WATERS...Van's best friend
Published on September 19th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Former Port O’Brien front man Van Pierszalowski has just released Out In The Light, his debut album as WATERS, and already it looks like sitting prettily amongst Rocksucker’s Albums of 2011.
Recorded over an intense ten-day period in Texas with John Congleton [Explosions in the Sky, The Walkmen, St. Vincent] on production duties, Out In The Light is – in Van’s own words – “waking up…getting out of a situation that seems endless, and realizing you’re not too old to make dramatic and sudden changes in your life.
It is about starting over.” How very apt for a man who has in recent years spent time in Alaska, San Francisco, New York and Oslo, even recording the album with a band he says he “found” in the Norwegian capital.
What’s more, the accompanying video to WATERS’ new single “For the One” is quite the nuttiest and most far-out we’ve seen in what has been a vintage year for nutty, far-out videos (those of a sensitive disposition should approach with caution, mind). Fresh from playing London’s Old Blue Last venue last week, Rocksucker caught up with Van to discuss the new album and various other matter pertaining to him…
Obvious question first: why did Port O’Brien split up?
Well, it’s a long story of course, but the basic elements are that we were on the road for a solid 4 years straight, without much of a break, and we were very young, and maybe didn’t know how to do it all in a sustainable way. In addition, we were going through all kinds of other stuff in our personal lives, and the combination of all that was just too much to take. By the end of our last full tour (which was in Europe), it was clear that we had reached the end of the line.
How do you like playing in London? Did you play in the UK/Europe much with Port O’Brien? If so, where did you find the best crowds were?
I really always do look forward to playing in London. Despite the grey weather, I’ve always loved the feeling in the city, and I really enjoy just strolling around and getting lost. Port O’Brien played quite a bit in the UK, but not all that much outside of London. My favourite show of all time was playing with Bon Iver in this amazing old church in London. Port O’Brien played more shows in Germany, and around the continent, but I hope WATERS can explore more of your great Island.
“The essence of Port O’Brien pressed into a soup cube, which can be dissolved in hot beer again” – would you go along with this description of WATERS?
Yes, I certainly would. That was my favourite Google-translated description of anything I’ve ever been involved in.
We love the noisy fuzz-pop direction you’ve taken with songs like “For the One” and “O Holy Break of Day” – was this a premeditated idea for how to approach Out In The Light, or was it always going to be a mix of that and the more pared-down stuff?
There are definitely some noisy elements throughout the record – “Back to You” is another good example of that. However, there are definitely more intimate and acoustic moments on the record too. I tend to enjoy dynamic records that treat all the songs in their own way, so that’s how this album sounds. In the live setting, I’d say the noisy fuzz-pop takes over a bit, because that’s more fun to play.
What was it like working with John Congleton? Was it your choice to work with him or was he suggested to you?
It was amazing to work with John. I knew I wanted to work with a producer on this record, and as I started to go through my iPod, I realised a good amount of the albums were recorded by John, like Bill Callahan’s last couple, the newest Walkmen, Explosions in the Sky. So, it was definitely my choice. John’s main priority was to keep the record raw and intense sounding. We used Nirvana’s In Utero as a sort of spiritual guide in that respect.
Why the capitalisation of WATERS? And had you considered the profound un-Googlability of the name before going with it?
I just like the way it looks more. The capital W and the capital A look beautiful, I think. WA – much better than Wa. Anyway, also, I wanted to do anything to make it look a little different than Roger Waters, or Muddy Waters. I definitely considered the un-Googlability but I loved the name so much that overshadowed everything else. And that band Girls, I think they have a bigger problem than we do, and they’re doing fine.
What attracted you to Oslo? In general, do you spend more time there or in the US?
What first attracted me to Oslo was a girl. During one of the last Port O’Brien tours, I met a girl there and fell in love, so I just started going there in between tours. After spending some time there, I started writing a lot of songs and slowly put together a band. I had tons of spare time while I was living there, without a job, or a lot of my own friends, so it was a great place to catch my breath and start over. As of now, I’m spending most of my time on tour but, when I’m not busy, I’ll most likely be in California.
Is it true you recorded the album in just ten days? Was that due to time constraints or a desire to have it all sounding raw, rough and ready? Was it at all stressful?
It is true indeed. It was possible for a couple reasons. We spent a solid two months rehearsing these songs, almost every single day in a small studio outside of Oslo. And we played a practice show at a small club in Oslo right before we left. So the songs were well tested. We also spent a week demoing all the songs before we took them to John. We actually booked twelve days but finished early in ten. The other reason that was possible is that John is just such an incredibly fast engineer. There was basically none of the usual waiting around type of stuff in the studio at all.
Are there any up-and-coming and/or little-known artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout out to?
I don’t know if they’re still little-known or what, but I love the San Francisco-based Papercuts. They make beautiful pop music and the vibe is so beautiful and timeless.
If we were to ask you right this moment to name your top three albums of all time, off the top of your head, which ones would you pick?
Nirvana – In Utero, The Beatles – The Beatles [The White Album], Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter III.
Van, thank you