Living Things: Wall in the Family

Originally published in Guitar World, April 2009

Guitarists Berlin and Cody Becker discuss the group's latest offering, Habeas Corpus.

“It’s a strange thing with us,” says Lillian Berlin, singer and guitarist for the group Living Things. “We formed in St. Louis, where we all grew up, but we didn’t become a real band till we went to Berlin.”

That seems appropriate when you consider that Living Things features not only Berlin but also his two brothers, bassist Eve and drummer Bosh. (Co-guitarist Cory Becker is the odd man out.) It was there, in the Hansa Tonstudios overlooking where the Berlin Wall once stood, that the young Yanks tracked their second album, Habeas Corpus (Jive).

“A lot of important records were made at Hansa,” says Becker. “Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, “Heroes” by David Bowie; Depeche Mode did some cool things there. Knowing that such great albums came out of that place made us subconsciously up our game.”

While Habeas Corpus is filled with gutsy, blues-based rockers like the current single “Let It Rain,” a dark, edgy, experimental tone prevails. “There was so much history seeping through the studio walls,” Berlin says. “We went in with kind of an American vibe, but we came out with something more European. There’s no way you can make music in a city like Berlin and not let it affect your sound.”

While at Hansa, Berlin and Becker honed a style of weaving their guitar sound as well. “I came up with the main riffs, kind of bold, one-note things,” Berlin says. “Then Cory comes in with these crazy open tunings that sound like five guitarists playing at once.” “I like trying out different tunings,” Becker says, “but mainly I try to play off of Lillian’s vocals. I don’t care if I play a lot or a little, but when I do play, I like it to mean something. A guitar part should stick out, or else it shouldn’t be there.”

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