Editor’s Note: This article features explicit language.
Neon lights and twisting vines of bright, plastic flowers decked the stage in the moments before WATERS’ entrance.
The band bounced on stage, with all but lead singer Van Pierszalowski sporting bright green tank tops to mirror the lighting, their infectious energy immediately apparent. They tossed flowers into the crowd and dove into their opening song.
WATERS shared the 9:30 Club stage this past Sunday with bands CRUISR and MisterWives, whom they opened for. This particular show concluded their two-month long tour, and that bittersweet knowledge was apparent in their performances.
Each act brought a unique energy to the stage, keeping the audience engaged throughout the night. Their music encouraged the audience to leave any worries or stress at the door; there was no space for negativity once the pounding bass and electric notes of the keyboard filled the room.
CRUISR kicked off the affair, firing jokes between songs and fostering a sense of anticipation for what was to come. WATERS followed, keeping up the excitement with an eclectic array of dance moves and visible passion for their music. MisterWives was last to take the stage, never letting the upbeat environment falter.
The concert culminated with MisterWives’ encore, creating a dance party in which the band was joined onstage by both CRUISR and WATERS. Not a single person in the venue was still. The entire night felt like being at a party with your closest friends, and no one was ready to see it end.
“Fucking awesome,” said 18-year-old Austin Schmitt of Virginian when asked about WATERS’ stage presence. “They’re amazing. Their energy is really positive and the vibe that you get when you see them is really good.”
Schmitt continued, “[Their music] is just so happy. You can’t sit there and not move when you’re listening to it. You have to move.”
Later that night, the Bloc had a chance to sit down with WATERS lead singer Van Pierszalowski to talk about D.C., live music and what’s next for WATERS.
Q: How did WATERS form?
“WATERS formed after my old band, Port O’Brien, broke up in, I want to say 2011. I was living in Norway for a little while, and I started writing songs for a new album that wasn’t Port O’Brien and came up with the name WATERS, and put together a band for that record, and we toured for a few years. None of the people that are in WATERS now were in that band; it was Norwegians, actually. They kind of got stuck in Norway, and then after a while I moved back to San Francisco and put together this band.”
Q: How did you come up with the name WATERS?
“Well, my dad is a commercial salmon fisherman in Alaska, so I spent a lot of my childhood growing up there and working on his boat. Port O’Brien was my first band, and that was, like, that was named after a very specific cannery in Alaska. But I wanted the new band to kind of still reflect that since it’s such a big part of my life, but I wanted it to kind of be incredibly more broad and more general, because I always knew that I wanted WATERS to be, like, always evolving and changing. So I just felt like WATERS was good.
Some problems with Google-ability early on, but I think it’s okay now.”
Q: Your newest album, What’s Real, just came out earlier this year. What were some of your biggest musical influences while writing and recording it?
“I wanted to make a record that would kind of strike a similar chord in people to the records that I grew up with really loving and that made me want to play music. I never really used those as influences before — and what I mean by that are the first couple Weezer records, first couple Greenday records, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cranberries. Still with the little bit of indie rock that I had always used for influence before, like early Modest Mouse, Pavement, The Spill and all of that early Pacific Northwest indie rock stuff. Kind of like combining those two worlds.”
Q: What sort of responses did you hope to evoke from people, both with the music itself and with your live performances?
“I mean, you always hope that people can react in a pretty visceral way and in an emotional way. I know when I was growing up, those records that first hit me were so impactful. And it’s hard to remember specific feelings, more so just a sense of, like, awakening to the world. I think music does that to people. I know it did that to me. It’s the first thing I ever experienced where you have like these — it’s kind of like a spiritual experience, listening to music, and I was raised in a very atheist family, and, you know, I still am, but music to me was the first thing that ever really struck me in a spiritual sense.
I mean, not that I have these huge things for people listening to our music. I just like the idea of feeling anything. People listening to our music and feeling things — whatever they want to feel, there’s no specific feelings. Just whatever you get out of it.”
Q: You guys have been on tour for a pretty long time at this point. What’s your favorite part about playing live shows?
“On this tour, I really liked the last part of the set — we do our song “Mom and Dads,” and we get to — there’s like a little guitar solo break, Sara throws out flowers a lot of the time, and then we play “Wrecking Ball,” and everyone sings along. It’s this great communal moment, and then Dr. Blum and Mr. Wrights come on and play horns, and it’s just like every song there’s something new. I always look forward to that part of the set.”
Q: Any pre-show rituals?
“We do a lot of exercising, actually.”
Q: Is that where the ‘90s workout jacket came from?
“Kind of, yeah. This is, [gestures to his jacket] man, I love this thing. This is actually an insane story.
We played in New York a couple nights ago, and the next morning it was, like, trying to get out in Brooklyn with this rig is tough. And there were cars honking at us and everything, and we were trying to load in the van all our luggage, and my whole bag — my huge suitcase of all my clothes — was just left. Left on the sidewalk, and I didn’t realize until like five hours later, and I called my friend like, “Go outside and see if it’s there!” and it’s not there, it’s gone.
I actually have no clothes. I just happened to be wearing this. And that’s why I’m wearing a MisterWives shirt, they gave it to me, I just happened to be wearing these pants. And my parents were in town so I’m wearing some of my dad’s boxers.”
