Van Pierszalowski wanted a fresh start with WATERS
For no reason other than the fact that he answers the phone in a San Francisco apartment he’s paying rent on, it’s safe to assume that Van Pierszalowski has managed to find some sort of inner peace. Those who’ve been following the singer-songwriter since the implosion of his previous project, Port O’Brien, will know that he hasn’t always been in the happiest headspace over the past couple of years. Pierszalowski pulled the plug on that group in 2011 and then promptly disappeared. After a globetrotting attempt to find himself, he would resurface with his new project WATERS.
His search took him to Alaska, New York City, San Francisco, and, finally, Oslo, Norway, where WATERS’s debut disc, Out in the Light, came together. The album, as one might infer from the title, reflects the ending of a dark time, both personally and musically.
“I was going through so much stuff that I wanted to start clean, start fresh with a new vision and a new sound and new everything,” the blond singer and guitarist says from his Bay Area home. “I got rid of my old guitars and bought new guitars. I wanted to have a brand-new band name, brand-new people, brand-new everything. But it was also scary after you’d invested so much time and money and effort into a different project [Port O’Brien]. In my heart, I did a lot of wondering as to whether or not I was making the right call.”
That uncertainty is borne out by Out in the Light’s first line: “Oh my God, I thought I was a free man out on the road,” this coming in the fuzz-blitzed “For the One”. Pierszalowski follows this up one song later with the immaculate grunge-pop of “O Holy Break of Day”, which contains the musings “Feeling reckless but there’s a light at the edge of my room/I never reimagined I could be a free man so soon.”
The first half of Out in the Light has Pierszalowski seemingly on a mission to show that his favourite musical era is the early ’90s. (This is underlined by the fact that Nirvana’s Steve Albini–produced In Utero is his top desert-island disc.)
“The main source of inspiration for this record,” he admits, “was a sort of raw, Albini-esque production. Even if all the songs don’t sound that way, that’s what we were going for.”
Pierszalowski gives every indication on Out in the Light that, having been painted into a folk-rock corner with Port O’Brien, he’s not going to be easily nailed down with WATERS. After a gloriously noisy start, the second half of the record has him adding symphonic flourishes to “Take Me Out to the Coast” and hitting the coffeehouse for the acoustic outro, “Mickey Mantle”.
“I’m a big champion of every song doing what it wants, and not being too concerned about everything sounding cohesive,” Pierszalowski says. “It hopefully sounds cohesive because it’s the same people playing the songs.”
WATERS has him in a good enough place that, for now, his roaming from city to city is over. In a further sign that things are looking up for Pierszalowski these days, he reports that he’s not the only one who’s enjoying his new outlook on life. His girlfriend, whom he moved to Oslo to be with, is now sharing his San Francisco apartment.
“I didn’t want to continue couch-surfing,” Pierszalowski says with a laugh. “I really don’t think that would be good for the relationship.”
WATERS plays Electric Owl on Sunday (May 6).