As you’ve likely picked up from this site, we like to cover electronic music and jam bands. After working on this interview, I started to wonder why I’m devoted to these two seemingly bipolar worlds. What is it about electronic and jam music that makes me tick? The sound couldn’t be any more different, so why am I drawn to both communities, and not just one? Then I did this interview with Eric Gould, founder and bassist of Pink Talking Fish, and something kind of clicked. I think I found a connection between the electronic and jam scenes, so here’s my theory: the fans and artists that comprise these two worlds have more respect for each other and each other’s music than any other music scene. This idea’s clearly reflected in the song choices and set lists of DJs and jam bands. It’s rare you’ll go see a jam band like Twiddle or Pigeons, and not hear them pay respects to their elders or peers with a kick-ass cover. Same goes for DJs. You will rarely hear an electronic musician play a whole set comprised of just originals, without a single remix or shoutout. It’s usually completely different with other genres. I doubt Justin Bieber’s ever performed a cover during one of his shows. In turn, this musical respect bleeds into the audience. The EDM and Jam communities are incredibly caring, respectful, and inclusive communities. This is one of the reasons I feel more at home hanging in these worlds than in the real one.
Now, tying everything back to Pink Talking Fish, these guys are the champions of artistic respect. Eric Gould has devoted this stage of his career to pay extreme homage to his predecessors. He and his band have put endless hours of thought and artistry to provide the jam community with a fresh experience and opportunity to relive the glory of Pink Floyd, the Talking Heads, and Phish. With David Bowie’s recent death, they’ve incorporated his catalogue into their recent shows, performing as Pink Talking Fish is Bowie. We’re incredibly excited to catch their performance with Hayley Jane tomorrow night at the Gramercy Theatre, so if you haven’t yet, cop your ticket here to join us for a night of fresh throwbacks, artistic homage and unadulterated fun.
Sound-Fix: Hey Eric, appreciate the time. To start things off here, tell us about some highlights from the past year.
Eric Gould: Yeah man, we had a phenomenal year, and this past summer was great. Back in July, we had three sold out shows, all pre and post parties during July 4th weekend in Chicago for Fare Thee Well. We did a new concept for that run called Pink Talking Fish are Dead where we incorporated Grateful Dead songs into the Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, and Phish blend. The energy of being in that city during that time was something else.
SF: Wish I could’ve been there, I’ve only heard amazing things and stories. What else?
EG: Well, we also had this one weekend where it was just boat cruises. We did two of them in NYC and one of them in Burlington on Lake Champlain. That was just fantastic, we were literally just doing water gigs. Also, end of summer or early fall, Catskill Chill was just a great time. That’s one of my favorite festivals – you know what, it is my favorite festival out there! The only festival ground that comes close to Minglewood is the the Spirit of Suwannee, where AURA’s hosted.
SF: Tell us more about the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park (below). We just did an interview with Scrambled Greg from Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and he told us these crazy stories about mythical black rivers, secret spots, and ultimately characterized the whole place as “magical.”
EG: Well, it really is a magical place. The weather’s great, and I could describe some pretty neat things, like how the trees create this tropical Floridian jungle, and how the camp grounds are set up in such a cool way, but in the end, it’s about much more than that. It’s about the energy around it, and that sort of feeling isn’t really something you can talk about, you just have to go there to experience it for yourself. But once you’ve been to an event at Suwannee, you get it, and you just want to keep on going back to it as much as possible.
SF: I can’t wait to make it down there at some point. We couldn’t swing the Florida trip from Brooklyn to AURA this year, but we’re planning to head down next year. So, tell us about the inception of Pink Talking Fish. We love to hear specific stories about how killer bands like PTF got off the ground.
EG: Well, I had moved from Los Angeles, where I had founded Particle, to Kansas City, and I had never really gotten into playing covers on a regular basis, minus some concept shows with Particle here and there. When I got out to Kansas City, I lived on this 600 acre lake just outside of town, and there was this little place on the lake that I called the “Cheers” of the lake we lived on. **laughs** I wound up just for fun getting involved with these pick up bands, where we started to play a lot of songs that I know and love but never put under my fingers or sang before. And I had such a fun time doing it! So from there, my wheels started turning, and I thought “hey, I can’t envision myself getting into a professional setting with a straight-up cover band, but what kind of innovation could happen around this?” And so, I picked three of my favorite bands, and just said, “Hey, what would happen if I just combined this, and had this happen?” My choices happened to be Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads (below), and Phish.
EG: So I wrote a setlist down, looked at it, and that’s the way I usually roll when I concept a band. When I took a look at it, I just immediately knew this had to happen. And so it became a pet project of mine, a passion of sorts. The band was a revolving cast of characters for awhile, but in 2015 the lineup solidified with Richard James on they keys, Zack Burwick on drums, and Dave Brunyak on guitar. After we firmed up the group and started to perform as PTF, the response we got from the music community was the best. Many people share a mutual love of these bands, so to give them a fresh experience of combining these songs, utilizing the puzzle pieces of these song books, and creating a show that puts the songs in a light that people had never seen before has been a special experience. What blurs the lines around it, is something where we actually add a bit of originality in the realm of a tribute act. And that really is where things get exciting with Pink Talking Fish. The people that get that, who really understand it, are coming along for the ride. We get correspondence from people all the time saying, “Hey, what about this combination, what about that?” There’s so much to do, we’re having so much fun with it, and the crowd is reacting so positively to it. This band is such a welcome addition, whether it’s our own show, whether it’s being a part of a festival like AURA, or if it’s being part of a a bill with another band.
