Van Pierszalowski of WATERS on trashing his guitars and starting over

Waters is headlining The Chapel on July 10, and I interviewed ringleader Van Pierszalowski recently for the San Francisco Examiner. Read the full feature here. Here’s what didn’t make the story but would have had a been able to write longer. Those coming to the show, which also features San Francisco duo (and new Neon Gold artists) Cathedrals, should expect to hear a bunch of new songs, a couple of older ones, as well as a tune from Pierszalowski’s former band, Port O’Brien.


You basically got rid of everything in your life, even your guitars, when you pulled the plug on Port O’Brien. Drastic, no?

It was kind of a symbolic thing with starting a new project, wanting to shed your skin. Also, it was just my acoustic guitar I had was a total piece of shit. I wanted to burn that thing… Also, my old electric was a Telecaster – I wanted something that sounded a little beefier. There’s something really great about having a new guitar. Neil Young talks about this a lot. Whenever you pick up a new guitar that you haven’t played before, it really brings something else out in a song, or if you’re trying to come up with a song, if you just pick up a guitar at your friend’s house that you never played … it’s oftentimes true, something comes out of it. I don’t know why.

Why’d you want to take a break and slow down in San Francisco following the release of your first WATERS album?

We moved back, and Marte moved with me in January of 2012. The first Waters record, named “Out in the Light,” was kind of wrapping up. We’d already toured quite a bit by then. It just felt like it was going to be time to start working on the next record. At that point, I hadn’t written any songs for it. To be creative, I wanted to do something kind of radically different for the next Waters album, and I could feel it was going to be kind of a long process. So it felt like, “OK, gotta hunker down.” We tried living in New York for a while before that. It didn’t quite feel right. I went to school in Berkeley and had a lot of roots here in the Bay, and it felt like it was a good place and time to kind of settle down and start working on the next record.

You recorded with Ryan Rabin, the drummer-producer from Grouplove. What was that like?

That’s been great. We’ve done 10 songs with him, and it’s been incredible. It’s been a little patchy in terms of when we’ve been able to do it because Grouplove is always touring so much. But whenever we have a chance between tours, we go down there. This recording process has been a lot faster, a lot more of a pop style of recording. He has a very promising career ahead of him.

Tell me about your live band members.

Brian DaMert and Greg Sellin, that’s the bassist and the guitarist, they’re both in another band called the Tambo Rays, who I’ve played a show with about a year ago. I’d never heard of them or seen them (before then), but I was so into it that I asked them to be in my band. Andrew Wales is the drummer. We went to (U.C.) Berkeley together, but we never met. Marte Solbakken, my girlfriend, she plays keys and sings. She’s been helping a lot on the songwriting, and she has her own band called Elskling, which is an ancient Norwegian word. It kind of means beloved. If you Google-Translate it, it says, “honey,” but that’s not quite right.


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