L4LM sat down recently with Eric Gould, bassist and founder of Pink Talking Fish, to discuss the band, their upcoming shows in Chicago and a little bit of everything in between. Pink Talking Fish, or PTF as known by fans, consists of Gould on bass, Richard James on keyboards, Zack Burwick on drums and Dave Brunyak on guitar. They are a hybrid fusion tribute band, drawing from the musical libraries of Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads and Phish to create amazing set lists that keep audiences guessing as to what song will appear around the bend during shows.

Gould recently missed two of PTF’s performances due to an international adoption of the newest member of his family, his son Qinn, from China. Gould explained his reasons for missing the shows, which may have been unknown to fans in attendance. “With international adoption, you don’t know when you’re going to travel until a week to days before. I had to book accordingly and just guess when it was going to be and it wound up being a little earlier than I thought. As a result, I ended up missing two of the shows.” The adoption is so new that, at the time of the interview, Gould had only been on his third day back home from China. However, that didn’t stop him from being very awake for an interview.

Gould talked to L4LM the day of their show in Worcester, MA, near his hometown. In talking about what may be expected of the evening’s show and how fans may react, he had this to say:

“Sometimes we pull out some of the rarities, the Talking Heads rarities, here and there, and a few of the Floyd [songs]. You get that one dude, who’s such a Floyd fan, that one guy who will jump up front and be like “I can’t believe you’re doing this!” and it’s the highlight of his night. Whenever we play [a rarity] there are one or two people who are just beside themselves that this is happening. Worcester is cool for us and we are probably the only band that can say that. I grew up five minutes from here so Worcester is the closest city to me. Two of the guys in the band, Dave Brunyak on guitar and Zack Burwick on drums, they both grew up in Shrewsbury [MA] so while we consider Boston our home town show, Worcester is even more home town. This is the place where all our family will just be there.”

PTF will be playing three shows during the upcoming Grateful Dead reunion in Chicago over the fourth of July weekend and will become Pink Talking Fish are Dead. They will be doing two pre-parties and one post party. Gould went on to explain, “On July 4th we’re doing the pre-party from 3-6pm and the late night from midnight to 3am afterwards. Both of those are already sold out. Then we’re doing the 3-6pm pre-party on Sunday before the final show.” Tickets are still available for that show here.

L4LM went on to ask about how he felt playing the Dead run and what an amazing opportunity has been presented for PTF to play during this event. Pink Talking Fish will become Pink Talking Fish are Dead, in Chicago during the Grateful Dead event. Gould had this to say about the creative concept:

“I love it when there’s an event that creates a scene around it. Phish is great for that. They make it happen in certain areas, like Las Vegas or NYC, and it creates a whole vibe around it. This is going to be one of those times but even more elevated. The amount of high profile after-shows and pre-shows is extraordinary so it’s really exciting to be a part of the experience. The minute those shows were announced, we immediately knew that this was perfect for PTF. With Trey [Anastasio of Phish] involved, people are going to want to hear Phish tunes. The great thing about PTF is that we’re something a little different. We’re not your average tribute band. We have blurred the lines a little bit. The way we design shows creates an originality within the tribute genre so it’s fresh and it’s something people want to hear. People have been asking us to come out to Chicago for a long time. We have been waiting for the right moment and this was it. This weekend will be more of a national scene and hopefully some of the Chicago people get into the show. It’s going to be great and our band is going to be really pleasing music to hear before and after the Dead do their thing. We booked these and then decided to add the Grateful Dead songs into the mix too add something special.”

Being a fusion tribute band, PTF has a concept which can springboard other sounds and ideas. Their concept allows them the creative freedom to try new ideas and continuously evolve, should they so choose. Would they ever consider adding other band concepts, such as The Who, Beatles, etc?

“We love concepts. This band is just primed to do multiple concepts throughout the years. We’ve already done Dark Side of the Moon. We already have a few other concepts on the way that have yet to be announced that are happening this year. Some really fun stuff. We’ve created some more show style concepts, like Phunk the Winter in NYC that we did with Shwikus Plays P-Funk and that was a blast. The Pink Talking Fish are Dead concept, who knows if we’ll ever do it again or not. That’s the great thing about it but, for this moment in time, it is going to happen right here.”

He went on to explain why the concept of the band works so well musically. “The concept of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish – there’s just something about these three bands that go perfectly together. That’s why the country, the scene, has embraced it so much. It was a pet project of mine where originally I thought ‘I’m going to do this and just be a geek about it’. It turned out to be so many other people’s ideal pet project too. When you open a door you never know what’s on the other side. So this is happening now and I couldn’t be happier about it, but incorporating other bands? Everything is on the table but, in the end…Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish…that’s what’s going to be the core of what this project is about. Maybe every once in a while a concept will come up that will vary but, for the most part, we have so much left to do with these three bands. Even though we’ve progressed tremendously in 2015 with our repertoire, I still feel like we’re just getting started. There’s a ton of opportunity to create something special with this live band.”

