Mister Lies
Photo: John Taylor

Giraffage and Some Ember will open for Mister Lies on the San Francisco date of his West Coast tour this Friday, January 11th at Bottom of the Hill. The show marks the first Bay Area headlining performance for Mister Lies, the electronic solo project of Chicago’s Nick Zanca, and only his second San Francisco show ever.

On the flipside, the occasion also marks the last San Francisco show of Some Ember (for a while, at least), as the Dylan Travis-fronted synth-goth outfit is currently in the process of moving across the country from the East Bay to New York City. San Francisco’s Giraffage will hold it down between Some Ember and Mister Lies’ sets, dishing out his dancefloor-ready brand of glitchy dream pop.

We corresponded with Nick Zanca via email to stay up to speed on the Mister Lies West Coast tour, as well as the past, present, and future of the project. Dive into the interview, and listen to a handful of Mister Lies tracks, below.

Hi Nick. We are excited for Mister Lies’ San Francisco headlining debut on January 11th. What is your familiarity with the other artists on the bill, Giraffage and Some Ember?

Really stoked to be coming back. My first show as Mister Lies was actually at The Independent opening up for Tycho back in May 2012. The crowd was super enthusiastic and they gave off the best vibe, especially considering it was a hometown show for Scott (Hansen). It was one of those shows I’ll never forget. I’ve also been following Giraffage and Some Ember’s tunes a lot as of late – I was introduced to both through mutual friends in the industry.

You have said that you are a co-member of the Svengali collective with Different Sleep and Soleman in Chicago. How did this group form, and how has it helped shaped you as an artist?

We all met in the dorms as freshmen at Columbia and spent a vast of that first semester making beats together and bonding over R&B that was on the radio when we were kids (Ja Rule, Aaliyah, etc.)

Both Rafa (Different Sleep) and Nolan (Soleman) have always been one step ahead of me as far as producing electronic music goes – they both have killer ears for a vast array of genres. In a lot of ways, they took me under their wing. I didn’t exactly know what I was doing back then and to an extent, I still don’t! I should also probably mention that the three of us only represent the Chicago chapter of Svengali – the whole thing was started in between San Diego and LA by Rafa and our homies Peter and Maurice.

How soon after the release of your Hidden Neighbors EP were you approached by Lefse Records? Were you surprised by the reaction?

Shortly after Hidden Neighbors was released, the blog PORTALS started noticing – I owe a lot of my subsequent success to those guys because that eventually landed me on some of the bigger music publications. I was honored that Lefse recognized me over some of the other labels who had hit me up and they had put out some of my favorite releases in the past five years.

You recently shared two unreleased tracks from your retired Lake Rescue project on your PORTALS Artist Mixtape. How long did you work on this particular project and how did it eventually evolve into Mister Lies?

Lake Rescue was more hip-hop oriented and was really my first time experimenting with Ableton – it’s much more of a mess and lacks a consistent sound. I slowly switched over to the moniker Mister Lies once I developed a more reliable aesthetic.

I am sorry to hear that you were recently diagnosed with mono. How are you feeling now? Has your illness affected your musical career in any unexpected ways?

I’m much better, thanks! Luckily it died down over Christmas break. It sounds kind of strange but it kind of came with impeccable timing – I mean that in the most non-sarcastic way. I had just finished the album and finals weren’t for another two or three weeks when I was diagnosed. All my friends were like “get ready for the slowest month of your entire life” and I’d immediately throw back to them that life has been the opposite of boring as of late. I kind of took the whole thing as the “powers that be” reminding my body to slow down before things start to get crazy.

Your debut full-length LP Mowgli will be released in February. Will you mostly be performing material from the LP on your upcoming tour? What should your fans expect from the album?

About 50 to 60% of the set I’m performing on this tour is new material from the record. It’s a lot more aggressive, brash and in-your-face than people are normally accustomed to from me. It’s a side people haven’t heard from me.

Do you consider the works of Rudyard Kipling and the concept of “feral youth” to be the framework behind the Mister Lies project, or just one small part of your inspiration?

When I was recording the record in Vermont this past summer, his work was all I was reading. The original “Jungle Books” hone in on some fairly heavy themes – not only is it an obvious fish-out-of-water story (Mowgli being raised in the wild) but there is a lot of existential subtext. The ideas of loyalty and disillusionment get thrown around a lot. It’s a really beautiful work and in a lot of ways it subconsciously inspired a lot of the material on the record – that in conjunction with being out by a lake. Totally gave my tracks a brand new look that people don’t really see in Hidden Neighbors.

What is your current live set-up like?

For this particular tour I am deconstructing my music in Ableton with an APC40 – run-of-the-mill equipment – and adding elements to the songs that contrast from the way people usually hear it. I also implement live vocals from myself to add a bit more atmosphere. It feels less like I’m DJing and more like I’m jamming on my actual tracks, which opens a lot of opportunities.

Finally, any plans to play at any festivals or showcases in 2013, or are you waiting to see how the album is received?

I have a lot of exciting events coming up that I’m not quite at liberty to discuss yet, but it’s bound to be a hell of a time. Hopefully the opportunities will increase as the album gets released and I’m starting to get used to balancing my music and finishing my degree – so when push comes to shove, we’ll see how it goes.

Mister Lies, Giraffage, Some Ember
Bottom of the Hill
January 11, 2013
9:30pm, $10-12