Shepherd Express – Liar’s Truth Feature
Liar’s Trial Create Their Own Brand of Outlaw Country
By Joshua Miller
Feb. 23, 2016
In the past few years outlaw country has made a major comeback, with artists like Chris Stapleton taking cues from country greats in making music that goes against the grain. In addition, many musicians who were in punk bands in their teens and 20s have turned to more melodic genres like country that resonate more to their life experience. Milwaukee’s own Liar’s Trial knows a thing or two about that sonic movement. With the release this week of their sophomore album Songs About Momma, Trains, Trucks, Prison, and Gettin’ Drunk, the band showcases a potent, wide-ranging mix of punk and country.
“You can go from one song and say, ‘Hey, that sounds like Nick Cave’ and go to the next song and say, ‘Hey, that sounds like Hank Williams.’ And then the next one you’re like ‘Oh, you pulled from Delta blues,’” singer Bryan Thomas says.
Thomas says his love for country and bluegrass music is indebted to his mother, who instilled a love of the genres during his childhood before her death. After he turned 14, he discovered that punk music was a more suitable outlet for his teenage angst and played in punk bands into his late 20s. But country music always had a special place for him. It was a revelation then when he discovered the exciting results of mixing punk and other styles with country music. Country music and punk share many of the same elements, he says.
“They all speak to the same thing,” he says. “Nobody wants to be told what to do. The plights are the same. Money, government, world problems, etc. [The difference is that you] scream about them in the context of a punk song.”
The band recorded Songs About Momma over a single day at Howl Street Recordings back in 2013. Thomas credits producer Shane Hochstetler for helping them capture the raw energy of their live sound. “He’s able to get a sound that really captures the essence of a band,” he says. “He’s able to capture that dynamic and really embodies the soul of the music in his recordings.”
The band’s country influence is becoming more prevalent as they’ve recorded more, Thomas says.
“They are less screamy shout-along choruses and fewer faster-tempo songs,” he says. “It’s harder to play a full set at breakneck speed. I don’t want to admit that but it’s true. It’s more fun to experiment with melodies.”
The album’s title is indicative of the band’s “funny little twisted humor that you get when you’ve been friends with each other for years and get your own inside jokes.” While their debut name-checked a Pantera album, Songs About Momma references country outlaw great David Allan Coe and particularly his song “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” In that song Coe lists the elements of the perfect country song. Thomas thought it would be funny to list those elements as the title.
Since they sat on this album for years before releasing it, the band already has another batch of songs. They hope to record them for their next album, tentatively titled Armadillo by Morning after the George Strait song of the same name, in June. Thomas says that the new songs they’re writing are slower and more melodic. It’s a result of getting older, he concluded.
“We had more time back in the day,” he says. “I have a kid and another on the way. If the baby cries I have to stop. So I sing and write in the shower or while I’m driving in my car.”
Still, Thomas feels that the band is doing things their own way. “People are really starting to like this outlaw country music and it’s becoming what it was in the ’70s I think,” he says. “It’s nice to help bring that resurgence back and hopefully bring it back to the forefront.”
Liar’s Trial play an album release show Friday, Feb. 26 at 9 p.m. at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn with Doghouse Flowers and The Glacial Speed. There is a $5 cover, or $15 with CD.