Pink Talking Fish delivered two high-energy performances in the desert this week before heading to California for a jam-packed West Coast run. Tour Stories caught up with them before their show in Phoenix.
It was a cool eighty degrees in the valley on Wednesday night. I arrived at Last Exit Live, prompt at seven. The venue has become a notable spot for jam scene bands passing through Phoenix on a week night – en route to California or Colorado for the weekend shows in bigger markets. Locals love it.
As I entered the building I could hear soundcheck. The drums bellowed so loudly in the empty room. Eric Gould (bass) was running through a Kenny Rogers tune, The Gambler. I saw Kenny Rogers perform the song with Phish at Bonnaroo in 2012. I was greeted by Nesto the PTF tour manager while I waited for the checking of sounds to finish. The room is hard with wedges and it took them a while to hone in the sound to a point that they were satisfied with. You could tell it mattered.
I gave them a few minutes for themselves before we sat down to talk. I knew they were hungry so I let them know the interview wouldn’t take very long.
The fridge was filled with seltzer and a half-eaten vegetable platter lay on the table that sat in the center of the room. The green room was spacious but filled with suitcases. Musicians, have their whole lives, for weeks at a time, zipped up in little cases. Little cases brought in and out of little rooms they fill with music each night. On to the next place tomorrow.
The band was authentically happy to have a conversation. Group interviews are always a crap-shoot. Will a bunch of guys – getting ready to play a show- jacked up from soundcheck be able to focus for a interview? They were great – we laughed a lot – but covered a decent amount of ground.
An Interview With Pink Talking Fish
Tour Stories: What does a new guitarist mean to you guys?
Pink Talking Fish: “A lot of work.” (in unison) Eric “It is a revival. It is fresh. Lineup changes can be complicated but this one is so positive – in every which way. Even with Dave (Brunyak) who left the band. We are all on friendly terms. It just made sense. It was the right move. We didn’t have to do a audition process.”
Tour Stories: That was my next question.
Pink Talking Fish: Eric “Richie Rick”(James/Keys) had played a show with Cal (Kehoe/Guitar) and a couple other people in the north east scene had mentioned to him that Cal would be great just to jam with us sometime. So, when we had the idea it just made sense. When we had a session together it fit like a glove. It was meant to be – the stars aligned. We did a four night run but this is our first two week tour. We are doing eleven shows in twelve days. We are in it now. It is fun. It is sort of like the honeymoon tour.”
Tour Stories: What was that first session like? Where was it?
Pink Talking Fish: Eric “At the house of Rich.” laughing, Rich chimes in “In my barn.”
Tour Stories: Where is your barn?
Pink Talking Fish: Rich “North Shore Massachusetts.” Group “There were a lot of space heaters.”
Tour Stories: So it took place this winter?
Pink Talking Fish: “Yes”, Eric replies “He hasn’t fully finished the insulation in the barn yet so we were keeping warm with music.”
Tour Stories: What are you guys looking to achieve with your music? Do you have specific goals?
Pink Talking Fish: Zack (Burwick/Drums) steps up to answer this one “A nice combination of trying to recreate the feeling these bands give other people while also making it our own.” Rich “That’s great man.” Zack “I came up with that in the bathroom.” Rich “you can quote that” laughing.
Tour Stories: How do you guys make it your own?
Pink Talking Fish: Zack “Cause we’re not them.” Eric “We definitely honor the music. We respect it. We are true to it but at the same time, part of this concept is taking the song books of these bands and creating something that is fresh for the people who love this music. That is where the originality comes in to our project. It is kind of between the lines. It is the way we create the show and the way we implement the show. We still honor the tone and the composition and the spirit of what is being played by these bands but we also bring it into our own. Some of that is through transitions and some of that is through different ideas behind how the grooves connect.”
Tour Stories: Do you guys jam often together outside of shows? Do you practice communicating?
Pink Taking Fish: Eric “Yes, on a pretty regular basis.”
Tour Stories: Do you do any other communication exercises or is it just jamming?
Pink Talking Fish: The group laughs… Eric chuckles “Long walks on the beach”… Rich “Actually, we were just rehearsing the other day and we were doing some of the harder compositional pieces of music…” the group lets out a laugh and Zack has a epiphany”Oh! i know where he is going with this.” Cal “This is great” Rich “There are a couple compositions that are hard facility wise to get your fingers on.”
