By Michael Lello
The idea of a tribute band has become commonplace. Whether it’s groups dressing up like The Beatles, or Dark Star Orchestra painstakingly creating actual Grateful Dead setlists from specific concerts, tribute acts have been a successful staple of the live music business for quite some time.
But what Pink Talking Fish is doing is quite unique: a “hybrid tribute fusion” act playing sets comprised of three famous bands’ songs: Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish.
The band, which will perform at the River Street Jazz Café on Thursday, April 17, is the brainchild of bassist Eric Gould, a founding member of successful Los Angeles jam band Particle.
Gould, who recently stepped away from touring with Particle after moving back to New England with his wife and adopting a baby, had the idea for Pink Talking Fish when he was still living in Kansas City.
“The first thing I did was write out a setlist, and I said ‘We have to do this,’” he said, explaining that seguing in and out of the band’s songs has brought out some surprising and pleasing combinations for band and audiences alike. For example, he cited Pink Talking Fish’s rendition of Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall Part II,” which flows into Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” and back.
In fact, the transitions between the songs have proven to be as interesting as the songs themselves, Gould said.
“In this situation, a big part of the spirit is in the setlist design,” he said.
Besides Gould, the Pink Talking Fish lineup has been a revolving one. Currently, it features Dave Brunyak (guitar, vocals) and Zack Burwick (drums, vocals), both of New England Phish tribute band The Phreaks, and Rick Umlah, of Boston’s Richard James and the Name Changers, on keyboards.
While Gould is a rock music aficionado with several favorite bands, he said some of them – like U2 – would probably not work as source material for this project.
“What I love about Pink Floyd is the epic sounds with the spiritual feel, and just the precision of the melody as well,” he said. “Talking Heads, I love the funkiness and the layers and just the quirkiness around it. Phish really embodies the best of what I believe is out there in live music, and it’s all done with a good humor. It is serious, but they don’t take themselves seriously.”
What if Pink Talking Fish, hypothetically, had to add a fourth band’s songs to its repertoire? “It would probably be Peter Gabriel,” Gould decided.
Following a recent stop at the Wanee Festival in Florida, the Jazz Café will be the kickoff of the band’s East Coast swing, “and we’re all really pumped for it.,” Gould said. This summer will feature more festival spots, some yet to be announced, and Gould said to expect some well-known guests at some shows.
As for Particle, which formed nearly 15 years ago, Gould said he remains involved, will play some shows and just needed to pull out of the group’s heavy touring schedule due to family responsibilities.
Before ending our conversation, we couldn’t help but ask Gould his favorite Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish albums.
“I would say my favorite Talking Heads album is ‘Speaking In Toungues.’ For Pink Floyd, the studio stuff, it’s really a tossup. At the moment, ‘Animals’ is where my heart hits. And there’s something about (live album) ‘Delicate Sound of Thunder,’ which got me into Pink Floyd. And for Phish, ‘Lawn Boy.’”