Port O’Brien began early in the year 2005, as a folk-ish duo of Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin. The two penned songs while Cambria lived in the tiny Californian coastal town she shares her name with and Van lived in an apartment in Oakland…which was about the size of his name. Shortly thereafter, Cambria moved to up to the Bay Area and within the next year, the project added a rhythm section, comprised of Caleb Nichols and Joshua Barnhart.
Every summer, Van works on his father’s commercial salmon fishing boat, the Shawnee, on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The work is exhausting and the weather could be much better, but the contrast between the serenity of the wilderness and the rigorousness of the labor seem to cause quite a bit of musical inspiration. Meanwhile, on land and around the corner, Cambria also writes music while maintaining her position as the Head Baker at Larsen Bay. Her days can be even longer, and the work even more tiresome. After both write parts and lyrics separately, they fix them together when Van comes ashore. For the first time this summer, Caleb also joined the ranks at the cannery, and their cumulative effort while up in a latitude and longitude few of us may ever see resulted in the creation of the songs that comprise the band’s first studio-recorded album “ALL WE COULD DO WAS SING.” Because when you’re working all day in the freezing cold, what the hell else are you going to do? “Stuck on a Boat” tells of the frustration related to being so close yet so far away.. Van stuck on a little fishing boat, while Cambria bakes across the bay…yet weeks go by without having a chance to go to port. “Fisherman’s Son” speaks of the frustrating, yet contented thought of destiny. “Don’t Take My Advice” captures the endless quest for settling, while remaining in awe of the entire world to explore. “In Vino Veritas” expresses the flurry of emotion caused by isolation, while emerged in substance.
The album was recorded in San Francisco, CA by two very talented engineers. Aaron Prellwitz recorded the band at the legendary Tiny Telephone Recording Studios, where he has also recorded Sun Kil Moon, the Mountain Goats, and Death Cab for Cutie. Jason Quever, of the band the Papercuts, recorded the other half of the songs at his Pan-American Recording Studios. Lush string arrangements, raw electric guitar, percussive banjo, pots + pans, a tight rhythm section, group chants and screaming provide the new album with a diverse, but cohesive feel.
In the summer of 2007, the band released a compilation of previously self-released songs titled The Wind and The Swell on American Dust Records. They’ve become a touring machine since the critically lauded M. Ward first named Port O’Brien his Favorite New Band on Pitchfork Media. They have been able to perform with several of their favorite artists; touring the United States with Rogue Wave, the West Coast with both Bright Eyes and the Cave Singers, and England with Modest Mouse. Now, Port O’Brien is ready to take on the rest of the world, using the little island of Kodiak as a jumping off point.