Live For Live Music recently had the opportunity to sit down with Pink Talking Fish’s guitar player, Dave Brunyak, to catch up on a new project he’s working on apart from PTF. While touring all over the country this year with the band, he quietly put together a side project that will be performing for the first time this Saturday, December 22nd at Brighton Music Hall.
Live For Live Music: You’ve shared that a new project is in the works and want to tell the public a bit more about it. What’s going on with this?
Dave Brunyak: The latest with me is that I’ve been in a tribute band land for a very long time now. I got on board with Pink Talking Fish in 2014. Before that, I was doing The Phreaks, my Phish tribute band, from 2010. Up until then, and since I picked up the guitar, I’ve always been writing music and performing in bands in the same jam band vein that we’re doing now. My goal for starting a tribute band, or being in a production like this, was always to show people that I could be the best damn Trey [Anastasio] enthusiast out there. In doing so, [I wanted to] go back to writing music and take the success that I’ve had with Pink Talking Fish and the Phreaks back to performing original music. That time is now. I’m very, very excited about it.
I’ve put together an eight-piece group – drums, percussion, bass, keys and three horns. It is a cast of characters made up mostly of people I have met along the way in my career, people in bands that I’ve played with and also that I’ve been at gigs with. When I was thinking about who I wanted to come along, I wanted people who were close to me and who I had rapport with already.
L4LM: Take us through the rundown of artists involved with the project.
DB: Mike Harmon is a drummer friend of mine who runs Wachusett Recording in central Massachusetts. He’s a fantastic drummer and Berklee kid. On percussion is AJ Vallee. He’s the percussionist for The Peacheaters, an Allman Brothers tribute band. Brian O’Connell is my bass player and he’s had a lot of success with a group called Uncle Sammy. My keyboard player is Jody Ryan. He was the keyboard player for The Phreaks, my Phish tribute band. We played together for four years before now so it’s like an old pair of shoes. The horn section is Troy Bennett, Sara Honeywell and Thom Brennan. They are some folks I brought in from the Boston area. We are friends now – not old, old friends.
It’s a mix of old and new friends. I had the intent of drawing in as many people from my circle of friends first and then filling in with other folks. Half the guys are from Berklee. Everyone is really smart and plays really well and we get along really well so far.
L4LM: What brought you to the realization that you wanted to put together a side project with all of these musicians? What was the spark that started it?
DB: For most of my career, I’ve been in quartets. I’ve never really had the big band experience, although I’ve enjoyed that sound, so I wanted to do something different with the material that I’m writing. Also, taking my greatest hits from the five or six bands that I’ve been in since I was a kid, and taking the best songs from there and reworking them for horns.
It’s also really cool to hear something that I wrote ten years ago with less experience and have it feel kind of raw and rock-oriented and then bringing it to this ensemble and have it come to life in an orchestral kind of feel. It’s very interesting to see the transition on that and also writing new songs with horns in mind.
Everybody is soloing sometimes and it’s really cooperative. It’s like being a conductor. A little bit of pointing here and there to bring it all together and they just create this bed of sound. It’s really fun.
L4LM: When is this going to be introduced to the public? What’s the goal and what’s the name of your new project?
DB: I have been working behind the scenes for the entire year on this project trying to get people ready for the grand reveal. I’ve been in the studio all summer recording a demo for the group. For the first show, we will be opening for Kung Fu at Brighton Music Hall on Saturday, December 22nd.
The name of the band is something that I struggled with for a little while. I was trying to demonstrate that this was my solo project and it was my creation but I didn’t want to say The Dave Brunyak Band or anything like that. I wanted to convey it was my musical ideas but shared with all of these people. My initials – DB – with a lower case d and a capitol B is shorthand for decibel, which is a unit of measurement for volume. I took dB as the band name. It’s short and to the point.
Here’s the other interesting thing that I’m planning. To capitalize on some of the success I’ve had getting myself out there with PTF, I am offering tribute sets of the Trey Anastasio Band [TAB] as part of our shows. TAB is an 8-piece so I built the band in that shape so we can bring both worlds to the table by not just being a tribute band but an original band as well. dB shows going forward are going to start with one set of original music followed by one set of TAB. Building bridges is what I’m trying to do by giving people something familiar and fun.
L4LM: With such a busy schedule this year with PTF, how did you find the time to do all of this?
DB: You have to make time. This is really what I always wanted to do with my career. I’m circling back to where it all started, hopefully with more energy and a better platform to share my new music with everyone.
L4LM: You’re now in possession of a Languedoc guitar. Tell us about that experience.
DB: A little while back I met Paul Languedoc. That was a great experience and, without revealing too much about Paul, he was a very challenging person to get in touch with. I was lucky to receive an invitation through a friend of a friend on short notice to go up and meet him. At the time, he had a few guitars in his shop that he uses demos for prospective clients who come in. Every once in a while he lets one of them go and he let me buy one. I played a few of them. The third out of the four is the one that really spoke to me when I plugged it in.
We were surrounded by some memorabilia. Phish used to rehearse in his garage. His amp was sitting right there that he used for rehearsing so I got to plug into that and kind of feel the vibe. The coolest thing about his shop is that it was like a Languedoc graveyard in reverse because they’re not being broken down, they’re being put back together. When you walk in, there’s a bunch of bodies over here, a bunch of necks over there and a few drying with the finish on in the corner. I didn’t want to touch anything. I didn’t want to break anything. He’s a very gentle, happy person. To engage with him was special.
I tried not to talk about the band and tried to play it cool. Now having this, it really firmed up the idea that I wanted to make TAB a part of my next musical adventure. I feel like this year was a building block year for what I want to do with my career and getting in touch with who I was before I jumped into tribute band land. I’m thrilled to be where I’m at and the journey with PTF has been amazing, and I can’t wait for that to keep going and rising, but I’m also happy to have made room to express myself in my own way. I’m also thinking about the grand scale of artists creating music. I want to add my record to the pile of all the greats that have passed. We’re all doing the same thing with being creative and sharing.
Words and Photos by Sarah Bourque