Everyone in San Francisco loves WATERS, so it was a joy and only appropriate to welcome them back in the grand style that Outside Lands provided last weekend. Although most of the band has moved from SF to LA over the past year it’s fair to say that San Francisco appearances will always remain hometown shows for them. WATERS has had a phenomenal year, especially since the release of their latest full-length, What’s Real (Vagrant Records). They’ve been praised by publications like Rolling Stone, performed on Conan last month, and will be playing major venues across the country this fall. Way before all of that however, San Franciscans were already clued in to what a great and fun band WATERS really is.
WATERS played three sets at OSL 2015: an Outside Lands Night Show at the California Academy of Sciences in the West Garden, an acoustic set, and a set on the Panhandle Stage that Saturday late afternoon. Van Pierszalowski is the founder and frontman of WATERS.
Wendy Oakes: It’s great that WATERS played not one, but three sets at Outside Lands!
Van Pierszalowski: Yeah, we had the Cal Academy show which was a dream come true, and then that acoustic show for Spin [Magazine] and a lot of other people, and then the main show. It was awesome.
WO: You’re living down in LA now but it must have felt really great to be back in front of your San Francisco homies.
VP: Oh yeah. Every time I’m back it still feels like home for me. On that drive, coming over the Bay Bridge it’s always like, “Alright! Here we are. We’re home.” It’s awesome to be able to play for other familiar faces – only hard part is trying not to party too much afterward, ’cause I’ve got so many friends in town. Gotta pace it!
WO: Did you attend all three days of the festival?
VP: I didn’t get to go on Friday or Sunday. The whole rest of the band, though, went on Sunday. They wanted to see Elton John really bad and some other stuff. I was only able to go Saturday but it was such an awesome treat. I wanted to go on Friday but I just had to rest my voice and get ready for the long day Saturday.
WO: Of course. Did you get to see any bands on Saturday?
VP: I did. I got to see Kendrick [Lamar], which was awesome. I got to see Tame Impala, probably the best band in the world right now, and the band who we’re going on tour with in the fall, MisterWives, got to see them open the main stage so that was awesome. Then, before us, that band had to cancel ’cause of the whole ticket selling drama. The people that replaced them, they’re this comedy group with a Christian a capella routine, that was one of the most hilarious highlights of the whole day honestly!
WO: Had you been to Outside Lands before this year?
VP: I never have been. I’ve lived in the Bay for so long and I’ve always just been gone that weekend. I’ve either been in Alaska fishing with my dad, or out on tour, or out of town for something else, so I’ve never been able to go. That’s part of the thing that was so exiting for us about it, was that also we got to go there! Such a great experience. I haven’t been to a big festival like that in a while. It was so nice to be there because it is a really big festival, one of the biggest ones on the West Coast, but it doesn’t really feel like that. It still feels pretty intimate and it’s so beautiful and it’s nice that it wasn’t super hot either; it was very manageable. It just feels healthy.
WO: There’s shade, thanks to all of the beautiful trees, and they do build in a lot of places for refuge from the crowd if you want to seek them out.
WO: Was Outside Lands your last date of the summer before your fall tour?
VP: Yeah, it is. It was kinda sad; the last couple songs I was like, “I’m really gonna miss playing these songs with my band.” We don’t have anything else on the calendar until September, so we’re just gonna spend the time writing new songs, starting to think about the next record, and getting prepared for tour, and you know that always takes a long time.
WO: And you’ve been writing all along, right?
WO: You just released What’s Real in the spring, which was kind of an interesting process. We spoke a bit over a year ago and you had a lot of material at the ready and were deciding how WATERS would go about releasing it all. You had just done the video for “Got To My Head” and were considering putting out an EP during the months prior to the release of What’s Real, which you did end up doing [It All Might Be OK, 2014]. Do you think you’ll take the same sort of path with your new songs?
VP: Yeah. We’re planning on trying to put out another EP to coincide with the fall tour. There’s a couple new songs and a couple other things. As far as the next record goes, it’s pretty early on in the stages of trying to figure out what it will sound like, but I always wanna spice it up. I hate it when bands come out with their new record and it sounds almost identical to the previous one. I don’t think there’ll be quite as big of a jump from Out in the Light to What’s Real as from What’s Real to the next record but it’ll definitely be a little different.
WO: But that was a much longer time lapse between the two.
VP: It was; it was. We’re gonna follow this one up quick!
WO: Good, ’cause WATERS is super hot now: Rolling Stone recognizing you, and Billboard too; you’re getting the attention you deserve,
VP: Yeah, you know the record came out in April and we played on Conan, and got the Rolling Stone thing, and New York Times – got a good review, the Matt & Kim tour, and now we’re going out on another big tour in the fall, so it really does feel like we have good momentum going. It’s just so great to be able to tour and no matter where we are: Cleveland, or Pittsburgh, or New York City, or Dallas, or wherever, there’s people there that know all the words and [are] bringing us little presents and stuff. We have the greatest fans; it’s awesome.
WO: Well you have such a fun show. It feels like your whole band is just completely in it. It’s not like you all are just staring at your instruments; you jump around and are really engaged with the audience. It’s a wonderful show to go see.
VP: Oh thank you. None of us really like going to shows and seeing bands just kinda look at their feet and look at their instruments; you know, you could just listen to the record. If you go to a show, it’s exciting; it’s for fun as well. We spend a lot of time thinking about that, new ways to make it fun for the crowd and have [an] interactive experience.
WO: Do you think you might head back to San Francisco sometime soon?
VP: Yeah! Actually we just announced our next show today, this morning! We are playing The Fillmore with MisterWives on October 19th.
WO: Wonderful! And speaking of that date with MisterWives, they’ll be joining you for some of what looks like a very healthy national tour from the end of September to the beginning of November, with some really nice dates there, including Terminal 5 in New York and a couple of other Fillmores along the way – one in Philly and one in Detroit.
VP: That’s true – Fillmore tour.
WO: Congratulations and good to see you at Outside Lands. Hopefully you’ll have some free time to come back to SF when Outside Lands is on again.
VP: Thank you so much. Maybe next summer we won’t play and I can just go and enjoy all the bands; that’s the dream.