Q: It’s a minimalist life.
“Seriously, it is though, all my clothes are gone! We played a headlining show in D.C. last night, and I told the crowd, I was like, “if any of you guys have any extra clothes … Someone threw me a flannel. It’s pretty nice. A little too big, but, hey, I’ll take it.”
Q: What’s something else embarrassing or interesting that’s happened on tour?
“Hm, let me think about that for a moment. We had one night off in Milwaukee, super random, you know, you don’t get too many nights off, but we had one in Milwaukee. It was right before this long string of like seven shows in seven days, and were were like, “alright, let’s rest up and take it easy.” Which I always do; I can’t really party too much on tour because of my voice.
But we were just at the hotel, we went down to the hotel bar, and one thing led to another and we all ended up getting so wasted and high. These random people next to us kept buying us drinks, and there was like a singer-songwriter playing ‘90s songs, and then Sara went up there and started singing with him. And it was like — I’m gonna leave out some of the other details — but it was insane.
And then we got to the next show with MisterWives, and they thought we’d be all rested up after our day off, but we just looked worse than we ever had. But, it was actually incredibly fun. It was one of the most fun shows. Or, not shows, but days off.”
Q: So, this is your second night here in D.C., but you guys have performed here in the past. Do you have a favorite D.C. venue?
“[The 9:30 Club] is. This is our favorite venue in the country; we say that every time we’re here. A lot of bands say that, it’s 100 percent true. Because everyone who works at 9:30— and, you know, you tour around the country and you see 9:30 shirts and hats everywhere, it’s famous among the band community — because everyone that works here is incredible. The sound guys, the hospitality, the production manager, stage manager, they’re all incredibly good at their jobs. It’s incredibly professionally run, everyone’s super nice, and thorough, and it sounds great. It’s just the perfect blueprint for a rock and roll club. Perfect size, great sound. I mean, I don’t know as a fan if you have that similar experience, but from the band’s perspective it’s, like, it really is the best venue that I’ve ever played.”
Q: Last night, you guys were at DC9. I know that’s a smaller venue— does the size of the venue ever influence the way you play a show?
“Honestly, that show last night at DC9 was maybe the most fun show of the tour. At least top three. Because, it was a headline show, sold out, and it was just, like — this is awesome, getting to play with a bigger band, but so many people have never heard you. So you’re trying to win them over, but at DC9 everyone was there for us. They’re all singing along and rocking out, and it was small and sweaty and kind of sloppy and fun. That’s like what rock and roll is about to me. We were all so jacked up about it, actually. We all got here and were like, ‘Oh, man, last night was so awesome.’ So that was really cool, one of the most fun nights.”
Q: What do you do to kill time when you aren’t performing?
“I’m a gambler, I like to gamble. I bet on baseball games, I bet on politics even. I have $200 down on Marco Rubio winning the GOP candidate nomination, just to make it a little more interesting. I try to go to casinos when I can. I don’t have a — well, I probably do have a gambling problem, but it’s fine, it’s really fine. I go in with a certain amount of money, and then that’s it.”
Q: Any big wins?
“Yeah, I’ve done well on this tour! Last time we were in Detroit, there was a casino across the street somehow. And I went over with 100 bucks — I play Blackjack — doubled my money in like 15 minutes and got the hell out of there.”
Q: What’s it been like sharing the stage with MisterWives?
“It’s been awesome. When we found out we got the tour we were so pumped, and we’d never met them. Then we played a couple festivals with them in the summer, we played BFD and Outside Lands in San Francisco, we did Austin City Limits, and we just met them a few times and it was such a good vibe. It’s been incredible, they’re the nicest folks ever, their whole crew is so nice. And Mandy’s such an inspiration to watch every night. They’re amazing.”
Q: This is sadly the last night of the tour. Any fun plans to celebrate?
“Well, we all wore MisterWives shirts on stage, and MisterWives gave us a nice card and a bottle of champagne. And we got them a cake — vegan cake because a couple of them are vegan. Then we’re going to go up on stage with them for their last song. Maybe we’ll do like a photoshoot at the end or something.
Everyone’s feeling a little emotional. It’s like going to camp. I never went to camp but what I imagine that feeling like.”
Q: What’s next for WATERS now that the tour is over?
“First, a very long drive. And then a small headline West Coast tour in February, just in like California and Phoenix and those places. We’ll start writing a lot, as soon as we get back in the studio in March or so.”
Q: And, to end: a fuck, marry, kill question. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or Mitt Romney?
“I love it. That’s a good one.
I wouldn’t take pleasure in killing anyone, but, that being said, I could probably get into it with Donald Trump. I mean, he’s a terrible person, so. Then it gets tough. The thought of being married to Mitt Romney — well, he does have a lot of money, and then it could be fun because he’d have to come out as gay, which would be awesome. But Hillary’s going to be the president, so that could be cool if I were married to her, and then something would have to happen to Bill and it would get messy and that would be cool.
So, I think I’d have to marry Hillary, and then kind of just hate fuck Mitt Romney.”
Featured Photo Credit: Siblings, Sara DaMert, keyboard and vocals (left), and Brian Damert, lead guitarist, of the band Waters during their energetic and colorful opening performance for Misterwives at 9:30 Club. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Jessica Cooper is a sophomore communication major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.