San Francisco indie rock band WATERS dropped the title track to their forthcoming album What’s Real this week and it’s 90s rock on Fleek (first and last time usage of this term, I swear). It has all the percussionary dips and dives, the vocal push and pullback, and big catchy hooks of a retro rock ballad – and acts as a great teaser of what's expected to be an 11-track treat.
The new album out via Vagrant Records, was produced over a 15-month period with help from Ryan Rabin (Grouplove producer/drummer) and Carlos De La Garza (of Paramore acclaim). Its official release is April 7, but the guys have been up to some awesome and pretty hilarious stuff while on the road – so read on to find out how they came to be and where they’re going. (Which is only up, by the way.)
Van Pierszalowski (WATERS frontman): I formed WATERS while I was living in Oslo, Norway a few years ago. My previous band Port O'Brien had just broken up, and I knew I wanted to start a new project that sounded bigger, with more rock production and pop songwriting. Originally, WATERS was me and an all-Norwegian band, but after I moved back to California and wound up in the Bay Area, I had to find a new band. The vision for What's Real really came into focus at that point.
EM: How did you land on your band name?
VP: I've always been attracted to nautical themes, since I grew up half the time or so up in Alaska where my dad is a commercial salmon fisherman. I named my first band Port O'Brien after the cannery where my parents met up there. For the new project, I wanted something super open-ended and louder, so WATERS seemed right. Not the easiest name to Google, though.
EM: How did this album come together?
VP: I started writing the record over two years ago. I knew I wanted the writing for this record to be a little more collaborative compared to the last WATERS record. I wrote some songs with good friends, and some on my own. I wanted to find the perfect producer, because I knew I wanted this record to sound a lot different than anything I'd ever done, and I needed someone who really knew how to drive it while staying true to the vision. Ryan Rabin (drummer and producer of Grouplove) was a friend of a friend, and I heard Grouplove listened to an old Port O'Brien song to get pumped up, so I reached out and shared the demos, and we went at it. It clicked immediately, and we recorded "Got To My Head" in two days.
EM: Any favorite tracks?
VP: That's like choosing your favorite child. That being said, "What's Real," "Stupid Games," and "The Avenue" are probably my favorite children.
EM: Let’s talk about “What’s Real” – how did you land on this for your title track? What’s the inspiration behind it?
VP: The song is really simple by design. I wanted it to feel almost gospel-like in the verses, and then explode into the choruses. Its about separating from your fake friends and finding real ones, something I've definitely gone through before. That same theme relates to the record as a whole, in terms of the messages of the songs as well as the production shift from the previous album to this one.
EM: What fuels your fire? Who/what influences your sound?
VP: My influences are completely over the map. From TheBeatles to early Modest Mouse to Fugazi to Green Day to Neil Young to Will Oldham to Nirvana. There's a pop contingent, a rock contingent, and a folk contingent, all three of which are very important to my writing. But who shows up where is a total mystery. As far as production and overall vision for this record, I focused on the bands that made me want to play music in the first place (Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, Green Day, Nirvana, Cranberries).
EM: Is there a dream collab?
VP: I'd love to write a song with Taylor Swift.
EM: What’s in store for this year?
VP: The record comes out April 7th. That date is marked in big red marker on my calendar. It’s been such a long work in progress, I really can't wait to get it out there. We're going on a massive North American tour with Matt and Kim right around then. We'll be playing some festivals in the summer, and then will be back out on the road in the Fall. We're also playing CONAN on April 1st, which will be our first time on TV.
EM: Where we can find you on a Saturday afternoon?
VP: I'll probably be at home with my dog working on a song.
EM: What are you wearing right now?
VP: Well, my sister's getting married later today, so I'm wearing the beginnings of a suit.
EM: Who is your hero? In style, life, musically.
VP: I don't believe in heroes, but if I did I would pick my dad.
VP: Well, I guess its time to come clean. For the last year, we've been announcing to the crowd that it’s our drummer Andrew Wales' 21st birthday. Its provided a lot of free drinks for Wales, and we may continue the legacy. Also, on Halloween, we were in DC and we wanted to dress up as the Spice Girls, but we were all too lazy to figure out costumes, so we gave Sara $40 and she went to one thrift store and returned with PERFECT costumes for all of us. I was Ginger.