to check out performances from Coheed and Cambria in particular. They are also eager to visit places like Chicago and Seattle.

"We're making a list of eateries and planning out all of our food stops," Charlie admits. "Toronto, New Orleans and New York are going to be awesome."

"It's like a road trip that we're going on, such an American thing to do. This country's so vast with many different cultures within it, and I can think of no better way to seeing it all than how we're going to. Seeing the landscape change is something I don't think any of us are mentally prepared for yet; it's going to be very eye-opening. Even just based on all the food places we want to go to, every area has its own special dish – that's going to be exciting. We're just going to have to watch our food intake!"

The Charming Liars are also excited to share the New Disorder EP with new audiences and have just premiered a video for the title track, their first single. Directed by Kyle Padilla, the video features three hot nuns tracking down evil throughout Los Angeles.

"We wanted to do something risqué, but fun and dark, too. It was actually a little bit more extreme than it turned out. We had to pull it in a bit, otherwise it wouldn't be played anywhere. It was shot over three days at Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley where parts of Django Unchained were filmed. We also filmed in Chinatown, Malibu and Downtown," Charlie shares. "'New Disorder' is a kick-in-the-teeth rock song, a good official introduction, but once people hear the EP and eventually the rest of the album they'll see there are different sides to it, that it goes on a journey and that there are different grooves that not a lot of bands in our genre would normally do. It takes a couple of risks."

Taking risks has never been disconcerting for the Charming Liars, whether it's with their music or their lives in deciding to move the States from England. Another of the New Disorder EP's tracks, "Break Away," describes their philosophy of not wasting another day when it comes to the pursuit of their passions.

"It's actually the only song that we wrote in the UK that made it onto the album, and it was written at that point of us deciding to come over. There were a lot of things that we were tied down to – relationships, family stuff, school, jobs – that were holding us back from pursuing what we wanted to do," says Charlie. "We thought that it would be a good song to introduce listeners to the band and give a taste of the album, which is why we put it on the EP."

"There are memories and emotions attached to all of the songs," Mike admits. "We hadn't played a show by the time we finished recording, and we wondered if the songs would work live. There have definitely been some moments recently when we've been playing where you just look around at your mates and hear the songs sounding better than you could possibly imagined, and it justifies all of our decisions. It could have been very easy not to take this chance and leave home, but I'm glad that we did."

The New Disorder EP is currently available. Charming Liars perform Sept. 12 at House of Blues Anaheim and at the Uproar Festival Sept. 13 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. For more information, visit

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