The Water Liars take Instagrams of album covers, muscle cars, breakfast specials and random signs. They write the kind of songs that you get instantly and understand later. From Mississippi, Water Liars was originally singer-guitarist Justin Kinkel-Schuster and drummer Andrew Bryant, and their combined vision. Constantly productive and constantly on the road, the duo eventually added bassist GR Robinson — a key player on the group’s third (and self-titled) album.
Water Liars performs at The Mothlight on Monday, Sept. 15. Little Tybee also plays; the 9 p.m. show is FREE.
Mountain Xpress: Your first album, Phantom Limb was “recorded without aim over one weekend;” your new album definitely feels planned — since you’ve had both recording experiences, which feels more natural to your sound? Is there anything in the “aimless” experience that you tried to maintain in your studio records?
Justin Kinkel-Schuster: Looking back, I don’t see the recording of Phantom Limb as “aimless” but rather as an instinctual following of Andrew’s and my gut feeling as to what we were working on, without preconceived notions or expectations as to what the end result would be. Having said that, certainly in subsequent sessions we’ve had opportunity to make great strides with regard to time and intent and recording quality that we hope we have, and will continue to, utilize as best we can. So, in my view, moving forward I believe the way we can best serve the songs is to strike a balance between our guts and our brains.
Water Liars is on tour forever, according to your bio. What’s it like to spend so much time on the road? And is it difficult for you when you have downtime? Do you feel antsy and penned in, or do you really appreciate home (whatever that means for you these days).
The answer is both. Being on the road as much as we are can be at once mind-numbingly boring and as exciting as the first time. It’s like any other job, with the exception that each day for an hour or so, if we’re lucky, we get to be transported to that mental place that we all look for music to take us. And when we’re off, it’s both a relief to be home and a small constant itch for the next trip, the next work, which I think is a lucky thing as far as the work one does goes. I’ve had plenty of jobs that I never wanted to go back to.
Since you travel so much, what have you learned about the U.S. (its geography or culture or people) that those of us who tend to stay in one place might not realize?
The U.S. is a goddamn huge and beautiful country and there are many places that most people should see that they never have the chance or inclination to. I can’t recommend highly enough seeing everything you can in America. However, seeing as much of the country as we have, the main thing that strikes me is that, especially nowadays, everyplace is a lot alike. That is, no matter where you go, people are very much the same and so the more you see the smaller the world gets, in a strange way.
The Water Liars album is a delicate balance of heavy and dark with a brightness and buoyancy (“I Want Blood” really makes use of that dynamic, and “Ray Charles Dream” is garage-y and crisp at the same time) — is this aesthetic something you strive for, or is it intrinsic to your sound?
Dynamics are and have always been very important to us, both consciously and as a fundamental quality of music that both Andrew and I are deeply attracted to.
In promo for the album you describe as being “about trying to handle the bad times that nobody escapes and take care of the good times as long as they last.” That’s a pretty intense concept to face head-on — do you find art (music) helpful as outlet for either sorting out those ideas, or for expressing them?
For me music, songs, poetry, film, art: these are all the only lens through which I personally, and I think humans in general, are truly able to face these intense ideas and realities head on. Music is the only place where the veil of ordinary bullshit is lifted and I can say, ‘here, this is how it is, whether you or I or anyone likes it or not.’