Want to find Water Liars? Don't look for them at home in Oxford, Mississippi. They're almost never there.
Instead, you'll find the band members out on the highway, traveling around the country, playing their music and, with any luck, making a buck or two.
"That's how we make our living," says co-founder Andrew Bryant from the passenger's seat in the band's van. "We finally got to the point that, as long as we stay on the road, we don't have to work those shitty jobs anymore. And that's kind of our philosophy of spreading the word about the band."
Bryant and guitarist/singer Justin Kinkel-Schuster — who began playing together back in 2011 — put out their latest collection, Water Liars, back in February. It's the band's third for Fat Possum, which is also based in Oxford, and is best known for introducing us to another little two-piece band called the Black Keys.
The process throughout has been consistent: Kinkel-Schuster comes up with lyrics and basic song structures, then Bryant adds drums, piano and background vocals to create Water Liars' literate, organic songs of the South.
For this album, the duo's songs of sorrow and loss were recorded largely live in the studio, an approach that contributed to a natural sound.
"The dirt on the strings is a little bit of it, too," says Bryant. "We're playing old guitars with old strings through old amps. That lends a lot to it. So we're playing pretty old gear, and the studio we worked in was analog. We did it all to tape."
That lo-fi approach is particularly obvious on songs like the finger-picked acoustic ballad "Let It Breathe." "There's a hiss to it," Bryant says. "We just set up a mic. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. When we heard it, I was like, 'I don't even want to touch that.'"
Live shows tend to up the volume and tempo, with bassist GR Robinson filling out the lineup. The band largely forgoes pedals and effects in favor of a raw, unvarnished sound.
"It's three-piece rock 'n roll," says Bryant. "When we started out as a two-piece, I thought, 'We just have to get onstage and let people hear the songs and not concentrate on putting on a grandiose show.'"
After three albums and thousands of miles in the van, Water Liars are finally getting some traction.
"We're not flashy, we're not funny, or great-looking dudes," Bryant says. "We've always been about the song and we still are. We like to keep it simple, traveling light and playing good songs."
Which isn't necessarily as easy as it sounds, especially playing bars night after night.
"If you have a good song, there's definitely a way to fuck it up. But with me on drums and GR on bass, we're not the type of players who want to show off. My goal every night is to not get too drunk and play badly. My goal is to not drink too much beer until after, and don't drop your sticks."