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“We were both crucified by the truth.” - Barry Hannah, “Water Liars”

There’s a line in the press materials for Americana duo Water Liars that says, “Justin … writes the songs and Andrew makes them better.”

“That is absolutely true,” said Justin Kinkel-Schuster of his songwriting partnership with band mate and friend Andrew Bryant. “That is the best way to put it. Andrew has an innate sense about songs and what works and doesn’t work for them. We have the same brain when it comes to music.”

The two, plus a rhythm section, return for a show at White Water Tavern in Little Rock tonight with local heroes Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth opening. Water Liars are touring in support of their most recent Fat Possum album, Wyoming, a collection of haunting, spare, folk-inspired rock that was recorded in Water Valley, Miss.

If you miss the Little Rock show, the band will play Maxines, 700 Central Ave., Hot Springs, at 8 p.m. Friday. Admission is $5.

The pair have only been recording together since 2011 - their debut was called Phantom Limb - but their friendship goes back around seven years to when Kinkel-Schuster was living in St. Louis and playing with a band called Theodore.

“I met Andrew in St. Louis. We played a show and he was on the bill andwe just immediately hit it off and became friends. We stayed in touch and would play together whenever we could,” Greenwood native Kinkel-Schuster said from the Louisville, Ky., home of his girlfriend, where he was relaxing late last month before hitting the road again.

Kinkel-Schuster had hit a musical fallow period in St. Louis with Theodore, but had a batch of songs that he wanted to record and turned to Bryant, who was living in Pittsboro, Miss., to produce the sessions: “I had these songs I felt strongly about and I asked Andrew if I could come to his house and record. I knew right off the bat. We both recognized it immediately.”

What was intended to be a Kinkel-Schuster solo jaunt turned into Phantom Limb,which captures the duo’s chemistry and heavenly vocal harmonies.

So, what does Kinkel-Schuster think is the biggest difference between Phantom Limb and Wyoming?

“With Wyoming, we got more time to work on crafting the songs,” he says. And recording at Dial Back Sound Studios in Water Valley with Bruce Watson and Brandon Dew behind the board was also a big change, since Phantom Limb was recorded with one microphone in Bryant’s spare bedroom.

“There was a big shift in the quality of space and gear in making this record. Hopefully, that comes across and sounds bigger.

“But they are similar, too, in that I wrote all the songs,” he adds.

There’s another element of recording at Dial Back that was special for him and Bryant, Kinkel-Schuster says, and that was A.A. Bondy, who recorded his album When the Devil’s Loose there with Watson.

“He is one of our favorite songwriters and singers active right now. He was the main reason we wanted to record Wyoming there. We were pretty nerdily excited about it. We love that record and the way it sounds.”

It makes sense. Wyoming has the same spacious feeling and laconically paced, somnolent grooves as Bondy’s work, although Water Liars retain their own distinct sound.

With songwriting that has a knack for evocative imagery and a firmly rooted sense of place and story - just check “Fake Heat” from the most recent album - it’s not a surprise that the Water Liars have an appreciation for Southern writers. And, yeah, their name is from that famous short story by the late Barry Hannah, the one that opens the Mississippi writer’s collection Airships, the one that is short and devastatingly powerful, the one where the narrator is floored over his wife’s sexual past and retreats to a fishing camp populated by liars.

“Andrew and I love Barry Hannah,” Kinkel-Schuster says of the reason behind the duo’s moniker. “We think he’s one of the best writers of all time. Band names are such a weird and silly thing. They never seem to mean what you want them to mean. But this was a cool way to use something I love and respect, and if people see it, maybe they will look up Barry Hannah.”Water Liars

Opening act: Brother Andy

& His Big Damn Mouth

9:30 p.m. today, White

Water Tavern, 2500 W.

7th St., Little Rock

Admission: $5

(501) 375-8400

whitewatertavern.com

Weekend, Pages 35 on 06/06/2013

Print Headline: Water Liars tells stories with tandem writing style

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