Flashback Interview: Brian Wilson’s Impeccable Re-Return
This interview originally ran in 2015; Yahoo Music is rerunning it this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and the 60th anniversary of Capitol Studios, where this interview was shot.
“I take a lot longer to write a song now than I did when I was young,” says Brian Wilson, Beach Boy, musical icon, and current solo artist promoting his brand-new album. “I take, like, you know – sometimes a month to write a song.”
Wilson is sitting on a comfortable couch, somewhere mid-level in the famed Capitol Records Building – itself iconic, and at least partially sustained by the money Wilson’s celebrated recordings have brought in. He’s discussing No Pier Pressure, his first new release since 2012’s That’s Why God Made the Radio, the Beach Boys album which marked the band’s 50th anniversary and surprised many by reaching #3 on the charts, their best showing there for an all-new project since the ‘60s. Similarly surprising to some: It was quite good. Whether it took a month to write the songs or not.
And good is likewise the case for No Pier Pressure, an album that arrives at one of those unavoidable pop cultural moments when Brian Wilson again is hipper, and more topical, than usual. There is the new album, there is the upcoming Love and Mercy film, the Wilson biographical film directed by Bill Pohlad and slated to open internationally in June, there was Monday’s tribute concert to Wilson, Brianfest, in Los Angeles, and there is this week’s news that the Beach Boys’ classic Pet Sounds will see its re-release in Blu-ray Audio on May 26th.
Wilson and his music, as his famous song once had it, simply get around. Repeatedly.
No Pier Pressure is a fascinating listen, especially for longtime Beach Boy fans. It boasts a very interesting cast of characters, including Wilson’s Beach Boy buddies Al Jardine and David Marks (“a thrill,” says Wilson, “because they’re great singers”), and She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. (“My wife and I really like Zooey Deschanel especially,” he adds. “She sang on a song called 'On the Island” and really blew my mind.“) Significantly, while the musical cast and guest star list is extensive – fun.’s Nate Ruess, country singer Kacey Musgraves, trumpeter Mark Isham, Capital Cities’ Sebu Simonian, and former Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin, among others, show up – the album sounds thoroughly and completely like a Brian Wilson album rather than a guest-star-filled patch-up job. It is lush, it is melodic, it is sonically varied, and it sounds like something of which he should be quite proud.
This afternoon in the Capitol Records tower, though, Wilson is actually a bit more verbose – relatively speaking – about the Love and Mercy film than about the new album. "I thought the actors that portrayed me [Paul Dano and John Cusack] were well casted, the girl that played Melinda [Elizabeth Banks] was very well casted – a very sweet girl – but they laid pretty heavy on the dark parts of my life, you know? So the movie overall was a bad experience for me to see, but there were good parts.”
For Beach Boys fans, the quality of No Pier Pressure, the new movie, the inevitable modern-day Pet Sounds spin-off (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), Wilson’s simply being out there and doing it is a good sign, an indication that despite being 72, Wilson and his talents continue to amaze all these years later. Coming up next, says he, will be a tribute album to the great singers of the past, “the great rock 'n’ roll guys –like Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard.”
Looking backward but always looking forward: It is the story of Brian Wilson, and it’s been that way from the beginning.