SF: So it sounds like you’re one of the masterminds behind the PTF set lists. Tell us about the creation process behind your craft.
EG: Well especially with Phish, where there’s so much material, a lot of the songs we’re choosing are based on a concept. So for example we just did “Gamehendge,” and we’ve done “Animals, where we picked animal related songs. Then other times, we look at each band’s repertoire and wonder which songs would really work well together and blend nicely. So when we’re looking into it, for a song like “Stash” where there’s this open jam in the middle that could really blend in and out of songs, that one might work a little bit better than “Fluffhead,” which is it’s own thing, and there’s not much room for blending, so that song isn’t as conducive to what we’re trying to do. And also, when we play a show, we’re always paying attention to what we played before to keep our concerts fresh, not only for us, but for our fans. We just always want to make sure that we’re mixing it up, while also continuing to honor the classics that at this point are second nature to us. Other times, I’ll just throw songs together without knowing exactly how to line them up, then I’ll bring them to the band and they might have better ideas than I would. So you know, it’s very much of an interactive experience.
SF: Tell us about your rehearsals. The happenings inside PTF’s practice room must be drastically different than your standard band’s.
DG: Oh definitely. For example, we did two sold out Halloween shows in Boston. The first one was “Animals,” where for the first set we did Pink Floyd’s, Animals, and then for the second we picked songs from each band’s repertoire that had to do with animals. Then for the second night we did “Gamehendge,” where we intertwined the Talking Heads and Pink Floyd songs around it. We actually rehearsed for about three months for those shows. We had set lists written in advance, but then wound up shifting them around as we practiced. But on a regular go around when we’re doing it and learning new songs, we’ll pick the songs and give ourselves two weeks before grouping up for personal preparation. That way group time is more about gelling with the band than gelling with the individual part, and also concepting in certain ways how it’s going to fit into PTF, if it’s going to be a combination, a one-off, or a back-to-back,
SF: This is veering a bit away from the band, but we were at Pond Fest last summer and caught your Ex-Presidents performance with Todd Stoops (keys, RAQ, formerly Kung Fu), Andrew Block (guitar, Gramatik, formerly Big Sam’s Funky Nation), and Neal Evans (drums, Elephant Wrecking Ball, formerly Dopapod). Tell us a bit about that project. Any plans to reunite?
EG: That was a lot of fun! Pondfest is a great festival too, in fact we’re headlining Pondfest 10 this summer! (check out this year’s initial lineup below, tickets here) You know, as far as that band goes, that was something Todd Stoops gave me a buzz and said “Hey, I got this idea.” Ex Presidents was comprised of members who were with other national acts at one point. So anyways, we got together, it was definitely a fun thing, we picked up a few songs, and we hadn’t played a note of music together until we set foot on that stage. So that’s always fun when it’s fresh like that. But yeah, I had a good time and would love to do that again with them, but it’s one of those things where we’re all working on other project with other bands, so if and when the stars align, we’ll give it another try.
SF: So this is more of a personal question, but how has the experience been musically, veering away from producing more original music to truly focusing on championing historic catalogues and mechanizing completely innovative sets?
EG: Yeah you know, moving out from Particle and then starting this was not emotionally easy. I wound up leaving Particle for the reason that I became a father, and it was right around the time Particle wanted to do more touring than I was able to do as a new Dad, and I wasn’t going to stop Particle from doing that, so I bowed out. You know the saying, “If you love something, set it free.” And so, I did that, and I didn’t know whether Pink Talking Fish was going to do a few shows a year, or 10, or 30 or 100. I really had no idea. I didn’t know it was going to blow up to the level that it has. You know, once PTF really did take off, when the scene demanded for it, I started taking it very seriously. And that’s when we really decided to dive into these catalogues, versus just picking some of the songs. For all three bands we’ve just dug in and took ownership around it within ourselves, and each band offers such different things. And so, to combine those, and to find the places where they connect, that’s been the most exciting part of this journey.
SF: Great, Eric. Well my last question here is just an open forum. Anything you’d like to say to your fans?
EG: Well I just want to give a big big thanks to all the music lovers, both people who are out their in the audience singing, people who are in the industry, and the musicians out there who have embraced this project. It’s definitely something, like I said, that started off as just something fun for me that I wanted to do, and now the fact that we’re supported by so many people, and are able to really dive in and take this thing to some really amazing levels, that’s all thanks to the support that we’re getting around it. And it just gives us the passion to work harder and harder, and that’s what we’re doing right now!