How amazing would it be if Trey Anastasio showed up in Chicago at a PTF are Dead show!?

“That would be great! Any of the members of any of the bands. If I were in one of those bands, I would dig what this is. I would enjoy it. I sat in with a band called Mister F. Great guys! They’ve opened up for PTF a couple of times and I consider them friends. They cover a Particle song and I actually sat in with them on it.” Gould was the founding bassist of Particle before starting PTF.

He continued, saying “Last year they were playing a pre and post show during Phish at SPAC and I went up there for one of the shows and popped in early and sat in on the Particle tune. It was fun playing that with them! These bands have all had multiple bands cover them but not in the way we do it. What we’re really doing is using the song books of these bands and creating something fresh. By no means are we saying we’re putting original music out there, but we are putting original ideas out there.”

With the constant mashup of these bands, how do you do it? You make it look so easy. When do you have time to practice?

“We all live in the area within an hour of each other. We definitely rehearse on a solid basis and there’s a lot of individual work too. We all come in with individual knowledge of the songs and progress collectively from there. I’ve spent a ton of time just connecting different transitions and connections. All the band members contribute great ideas. For me, I can’t get it out of my head! It’s just so much fun. You’re looking at tempos, you’re looking at song keys, you’re looking at grooves, it’s a puzzle. It’s like Choose Your Own Adventure and each connection creates a whole new path.

A big part of my inspiration in music is the setlist, which is really my favorite part of live music. I probably saw the majority of my Phish shows between 1994 and 1998 and 94, 95, 93 – my first show was in 93 – those shows had some great design back then. That was an era where the band wasn’t doing what they do now. 1994-95, in particular, were a specific design and you can tell. That was when I was most inspired by the band, in my college years. I was in Ithaca, NY which was the perfect place. They would go on a spring tour and there would be 15-20 shows within a four hour radius of me, so yeah I’d take a drive. I was able to dive in to the band during that time. Just me getting into them, checking out what they were about and understanding that a lot of those shows were calculated. There was a spirit of the improvisation but the set list was intentional. I wrote every set list of Particle when I was in the band and that was a blast. Just creating these set lists and making sure there are different connections that are relevant within the music and within the feel of the show. PTF is just a set list writers dream.”

Has there been an A-HA moment? There’s been so much talk about you. Is there something that to you, says, I think we are on to something?

“There were two a-ha moments. One was a definitive moment and one was more of a broad based. The first one was in 2014 at Wanee [Festival]. Wanee dug our concept and they put us on that Saturday at noon. Normally for a noon set at a festival like Wanee that has 20-25k people coming, you’re going to get maybe 1-2 thousand people at that set for that size festival. We ended up having 5 thousand plus people down there at noon. They were so into it and that’s when that ‘man, this level can happen for this band’ moment occurred. To me, it was a pet project but that’s when I started taking it seriously. It’s not just about us and doing it for the love. This is about something that could really make a lot of people happy. We have been given the gift to be able to have our talents in music transcend onto a stage and when you’re given that gift, to be able to have a forum where you can reach the masses, it is something very special. So that was a moment right there.

This year, 2015, we solidified the line-up. It was a revolving cast of characters, from when we started in September of 2013 through the end of that year. Actually the last shows of the year that we did were with members of The Heavy Pets so that was a lot of fun. Starting in 2015, the four band members that are in the band became ‘the band.’ What happened in the first quarter of the year, when this band solidified, it just inspired me like never before. The progress we being on a consistent level with the four of us, being able to work every week to some capacity to further the band, was incredible. The repertoire is expanded. The nature of the transitions has expanded and the natural flow of what we can do as a group has just gotten so good. It progressed so fast that, once it solidified within, we all got more and more excited about the project and audiences have continued to grow and grow. We’ve sold out some 700 person venues and we played in front of 12 thousand plus people at Wanee this year. There was a weekend in April where we all came off of it saying ‘we’re fueled’ and this was something we really wanted to make a go at. We have some really cool festivals coming up. We have some private events. People have hired PTF to do weddings and things like that. We just have these really unique shows happening.”

Lastly, Gould wanted to thank the fans for their continued support. “We’re so thankful to be given the opportunity to provide this experience for people. For us to be able to design these cool shows and to be able to play this music that means so much to so many people is an honor that we take seriously and it’s also just such a privilege. We feel so good getting on stage and we’re just fortunate individuals. We’re a lucky band to be able to have the scene embrace us to be able to do this. We just have so much fun on stage and the audience has so much fun with us. PTF has been one of the most positive experiences of my life and I couldn’t be happier. We are enjoying the ride tremendously and we are working very hard to make sure PTF remains fresh and relevant to the lovers of this music.”

Thank you, Eric, for sitting down with us after little sleep on your long trip back from China. All of us here at L4LM wish to congratulate you on your new son, Qinn, and we look forward to hearing more Pink Talking Fish in the near future, as well as catching the Pink Talking Fish are Dead shows in Chicago.

For more information about the band, visit their official web site.

-Sarah Bourque