Interview: Brian Wilson Reflects on Pet Sounds

By: Seth Johnson

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On May 16, 1966, the Beach Boys gave us Pet Sounds, forever changing the music world. Now half a century later, the album’s mastermind is out on the road, playing every song from Pet Sounds live at venues all around the world.

On this golden anniversary tour, Brian Wilson is playing alongside Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, who were both formerly in early versions of the Beach Boys. In addition to songs from Pet Sounds, audiences can also expect to hear top hits and fan favorites spanning Wilson’s 54-year career with the Beach Boys and as a solo artist.

Prior to his performance at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, our Seth Johnson arranged for a quick email interview with Wilson, which you can read below.

Seth Johnson: At the time that Pet Sounds came out, how were you thinking it would be perceived?

Brian Wilson: Well, I thought that some of the older people would appreciate it and some of the younger people wouldn’t think it was commercial enough.

SJ: Were you apprehensive at all though? If so, why?

BW: Not at all – I was looking forward to releasing it

SJ: Pet Sounds has now become a timeless album. What are some elements of the record that you personally would attribute to that?

BW: I think the melodies and lyrics and the harmonies is what makes it really appeal to people.

SJ: It’s been half a century since Pet Sounds was released. What parts about it do you still really like?

BW: I still like the ballads on it (“Don’t Talk,” “Caroline, No” and “God Only Knows”).

SJ: Are there any parts you don’t like now?

BW: No.

SJ: How is Brian Wilson now different then Brian Wilson then?

BW: I’ve slowed down a little bit, my energy. My songwriting is not as often now. I don’t write songs all that often. And now, I have a family that I love.

SJ: I actually interviewed your nephew Scott about a year ago, and he spoke to how special the Beach Boys’ live shows were around the time when Pet Sounds came out. Compared to those earlier days, how does it feel to perform Pet Sounds today?

BW: It feels very satisfying and takes me back to when we recorded the album. Now, I can really appreciate how much the fans like it.

SJ: Smiley Smile and Wild Honey were released the year after Pet Sounds. How did those albums continue down the same path as Pet Sounds, in your eyes?

BW: They weren’t like Pet Sounds at all. Wild Honey was our R&B album and Smiley Smile was our more adventurous, psychedelic music.

SJ: What plans do you have after this Pet Sounds tour?

BW: I plan to do an album, a rock and roll album.

SJ: Could you ever see yourself doing a Smiley Smile/Wild Honey tour?

BW: No. Maybe a Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) tour sometime. I’d like to do that.

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    December 13, 2016 [ 3:09 pm ]

    The Beach Boys are one of those legendary bands. Not everyone likes them, but they still know exactly who they are when they come on the radio, unless they get them mixed up with Jan and Dean of course lol. Good Vibrations man.

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