Water Liars is a band name that also recalls, at least to lovers of language, the late Mississippi author Barry Hannah, who wrote a short story by that name in the 1970s. When a couple of musicians began collaborating, and it proved fruitful, the men decided they needed a name for their collaboration.
And there is an Arkansas connection to the story.
Opening act: Kevin Kerby
9 p.m. today, White Water Tavern, West Seventh and Thayer streets, Little Rock
Justin Kinkel-Schuster, who grew up in Greenwood, was living in St. Louis and playing in a band named Theodore when he met musician Andrew Bryant, a Mississippian. Bryant introduced Kinkel-Schuster to Hannah's work, including the story "Water Liars." Another literary influence on Kinkel-Schuster was Frank Stanford, a poet born in Mississippi who lived the majority of his 29 years in Arkansas, before committing suicide in Fayetteville in 1978.
With visions of Hannah's and Stanford's works as muses, Kinkel-Schuster was destined to transcend what passed for rock 'n' roll music in his surroundings.
"It was the usual thing with Theodore," Kinkel-Schuster recalls. "We did a lot of touring, made two or three albums, and it was kind of a way to figure out what not to do while trying to stay alive for a while in the music business."
Growing up in Greenwood was a challenge for an aspiring young musician.
"It was before the Internet, and we had country, classic rock and pop on the radio," he says. "There were magazines and some stuff on MTV. It was a mix, and I was trying to track down the mysterious stuff, especially punk rock and bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat. For a 15-year-old kid, I was always preoccupied with digging up information.
"I would go to the library in Fort Smith, where they had back issues of Rolling Stone and they had some Internet eventually. I had gotten my first guitar and could look up tablature on that."
Bryant, who grew up in Oxford, Miss., is known for his solo album, Galilee, which in 2009 was named the No. 2 "Memphis Music Album" by the Commercial Appeal.
The musical chemistry between the two -- Kinkel-Schuster writing and singing and Bryant drumming and singing harmony -- began in 2011 and has resulted in a trio of albums. Phantom Limb came first, in 2012, followed by Wyoming in 2013 and a self-titled album in 2014. A fourth collection is in the works.
Kinkel-Schuster and Bryant tour with a bassist, and while their recordings are acoustic and gentle, the live shows feature Kinkel-Schuster on electric guitar. The songs are almost totally his compositions, although he does admit to the occasional cover.
"Every once in a while we do a cover tune," he says, "and it tends to be Jason Molina's 'Just Be Simple.'" (Molina, who had been in the bands Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., died of an alcoholism-related illness in 2013 at age 39.)
As a musician in a band that's still striving to become a household name, Kinkel-Schuster has mixed feelings about whether to pursue headlining status or open shows for better-known bands.
"If you open for a big band, like Drive-By Truckers, which we enjoyed the hell out of, you're guaranteed to play for a lot of folks," he says. "But sometimes those are folks who don't particularly care to hear you, so maybe it's more fun to play for the 20, or 30, or 50 people who come to see you when it's just your show. For the sake of longevity, we're just trying to keep it on an even keel -- sort of a balance between the conveniences and the indignities.
"And then there are the times when we play shows for like a class in a school, like a time in Lawrence, Kan., where the teacher was really into music and got his students involved with our record beforehand. That was one of the more interesting interviews we ever did."
Weekend on 07/30/2015
Print Headline: Southern guys 'swim' music scene as Water Liars