I’m a relative latecomer to the WATERS bandwagon. After all, I listened to Chuck D when he told me not to believe the hype, and for the most part he’s right because most over-hyped indie bands and pop music today are pale reflections of the ’80s and ’90s — regurgitated melodies and recycled beats. And even though I usually trust the taste of The Bay Bridged, they’ve championed the brainchild of Van Pierszalowski, plus early projects like the folky Port O’Brien, so much over the years I couldn’t help but feeling the talent was getting blown out of proportion.
Then I heard “Got To My Head.” It’s a song that does exactly what a great pop song is supposed to do in the most literal definition of the word: it pops. A flash-bang of blinding energy and big hooks, charging rhythm and arena-rock vocals, one of those songs that, in a more romantic era of music consumption, would make you run out to the nearest record store, or call up your local radio station and beg a coked-out DJ to spin it. Now, of course, you just click on YouTube or Spotify, sift through a few ads for Axe and Doritos, and enjoy (what a limp, pallid existence that is modernity…but that’s a discussion for another blog post).
The Bay Bridged has dutifully covered WATERS before, because WATERS is perhaps the Bay Area’s best chance of gaining genuine national recognition of our indie rock scene. This is a band that already sounds like they should be topping the Billboard charts. They’ve got all the necessary ingredients: the songs, the look, the drive, the momentum. Now they just have wait for the rest of the country to catch up.
I had a chance to speak with lead singer-songwriter Van Pierszalowski over the phone about the band’s recent string of successes, their upcoming show at Slim’s, and where they go from here.
The Bay Bridged: Since we are celebrating 10 years at the blog, we want to reflect on how some of our favorite acts got to know us. How and when did you first come into contact with The Bay Bridged?
Van Pierszalowski: Pretty early on. I was still in college and at the time I was in Port O’ Brien. The Bay Bridged was one of the few sources to find out about local music. It was that and Deli, really. Eventually I contacted Christian Cunningham and the blog has been supportive ever since.
TBB: Last year was a pretty big one for WATERS. The band released an LP to large acclaim, toured with Matt & Kim, and played Outside Lands, among other accomplishments. Is there any one particular moment or memory that stands out in your mind?
VP: Yeah, last year was a big one for us. One of my favorite moments was playing on Conan, mostly because I’ve never done anything quite like that before. I’ve toured and played some big shows, but never on late night TV. That was a new stage for me. Plus I got to hang out with Ringo Starr a little bit. That was pretty cool (laughs).
TBB: Can I ask what Ringo was like?
VP: He was awesome, really friendly guy, and with a surprisingly great amount of energy for his age. I remember as we were taking a group photo I tried to edge in beside him, but he immediately stood next to Sara (DaMert). Of course he’s going to go for the cute girl instead of me (laughs).
TBB: You’ve lived in Oslo for some time and traveled quite extensively over the years, so what is it about San Francisco that always brings you back to this city, that inspires you?
VP: So much. The whole Bay Area is a perfect combination of California’s most unique elements. The city itself is consistently beautiful and I still find it breathtaking at times. There’s the surrounding areas with great open spaces. There’s Oakland with a Berlin-esque, almost apocalyptic feel to it. Everywhere you go here has a distinct vibe, and I think it’s that diversity that makes it so captivating.
TBB: Anything in particular you’re looking forward to when you play San Francisco on this tour?
VP: Well I’ve never played Slim’s, so I’m really excited to finally play that venue. I’m also excited to share some new material — we’ll play at least one new song that night. And of course there will be some surprise covers.
TBB: Do you have plans after the tour concludes on the 12th?
VP: Yeah, the band’s getting ready to record again. We’ve got a bunch of songs lined up. We’re now in the process of going through everything we have ready and selecting the 10 best for the album.
TBB: Looking over your music career via old Bay Bridged articles, the theme that seems to emerge is change and movement, with frequent shifts in both place and musical direction. Do you still feel restless? Or do you feel like you’ve settled into a more fixed entity with WATERS?
VP: You know, it’s funny, in high school I never really had that desire to go out traveling. With my music career, I tour, but it’s not really the same as visiting a place for pleasure. And when I moved to Norway, it was for a girl, not for any inherent love of Norway. I barely leave my apartment nowadays — usually I sit in my room all day and write music. My New Year’s resolution was to get out and party more, and by “party” I mean leaving my apartment (laughs).
But when it comes to music, I don’t try to duplicate what I’ve already done or write the same song I’ve already written. WATERS is the perfect vehicle for that huge pop/rock sound I love, but I’m also influenced by alot of ’70s music, like Neil Young’s early solo stuff. A solo record I’m currently writing is more in line with that sound, and I feel that now I’m getting better with balancing all these influences. Between WATERS and my solo stuff, I have two avenues I can fit songs into. So yes, I feel like I have found a myself in a more permanent state.