Jeff Cook
Band of the Week

Liar’s Trial is Loud and Powerful

Politically correct? Nope.

By - Sep 21st, 2016 04:05 pm
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Liar's Trial. Photo courtesy of the band.

Liar’s Trial. Photo courtesy of the band.

Ever notice how a lot of Milwaukee bands are doing some sort of musical hybrid? I’ve seen
Punk Pop, Power Pop, Doom Pop, Grunge Pop. I’m waiting to see if anyone is going to come out
with Gansta Pop, or maybe Speed Metal Pop. Some of these hybrids leave me a little confused,
and then there are the ones that have really created something new.

Liar’s Trial is a local band made up of guys who came out of the Punk Rock scene, and have busted in on Outlaw Country. The blend of genre here is compelling, if you like your music loud,
powerful, uncompromising, and a little (or a lot) dark.

Songs like “Hard, Hard Livin’” felt like an assault from the first note. There is nothing subtle in
the message that “It’s hard, hard livin’ knowing everyone you love has got to die.” There is something that feels like the Fist of Life punching you in the gut when you hear the most dreaded of life’s events thrust in your face so forcefully. Yet there is humor, as on “I Don’t Care” when he says “I don’t care “bout the shit comin’ out yo’ mouth” yeah, it’s funny and it’s true. I can relate.

The similarity in the vocals (that I’m hearing) between Bryan Thomas and Tom Waits is not a phony affectation, it’s just raw, heartfelt, gut wrenching truth; and the way the band plays together is purely professional. This is no garage band, these guys are great. Just so we’re clear, this is not music for people who need to have it nice and clean, politically correct or gentle.

Liar’s Trial plays Milwaukee all the time. Get out and experience this… if you think you can handle it!

I got to talk with them recently and got a brief glimpse into their world:

When did you start playing music?

Liar’s Trial has been together since 2011, however, vocalist and acoustic guitarist, Bryan, and electric guitarist, Johnson, have played together in various bands for the past 15 years.

How did the band come together?

In 2011, Milwaukee band, The Church of Abject Sorrow (Bryan: ex-Avoided, Highlonesome, Silentium Amoris and Chris Johnson: ex –Cocksmokers, Highlonesome, Silentium Amoris) asked Chuck Engel (ex-White Problems, Skull Time, Crossed Wires) to play drums for a concert commemorating the life of former Milwaukee punk singer, Reed Avoided. After the concert, Bryan, Johnson and Chuck decided to continue playing together and soon added Erv (ex-Molitor) on bass. They quickly realized that the music they were making out-grew the narrow musical confines of The Church of Abject Sorrow and they decided to start Liar’s Trial. Chuck left the band and was replaced by drummer, Patrick. Recently, we have added Jean as a second vocalist.

Who are some artists that have influenced?

We have a wide variety of influences from a wide variety of genres, the continuity of which may not be immediately apparent, however, each influences different parts of our songwriting. That being said: Waylon Jennings, Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, New York Dolls, The Cure, Skinny Puppy, Ray Price, David Allan Coe, Nausea, Bauhaus, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Willie Nelson, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Merle Haggard, Motley Crue, George Jones, Hank Williams, and Leadbelly… to name a few.

How would you describe your music?

We use the term “outlaw country.” That term originated out of Nashville in the 60’s and 70’s with artists such as Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings, who refused to adhere to the “Nashville sound” that was prevalent at the time and refused to play by the rules that the Nashville record executives required of musicians. Instead, they believed that their music should not be constrained by rigid rules and boundaries, but instead, it should be created and appreciated in a way that reflects how the music was intended to be released and heard by the musicians themselves. That mentality started a whole movement that we embrace to this day. We, too, have never been able to fit into one specific genre (we have played punk shows, country shows and everything in between), but regardless, believe that our music should speak for itself. Some folks like it; some folks don’t, but we continue to make music that is personal to us.

Who else do you listen to?

We listen to a lot of old country pioneers – besides the folks listed above, musicians such as Lefty Frizzell, Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmie Rodgers, Loretta Lynn, Ernest Tubb, Jim Reeves and Roy Orbison. We also love old school punk – The Dead Boys, The Germs, The Stooges, The Misfits, Discharge, TSOL, etc. Additionally, we love a lot of old soul and R&B – Sam Cooke, The Isley Brothers, Jackie Wilson, etc. Lastly, we have a deep appreciation for old new wave, goth and industrial music – Depeche Mode, Christian Death, Peter Murphy, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, London After Midnight, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc.

Any local bands you really like?

Milwaukee and Wisconsin has one of the best music scenes in our opinion – for some reason, it just seems like it gets overlooked. Folks are willing to come out to a show for a touring band or a cover band, but unfortunately, do not give the same support to the musicians playing original music in this city. Hopefully that will turn around soon. That being said, and to name just a few of the many: Doghouse Flowers, Indonesian Junk, The Cow Ponies, Christopher Gold (from Appleton), The Glacial Speed, Zebras, The Whiskeybelles.

Do you ever collaborate with other artists?

No, we have never really tried that.

When you create new songs, what comes first, the lyrics or the music?

A little from column A, and a little from column B. Usually a melody or some lyrics pop up when there is absolutely no possible way to get them down – like in the shower or while driving.

What’s it like in the studio when you are working?

Hot and sweaty – very literally. We just recorded a new record last month and we were all dripping with sweat the entire time because you can’t really have air conditioning running when recording otherwise you will get a hum on the tracks. Overall though, it is just a lot of fun – some good friends just making music that we love.

Do you usually play Milwaukee?

Yes. While we have all been in bands that have toured the U.S. in various forms, Liar’s Trial has never played out of Milwaukee. It is not for a lack of trying however – for some reason, we have had a hard time breaking into other cities.

What about upcoming dates?

None at the moment. We just played a slew of shows in August (including one with one of our personal influences, Billy Joe Shaver) and the biggest thing on our plate is trying to get the new record finished.

Any albums or EPs coming out soon?

Our new record is going to be called “Armadillo By Morning.” At the moment, we are mixing. Then, off to mastering and the record pressing plant down in Nashville. We hope to have it out in a few months – just keep checking back on the website.

What are your plans for the future?

In an ideal world? To quit our day jobs and make a living strictly off of our music. In a realistic world, to just be able to continue to play our music – whether folks dig it or not – music is our passion and we don’t foresee us stopping anytime soon.

Cascio Interstate Music is proud to sponsor Urban Milwaukee’s Band of the Week column. Running in tandem with their own Band of the Month program, supporting local music is key to CIM’s mission.

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