by Nancy E. McCarthy
Public Water Supply (PWS) is an original band in Rochester featuring six university-trained musicians: Iggy Marino, lead singer and rhythm guitarist; Adrianna Noone, lead singer; Karis Gregory Jr., lead guitar and vocalist; Alex Brophy, bass; Spencer Kornrich, drums, and Tanner Kartes, harmonica and vocals.
“We describe our sound as alt-country because labels determine what box to put PWS in for booking inquiries,” explained Marino, who is front man on stage and band manager off stage. Alt-country, or alternative country, is a subgenre of country music – initially emerging as a blend of the nonconformist sounds of outlaw country and punk rock. PWS, not a fan of labels, developed their own version of alt-country.
“Yes, they’re alt-country, but with an often joyous, rambunctious, full sound. They are at times psychedelic, at times artsy and always, always fun,” said Danny Deutsch, owner of Abilene Bar & Lounge. Abilene is an iconic American roots music venue in Rochester and one of the band’s favorite clubs to play. (PWS performs there again on January 27.)
Marino, Noone and Gregory write the songs individually and bring them to the band to flesh out. Their diverse musical influences – Americana, R&B, pop, hip hop, reggae, classical, jazz and folk, to name a few – all contribute to their unique sound. A tight rhythm section is another important factor in their tune structure. Because drummer Kornrich and bassist Brophy expertly hold down or change up the rhythms, these two driving forces are affectionately dubbed “the bus driver” and “team captain” respectively.
Friends playing together
“I’ve been active in the Rochester music community since 2015 but I have never been in a band that has been reacted to like Public Water Supply,” Marino said in a 2023 interview with CITY magazine. He attributes this to the special relationships they have with one another. “It’s almost like an esoteric connection – we’re also on the same page sonically, personally. We’re all like the best of friends.”
With the exception of Noone, the band members met in 2015 while attending the Nazareth University School of Music in Rochester. The new friends shared some commonalities. Most are from the Greater Rochester Area (except Gregory, who hails from Atlanta). Most were music business majors (only Kartes minored in music). All are versatile multi-instrumentalists who selected primary instruments to study at Nazareth but play a different instrument in PWS (although Kornrich stuck with the drums).
PWS wasn’t initially conceived as an original band. In the winter of 2021, Marino and Brophy were playing country tunes together and decided to form an outlaw country cover band. They asked Kornrich, Kartes and Gregory to join them. “Iggy invited us to jam some country one night and said we had a gig,” Gregory explained. One gig turned into many, performing songs by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and other music icons. The band didn’t even have a name. They played for fun and to pick up extra cash.
Then Marino and Gregory began songwriting. “The progression seemed natural,” said Marino. “We were writing songs that shared the stylings of the music we were playing every night.” When they started playing original music Kartes suggested the band name Public Water Supply from signs they saw at the Highland Park reservoir.
In February 2022, PWS and Adrianna Noone were playing on the same Water Street Music Hall bill when they all first met. “We fell in love with her voice,” said Marino. Noone’s vocals are sweet-toned but deeply expressive with a nuanced twang.
They invited her to join PWS and Noone, drawn to the band’s energy, accepted. She stepped in as Kartes took a position as a brewer at a local brewery and took a temporary hiatus from performing. “Adrianna added her spice to the group and is a big part of the band,” said Gregory. “She’s a good songwriter and helped us define our sound.”
Noone, a Pittsford native, studied voice performance at Belmont University in Nashville for a year before transferring to SUNY Purchase. When she graduated in 2019, she was a journalism major with a minor in music.
Noone plays keyboards, guitar, a “mean tambourine” and also took voice lessons before college. The singer auditioned for “American Idol” and “The Voice” television shows as a teenager. She didn’t make the finals but the experiences boosted her confidence.
This past May, Noone won a “Brandi-oke” Instagram contest to sing a duet on stage with music super star Brandi Carlile during the Mothership Weekend music festival in Miramar Beach, FL. “That was the greatest day of my life,” Noone said. She nailed Carlile’s song “The Mother” alongside her idol.
Noone makes a lot of time for her music. Typically, weekends are reserved for gigs, weeknights for band practice or teaching voice and piano at ROC Star Academy. RSA is a performance-based and artist development music academy founded by Elvio Fernandes, also a member of the Grammy award-winning rock band Daughtry.
A big year
Even before the January 13, 2023 release of their self-titled debut album, these young rising stars were attracting fans and filling clubs. When promoting upcoming shows, Marino began to affectionately refer to PWS followers as their “babies” in a series of close-up videos of his mouth (see the band’s Instagram highlight reel: “Iggy’s Lips”). Imaginative social media engagement is part of their appeal and all orchestrated by Marino’s sister Natalie (who also directed PWS videos, is involved with photo shoots plus album cover and website design). Marino manages other band details: bookkeeping, tour planning, recording sessions, music streaming and more.
Iron Smoke Distillery co-founder Tommy Brunett was impressed when PWS packed the house there in October 2022. He didn’t hesitate to offer his venue for the band’s record release party in January 2023. “I love giving musicians a place to showcase their talents,” said Brunett, also a well-known professional musician.
PWS embraces opportunities to inject more fun into their appearances. The mayhem to warm up the crowd included a drag queen, a contortionist and a hula hoop performer before the band took the stage to play their album tracks to a sold-out audience.
Since then, PWS has played NY music festivals such as the Lilac Festival in Rochester, the Estival Festival in Caneadea and Borderland Music Festival in East Aurora. Summer gigs included shows across Ohio, Pennsylvania and New England plus Finger Lakes Region shows and local media appearances and interviews.
The band’s 2024 goal is to record and tour their second full-length album at more large festivals and clubs in major cities. Gregory’s new song “Leila,” an energetic tune about two young lovers on the lam during a Bonnie and Clyde-style car chase, is slated as the first single from their upcoming album. Dreaming bigger, they would love to score an opening slot for a national touring act. Marino and Noone got a little taste of that experience this past July. The duo was tapped to play an acoustic set of PWS songs as an opener for Lyle Lovett and His Large Band concert at Point of the Bluff Vineyards.
“Bands like Public Water Supply come along rarely. Their shows are super fun, they treat their audience with respect and appreciation and I do think the future is hugely bright for them,” said Deutsch. “Man, oh man, they obviously love what they are doing and it translates so well.”
For more information visit publicwatersupplymusic.com. Follow on the band on Instagram, Facebook and Patreon.