Watching these Port O’Brien videos could make for a good game of I Spy. Can you spot the football? How about the old leather bag? The baby in a jar? The zebra? Good job.
What you may not have gotten from watching the videos is that front man Van Pierszalowski used to be a fisherman, spending his summers fishing salmon off the coast of Alaska’s Kodiak Island. Listening to songs, this seemingly arbitrary fact makes perfect sense as the songs do have a shanty-like quality about them, and much of Port O’Brien’s earlier work directly addresses Van’s life as a fisherman. The experience comes through much less often in lyrics nowadays, but it still resides firmly in their sound and will most likely continue to influence their future efforts.
Port O’Brien did not begin in Alaska, however, but in Cambria, California where vocalist and instrumentalist Cambria Goodwin lived. The band remained an acoustic folk duo until Cambria relocated to the Bay Area – where Van spent his offseason – and they added bass and percussion to their sound. Since then, the band has done well, attracting positive attention from various indie music artists and critics as well as touring with major acts such as Bright Eyes and Modest Mouse.
All three songs featured in this session can be found on their 2009 release Threadbare. As a collective, the songs sound like they could be appropriately sung on the fishing boat docks of the Northwest, but each one stands out in its own way. “In The Meantime” is slow and hauntingly majestic with strong harmonies, contrasting nicely with the upbeat tempo and folksy guitar work of “Love Me Through.” Lying somewhere between the other two songs is “Oslo Campfire,” which sounds vaguely like early Rolling Stones – think “Play With Fire” – which is most definitely a compliment. Simply put, the songs are good. So put on your rain boots, find a bottle of whatever places you on the Pacific Ocean, and enjoy.
MP3 Session Downloads:
Recorded and Mixed by Jeff DuPont
Filmed and Edited by Doug Fellegy and Michelle Castillo
Words by Gerard Pannekoek