Liam Kazar loves live music. It’s why he spent the past five years touring with artists such as Knox Fortune, Steve Gunn and Jeff Tweedy. It’s also what shaped the playful, groovy and catchy sounds of his debut album, Due North, which was released August 6.
Kazar started touring at seventeen,when he missed school to perform at South by Southwest in the hip-hop band Kids These Days, which included rapper Vic Mensa and trumpeter Nico Segal. When the band split in 2013, Kazar decided to develop himself as a songwriter while on the road playing other people’s music. With help from co-producer James Elkington, Kazar assembled a colorful palette of bouncy synths and vibrant guitars to paint a bright record.
The Kansas City transplant also opened a pop-up restaurant, Isfahan, in January, which serves a blend of Armenian and Persian food. The in-and-out pop-up format from city to city reminds Kazar of touring days. Its next stops are in Massachusetts and New York.
What brought you to Kansas City? My partner started the organization KC Tenants. She’s a mover and a shaker, and we both decided to give it a shot in KC. Definitely happy to have been here during the pandemic instead of Chicago. Our neighbors are all lovely people, and what I like about KC is you all hang on your porches. We’ve got some good porches.
What was your favorite moment in your years of touring? I was doing a show with Jeff Tweedy in Tokyo. Jim O’Rourke lives in Tokyo, and I’m a big Jim O’Rourke fan. Jeff and Jim have a band together called Loose Fur, and those records are some of my favorite things Jeff’s ever done. We ended up doing two Loose Fur songs at the concert, including a twenty-minute rendition of “Laminated Cat.” I was twenty-two at the time and playing on stage with some of my favorite guitar players in the world. Then we all went out to dinner and hung until 2 am talking about records.
How did your pop-up restaurant Isfahan come about? After about four months of sitting on the couch during the pandemic, my partner said, “Maybe you should do something, anything.” So around August, I hatched a plan to dive deep into Armenian and Persian food and make that my staple cuisine. I’ve always liked cooking, and I’m Armenian. I grew up eating some Armenian food, and I’ve been to Armenia. And Persian food is very similar, but with a bit more spice to it. I thought I’d maybe get a gig every once in a while. It totally blew up and it’s been a job ever since. I really have a new respect for anyone in the service industry.
What’s your favorite song on Due North? The first single, “Shoes Too Tight.” After I made that song, I felt like I knew who I was as a person. That was the first song that came together, and it was the North Star making the record. I was like, “This is what I want my songs to sound like.” All the other songs came into place once I had that song.
Kansas City Favorites
Yasmeen Cafe: “Somali food, that place is unbelievable. I think it’s the best food in the city.
Big Mood Natural Wines: “We love that place. Going there was our ‘treat ourselves’ moment during the pandemic.
Cliff Drive: “I go around there all the time. I shot my music video for ‘Frank Bacon’ there.