At this point they are all laughing – I am not apart of the joke yet.
Pink Talking Fish: Cal “Shall we demonstrate?” Rich “Yes!”.
Cal picks up his guitar and comes to sit down next to me on the couch. He wants to make sure I can hear his playing on the un-ampliflied instrument and that my recorder picks it up.
Pink Talking Fish: Rich “1-2-1-2-3-4…”
Cal starts playing the notes to You Enjoy Myself and the rest of the guys start yelling at him as a form of distraction. He stays focused and keeps playing. “Cal, Cal, Cal…” “Why is your suitcase so large!” “Cal why are you naked right now?” “Can we just play YEM instead”… Cal finishes up the difficult part and we all award his work with a cheers.
Pink Talking Fish: So, basically we just yell at him while he plays the notes. Just to add elements. It is all love.
Tour Stories: All love.
Pink Talking Fish: Cal speaks “They were literally like “fuck you”, laughing, “it actually really helped.”
Tour Stories: With Cal coming on board have you guys added new songs to your catalogue?
Pink Talking Fish: Eric”Yes. It’s a mix between getting him acclimated with the material we already know but also forging forward with things that are fresh for all of us together.”
Tour Stories: Cool. Alright, one more. Do you guys have a tour story to share?
Pink Talking Fish: Eric “Tour Stories by Jack Handy” laughing. Rich “there’s so many.” Eric “We can tell the New Orleans story.” Zack “We actually told it today.” Rich settles in as lead story teller “We were performing at Jazz Fest at Howlin Wolf and did a show with Turkuaz and Bill Kreutzmann and we were going to the airport to fly back to Boston. All of the sudden all of the connections at the airport went out. There was a huge storm. A lightning bolt came and basically knocked out Southwest Terminal- I suppose the whole airport or we would have taken a different airline but anyways there were no flights within any distance and the big thing is we needed to get home because Eric was flying to China the next day to adopt his second child. Eric “I had to get back!” Rich “So we were all like what are we going to do. After a while Eric was like okay so this is where we need to go.” Eric “I had rental cars to every location where there could be a flight. I also had one for us to drive all the way back to Massachusetts. We realized eventually that we would not be getting on a flight. So we decided to just drive it. The storm was right on top of us. It was one of the craziest storms i have ever driven through. I took the first shift. Zack “I remember looking at the radar and just being like, okay I am just going to let Eric take this.” Eric “So we punched out of it and we were cruising”.
Tour Stories: How long did this take?
Pink Talking Fish: Rich “It took about 22/24 hours.” Eric “A lot less time than we would have taken if we were driving the speed limit.” laughs Rich continues “So…we were going through Virginia. We had been warned that Virginia was a tough state for speeding. We were probably going about 85 mph. This was ten or twelve hours into the drive and we forgot we were in Virginia so we also forgot to slow it down. We got pulled over. The police officer came up to the window and said “Do you guys have a good reason why you are going 85 miles per hour? Eric “I am sitting in the back seat and I lean up and say “Do you have time for a story?”… I proceed just to say I am going to China to adopt my little boy, we are professional musicians we had our last show in New Orleans, there was a huge storm and the only way I can get home in time was to rent this car and drive back and I am just trying to get back as soon as possible so I can adopt my little boy!” Rich “The cop, I mean I am like this close to his face” he motions to show they are close together, “the cop is tearing up and he just goes “Son, you’re doing the lords work. Have a nice day.” they all start laughing.
Tour Stories: So you made it to China?
Pink Talking Fish: Eric “Yes I did.” Rich “I am just going to say to all the people who think Virginia cops are hard. Whoever this guy was, man. If you’re out there… thank you!
Tour Stories: Well guys on that note, have a great show!
PTF WEST COAST TOUR:
3/26: Flagstaff AZ at The Orpheum Theater
3/27: Phoenix AZ at Last Exit Live
3/28-29: San Diego CA at WinstonsOB
3/30: Los Angeles CA at The Teragram Ballroom
3/31: Anaheim CA at House of Blues Anaheim
4/02-03: Nevada City CA at Crazy Horse Saloon & Grill
4/04: Chico CA at Lost On Main CHICO California
4/05: Mill Valley CA at Sweetwater Music Hall
4/06: Seattle WA at Nectar Lounge