- October 2014 -
HAVE A BEER WITH WATER LIARS
Named after the first story in Barry Hannah’s collection Airships, Water Liars began by accident in Pittsboro, Mississippi, in late 2011 with members Andrew Bryant and Justin Kinkel-Schuster. Three years and three LPs later, Water Valley, Mississippi's Water Liars are wrapping up a U.S. headlining tour in support of their self-titled third record that took them across the eastern half of the country throughout February and March.
Recorded over three hometown studio sessions in late spring and summer 2013, Water Liars was released on February 4, 2014 via Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum. The band premiered "I Want Blood," the first track released off the album, last month on The AV Club and the resonant song can also now be streamed and shared via Soundcloud. Water Liars is also now available for pre-order as a CD and LP via the Fat Possum website, and you can also check out the songs in their recent Daytrotter session.
Joined by GR Robinson on bass, and fresh off the success of sophomore album Wyoming and the reissue of debut LP Phantom Limb - both released this year - Kinkel-Schuster (vocals, guitar) and Andrew Bryant (drums, vocals) strut into this effort with their feathers out, driven by a need to create. A punk aesthetic - a desire not to overdo songs until they're shiny with emptiness - is the band's defining feature, and it's why their songs are filled with such raw sorrow.
We drank some Goose Island 312s before their March 6 show at Schubas and covered why trust is important in the creative process, why not listening to advice is the best advice and the importance of AAA when you're on the road.
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: What’s your drink of choice?
Justin Kinkel-Schuster: I don't drink anymore, so I drink a coke and water.
GR Robinson: I'm a big bourbon guy and I like to try beer that's regional. I like coffee and water in the morning.
Justin: Yeah, coffee too.
GR: Cranberry juice is really good. Big fan of cranberry juice in the afternoon.
Andrew Bryant: I'll vouch for that. He does like cranberry juice.
GR: It's good for you.
Kristen: That's kind of a random one.
Andrew: I'm a Diet Coke nut by day and my drink of choice to get loaded is vodka and Sprite with a splash of orange juice. But I like a lot of beer, too. We've been trying a lot of the regional beers.
Kristen: Is this your first time having 312? Have you been to Chicago before?
GR: No, the first time I had a 312 I came up with a friend of mine and we went to Pitchfork. Pitchfork was sponsored by Goose Island that year, so they had super cheap 312 and I hadn't had a ton of wheat beer prior to that, but I didn't hate it. But I also think I got a really bad sunburn, so I wasn't in my right frame of mind.
Andrew: What's that have to do with the beer?
GR: Real outdoor beer drinkers understand.
Kristen: We do. You guys aren't from Chicago originally then. I hear some southern accents. Talk a little about where home is for each for you.
Andrew: Home for me is in Water Valley, Mississippi, just south of Oxford, Mississippi. Actually a new brewery just started in Water Valley called Yalobusha, which is the name of the county that Water Valley is in. Very good beer.
Kristen: Is that the first of its kind there?
Andrew: Yeah, Mississippi just passed a law that you could sell craft beer. I think it was last year or two, but before that there was a statewide limit on the alcohol you could buy.
Justin: Well, they didn't even sell refrigerated beer until two months ago or something.
Andrew: Yeah, there are a lot of crazy liquor laws in Mississippi for whatever reason. The county I was raised in was dry. But they changed that, and now there's a big brewery right in downtown. It's great. A guy from Oregon moved down and this guy I know named Amos Harvey, who used to manage bands, got together with him and made some great beer. It's only in Mississippi right now. I think they want to distribute but they're not quite to that point. They started last summer so they haven't even been around a year yet.
Kristen: Well hopefully they expand so we can try it in Chicago. GR, where do you live?
GR: I live in West Tennessee, in a small city called Jackson, which is the home of Carl Perkins, home of rockabilly and I love it there. It's very violent and dark and depressing.
Kristen: Why do you say that?
GR: Just cause it is. But it's a cool place to go back to after I've been traveling on the road.
Justin: I've bounced around a lot in the past few years, but I've been staying in Louisville, Kentucky, for about six months or so. I grew up in Arkansas...
Kristen: You’re all from different places. How did you find each other?
Justin: Luck. Years ago, I was living in St. Louis and met Andrew. He was actually touring playing his own songs with Matt from The Gunshy, who are playing tonight, and the two of them were doing a tour together. The band I played with at the time opened up the show for them, and that was how we first met. We hit it off, stayed in touch and over the years, we played whenever we could. Finally, we ended up making what became our first record. From there, things blossomed I guess you could say.
