Pink Talking Fish swim upstream

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First Posted: 4/15/2014

So what exactly is “hybrid tribute fusion?”

If you talk to Eric Gould, founding member and bassist of the progressive jam band Particle and rabblerousing spokesman for his new endeavor, Pink Talking Fish, he’ll tell you it’s all about “making the material more than what the material is.”

Intrigued yet? Let’s break it down.

Pink Talking Fish is perhaps the most exciting idea for a tribute band to come down the pike in a while. Gould’s vision takes the legendary catalogs of namesakes Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, and Phish and swirls it up into a unique stage show brimming with dynamic energy and turn-on-a-dime musicianship. You’re not going to simply hear a glorified cover band, but rather a calculated reworking of three classic bands, yet still managing to show the proper respect to the original songs.

“We’re enhancing it, just in this little bubble of concept,” Gould says. “Not so far as enhancing it better than the original bands have done, but just taking something that we all know and love and putting a different twist on it.”

While Gould used some Particle bandmates to help out with the initial lineup of Pink Talking Fish, notably guitarist Ben Combe, this band isn’t necessarily born out of Particle.

“Now it’s become more of a revolving cast of characters,” he explains, “and I’m really the centerpiece and driver behind the project. When I first had the idea for this project, the first thing I did was write out a set list. I said, ‘Wow, this band HAS to exist – it’s going to be too much fun for people. All three bands have a very special fan base, very dedicated to the music, so there’s a lot of interconnection within it.”

Gould is also happy that fans of just one of the acts Pink Talking Fish covers will find something to latch onto.

“If there’s just a diehard Floyd fan coming to the show, who isn’t necessarily familiar with the Talking Heads or Phish, they’ll get a little something extra out of it, and that’s great.”

When Pink Talking Fish hits the River Street Jazz Cafe this Thursday night, it will be part of the band’s first proper tour. Gould describes the band’s ascension as “organically blossoming,” and with their history spanning just over a year, they’re focusing on establishing themselves in the Northeast, the home base of the band.

“We’ve done a bunch of runs, but this is the real inaugural tour,” says Gould. “We’re hitting a lot of spots for the first time; I’m really excited for Wilkes-Barre, I’ve heard a lot of great things about the Jazz Cafe.”

This interview with Gould actually took place on the heels of a major pre-tour festival gig for Pink Talking Fish – the Wanee Music Festival in Live Oak, Fla., a show that Gould was particularly fired up to play.

“This was really special because it’s the Allman Brothers’ 45th year as a band, and it’s their festival,” explained Gould the day after the show. “It was them, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trey Anastasio, and whole lot of other great acts. We did a main stage set, which was fantastic, and was the quintessential piece of what Pink Talking Fish is.”

Gould goes on to tell of a Phish track called “Mike’s Groove,” an extended work consisting of “Mike’s Song” and “Weekapaug Groove,” with songs that fill gaps between the two anchor tracks. Gould was still reeling a day later from the experience of having a guest vocalist absolutely nail Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” coming out of “Mike’s Song.”

“We had this amazing singer come up and belt it out,” Gould recounts. “The place was going bananas.”

“Then we went into (Talking Heads’) ‘Burning Down the House’ out of that, and brought it back into the Phish world again with ‘Weekapaug Groove.’ People just flipped out; it was great.”

Not to be outdone by their own sense of self, Pink Talking Fish turned around and pulled it together for a second set at the Wanee Festival, this time on the back of a flatbed truck.

“We did a traveling set,” says Gould. “We did a five-mile loop around the festival. It was like a Mardi Gras parade of golf carts and people on bikes, just traveling with us for the music. We were just feeling it out throughout that. We had a certain collection of songs we started out with, but then we were just calling them out in the spirit of it all – it took some really nice turns and we had a blast.”

Going back a year to the first show the band ever played, Gould knew that his somewhat unorthodox mashup of a tribute show was onto something good. He gives another one of numerous examples of how his band pushes musical boundaries.

“There’s a Phish song called ‘You Enjoy Myself,’” he tells. “There’s this ambient part in the middle of the composed section that’s got the same hi-hat pattern as Pink Floyd’s ‘On the Run.’ Our keyboardist had the design for ‘On the Run’ set so that no one would expect this transition in the composed piece of one of Phish’s songs like that.

“When ‘On the Run’ came up, people got it. Their hands were in the air; they were like, “Oh my God, how did this happen?’ They were freaked out. Then when ‘On the Run’ was finished, we went back into the composed piece of the Phish song. That’s one my favorite things to do.”

Look for Pink Talking Fish to exist beyond the usual, sometimes rigid parameters of your average tribute band because Gould is having too much of a good time to reel it in.

“Our first shows were three shows in Colorado,” he says, “and after the crowd response and how good it felt among the musicians, I knew this was something that had to get out there. I knew it was going to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people.

“It’s a nice mix between the three bands. If you enjoy great music, this is going to be a fun one for you.”