Brian Wilson :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Brian Wilson opens his new album No Pier Pressure with a quietly profound lyric: “Life goes on and on, like your favorite song.” Wilson has written many people’s favorite songs over the last five decades — the rollicking surf rock of “Little Deuce Coup,” “teenage symphonies to God” like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows,” profound psychedelic laments like “’Till I Die,” from 1971’s Surf’s Up -- and over the last decade he’s enjoyed a healthy surge of activity, finishing old Beach Boys business with Smile, exploring nostalgic territory with That Lucky Old Sun and collections of George Gershwin and Disney songs.

No Pier Pressure began as a follow up to the Beach Boys’ 2012 reunion album, That’s Why God Made the Radio and that band’s triumphant 50th anniversary tour. Not surprisingly, the album’s best moments feature former Beach Boys Al Jardine, Blondie Chaplin, and David Marks and evoke Wilson’s classic West Coast pop. But it also charts new territory for Wilson, with producer Don Was assembling a roster of artists like Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward of She & Him, Kacey Musgraves, Nate Ruess of fun., and Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities to add modern touches.

Though not the most even effort — Wilson doesn’t always sound natural with his guests — the record’s highlights are warm and sweet, with songs like “Whatever Happened,” “The Right Time,” “Guess You Had to Be There,” and “Half Moon Bay” showcasing Wilson’s writing at its sunny best.

Notoriously terse in interviews, Wilson was nonetheless enthusiastic discussing the record with Aquarium Drunkard, as well as his role in The Wrecking Crew, a new documentary about the cast of Los Angeles session players that helped create Pet Sounds, and Bill Pohlad’s biopic Love and Mercy, starring Paul Dano and John Cusack as Wilson.

Aquarium Drunkard: There are a lot of different sounds on No Pier Pressure — some dance elements, some pop songs, and lots of Beach Boys-evoking moments.

Brian Wilson: We wanted to make some good harmonies, like the 1960s Beach Boys harmonies. We wanted to make some good harmonies, you know, so people could enjoy it.

AD: “Runaway Dancer” has almost a disco sound. Did you listen to disco at all in the ‘70s?

Brian Wilson: Yeah, I did. It does have a little bit of that kind of a feel to it, it does. I wanted to try something different and new. What we did was we’d take a song, we’d write the chord pattern, then we’d write the melody, then we would write the words. And when it’s done it’s time to produce it, so I’d go in…I produced Nate Ruess, you know from a group called fun. and Zooey Deschanel on a song called “On the Island.”

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