Kristen: Would you say being from the south has informed your creative process?
Justin: Absolutely. I don't know how you could be from a certain place or area or region and not have it affect the way that you see things. Some places it's inevitable that that will happen. We cultivate it, too, and we're proud of it. It's definitely in there, but it's not like where we're from is the only thing that defines what we're trying to do. But it's in there. It's deep in there and it's not going anywhere.
Kristen: I hear it for sure. In a good way. What else informs it?
Justin: I think if you're the type of person who is trying to make any sort of art everything that you do or are interested in, the people you know, things that happened to you, all of that turns into a big fucking boiling pot of shit in your brain that just gets stirred around and stirred around and all of it ends up flowing out. For me as a writer at least that's the case. Of course there's music and songs and songwriters and books and all of those tangible things that influence me, but there's a lot more moving on in my brain, too, so it's hard to say just one thing.
Kristen: It's a culmination of a lot of small things.
Andrew: There are a lot of songwriters who are really obscure in their writing and no one knows what they're saying. It's harder to tell sometimes what influences them. Maybe drugs or something. But for us, we don't do a lot of drugs; we don't drink ourselves stupid...
Justin: At least not any more.
Andrew: We like realism. We like the realism to go into the imagery.
Justin: The shortest answer is life. Life informs our creative process. We're not trying to take anyone to alternate universes.
Kristen: I feel like there's a real concrete element to your songwriting, so I see that with what you're saying about realism.
Justin: And that's more or less what we're aiming for, at least as far as content. We're interested in all kinds of music, and we don't always want to make the songs sound the same stylistically, but as far as content goes, that's always what I'm aiming for: something people can recognize or get a hold of in some way.
Kristen: Tell me about your self-titled record that came out recently.
Justin: It came out about a month ago. We recorded the record in the same place we recorded the last one, which was Dial Back Sound in Water Valley. We recorded with Bruce Watson who manages Fat Possum Records. It's a great studio. The two records before this one we had done very quickly. This one we wanted to take a little more time and we did. We spread it out over the course of about three months. We kind of did one weekend a month, so I think we ended up taking about 10 or 12 days to do it. It's still a lot shorter than most people take, but for us it felt like a really long time to be working on a record.
Andrew: With Wyoming we did the whole record in three days.
Justin: Yeah, we tracked it in three days and mixed it in three more.
Kristen: That's really quick.
Andrew: We doubled it on this one but it was still pretty quick.
Justin: Maybe next time we'll take a month, who knows.
Kristen: Is it a collaborative process? Do you bring the lyrics to the band and they form their parts around it or do you work on songs together?
Justin: It's both. Sometimes I'll have the song complete as far as structure and the lyrics. I'll have a solid skeleton of it and that's when I'll bring it to Andrew. Andrew is the ideas man and the arrangement genius. At that point, that's when it becomes really, really collaborative, which is hugely important.
Kristen: Do you ever disagree on stuff?
Justin: We do, but it's pretty rare. I think it's one of the reasons we work well together…For a long time I was in bands where every decision, every idea was a battle. After years of doing that, I realized that's no way to operate if you want to enjoy what you're doing and if you want what you're doing to be an expression of your vision. Back to when we made the first record, we weren't planning on making it, but as soon as we sat down together and started recording, it was so easy. It felt good and that was completely unusual to me. I didn't know what it was like to make a recording with someone that not only I agree with, but also someone I could bounce ideas off of and things just worked. We've made three records together now and we're growing from where we started out. There are times where we'll disagree on ideas, but it's usually really minor stuff that doesn’t impact what the song ends up sounding like.
Kristen: I feel like at some point the music you're making becomes bigger than those tiny disagreements. If everyone in the band is in it for the music and not their own two cents, it makes it a lot easier.
Justin: Exactly. And I trust all of our instincts, especially Andrew's. He understands what a song needs to make it right. When you have that kind of trust, I think that takes out a lot of the doubt that would create disagreements in the first place. That trust right there eliminates all the squabbling that might come up.
Kristen: You’re on the road right now. How long does this tour go for and what's next after you wrap up?
Justin: This tour, when it's over, will have been about a month long.
Andrew: We've got about ten more days.
Justin: This is the end of the third week, and after this tour, we'll be off for most of April. We’ll do another short tour in May, and in June we're doing some dates with a band called Drive By Truckers. We're doing about 10 days with them. Following that I don't know that we'll do any more month-long tours this year, but we'll definitely be steadily playing and doing regional tours. At some point we'll work on a record I guess.
Kristen: Somewhere down the line. What's the least rock-'n'-roll thing you've done in the past year? A lot of the bands say their whole lives are un-cool.
Andrew: I watch a lot of sports: football, basketball and baseball.
GR: I don't brush my teeth. That seems pretty un-rock-'n'-roll.
Kristen: Or rock-'n'-roll.
Andrew: I've got one. The most un-rock-'n'-roll thing I've done is been married to the same woman for the past nine years. And I haven't fucked around with other women.
Justin: That's the best answer.
Andrew: They're not beating down my door or anything, which makes it easier.
Justin: But the fact remains.
Andrew: The fact remains. That's my single greatest accomplishment, too. A lot of bands you meet that are rock'-'n'-roll are fucking around with other girls, doing drugs… I don't care about that stuff. I just don't.
Kristen: Yeah, there are some crazy motherfuckers out there.
Andrew: GR exudes rock-'n'-roll.
GR: I love playing rock-'n'-roll. I love rock-'n'-roll. But I don't really think it's a defining characteristic of who I am. I read the news every day and I like to drink juice when I'm at home.
Kristen: Cranberry, right?
GR: Yeah, but then I'll mix it with some other types of juice and put some Sprite in there as a spritzer or maybe a little bit of sparkling white wine.
Justin: Slice up some strawberries, throw them in there.
Andrew: You're a vegetarian.
Justin: That's rock-'n'-roll, though. That's hip as fuck.
Kristen: If you want to be super hip you can go vegan. What's the best advice you've ever received?
GR: The best advice I ever got was seven years ago or so. I had started writing these songs and was working on music a lot. I spent a lot of time doing it every day and I knew that's what I wanted to do. I had a buddy who was doing the same and got a publishing deal in Nashville, Tennessee. He was gonna move out there and build a house and do that whole thing. I didn't want to do that necessarily, but I had written all these songs, so I got in touch with him one day and I was like, "Man, what am I supposed to do with all these songs? What am I supposed to do with this music I'm making?" And he said, "You know everything you've seen me do?" And I was like, "Yeah." He said, "Don't do any of that." And at the time I thought, that is the worst advice I’ve ever gotten in my life. But he was totally right. I didn't have to do any of the things that he did to be able to do my own thing. What I was asking him was basically, how can I do my own thing? And his response was, you're already doing your own thing.
Kristen: Did he regret the path he took do you think?
GR: No, I think it was just that his path was his path, and my path is my path, and your path is your path. Everybody's gotta do their own thing. But his advice was veiled in such a way that it took me about two years to figure out what the hell he meant by that, and by the time I figured it out I was already doing what I was supposed to be doing in the first place. But I like what he meant. Don't copy anybody. Don't take your cues from somebody else. Take your cues from yourself.
Andrew: I'm going to answer the question in this way: I don't think I've ever gotten any really good advice that has ever changed anything or that has stuck with me, which is why I don't have an answer. I’ve gotten a lot of bad advice and loads of opinions. It seems like my whole life people have been telling me to do this, and not do that, and I’ve never listened to them.
Kristen: In terms of music they're telling you not do this and that?
Andrew: Yeah, my mom and dad. My dad told me to keep my mouth shut and work harder. But that's bad advice.
Andrew: My mom always told me to think before you speak. Well, I don't want to do that. That's probably good advice, but it seems like my whole life people have told me these things that are meaningless. Anything that I've done or changed…it's because I've fucked up, learned from it and altered my behavior. I feel like I'm always kind of doing that: learning how to deal with people, how to keep myself being creative and how to keep myself alive. Just everything. That's why I can't think of an answer. I just never had the mentor-type person in my life either that's imparted some great wisdom. I wish I had something, but...
Kristen: It's never too late.
GR: No, it's too late.
Justin: I've never had anyone in that position either. I guess the best advice I can think of that someone has given me in recent years is from Bruce Watson, who has been putting out our records, told me before I left on tour to make sure that I got AAA. About a week later I needed AAA. And then about a after that the vehicle I was driving died and I needed it again. That was the single best advice I can remember, and I've had AAA ever since. You need a tow, you need some gas, you need a jump: AAA has got your back.
Kristen: That's good to know. I have Allstate.
Andrew: I don't think we can afford the Allstate plan, though I do like their commercials.
Justin: Let's just say all I have is liability. We'll leave it at that.