Talking About the New Direction of Tribute Bands with Pink Talking Fish

Eric Gould has been an accomplished player in the music business since the year 2000. He is the bassist and founding member of the band, Particle, who is one of the pioneers of the Livetronica scene - creating electronic dance music through live instrumentation. In 2013, Gould founded a groundbreaking project in the Tribute Arena called Pink Talking Fish. The band combines the music of Pink Floyd, the Talking Heads and Phish into an innovative concert of these three phenomenal bands as puzzle pieces to create a fresh experience.

The formation of Pink Talking Fish also led to the invention of a sub-genre in the tribute scene which Gould coins "Hybrid Tribute Fusion". There is a definitive originality in the design of these shows and while the songs played are covers by other acts, the lines of originality and tribute are blurred.

In his career with Pink Talking Fish and Particle, Gould has performed live in premiere venues, major festivals and other special events around the world. Along with being a husband and a father of two adopted children from China; Gould is a performer, a manager, a consultant, a financial advisor and an overall positive force in the music industry.

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Photo by Peer Olson

I met Eric because of his music. His excitement and passion for what he does is contagious to all who get to hear him perform his magic. His life and his journey to where he is in this present moment is an inspiration which is why I had to interview him.

Taraleigh: How did the concept for Pink Talking Fish come to be?

Eric: I had spent the first decade of my career focused on writing and performing original music with the band Particle. Some covers came into play in the live show and there were a few concept performances that went cover heavy, but tribute was not the focus of that band. In 2008, I moved from Los Angeles to Kansas City and found myself in some pickup gigs where we would cover a range of classic to modern rock and funk songs that I knew and loved, but had never put under my fingers. I enjoyed how it felt to perform these songs and how it naturally made me become a more dynamic player.

A few years later, an idea popped into my head to combine three of my favorite bands into one show. Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads and Phish rose to the surface for this concept. My favorite element of live music performance is the choreography of the setlist, so the first thing I did was write out a show to see what it would look like on paper. Once I saw the completed setlist, I knew that this project needed to become a reality.

Taraleigh: I love how you followed your heart and intuition when making life and career choice all while surrendering to the flow. Nothing was forced. It was written in the stars with love and we all get to enjoy it. PTF is essentially a tribute band. What makes what you do unique?

Eric: Performing the songbooks from three of my favorite bands and making the experience fresh to fans of the music is such a pleasurable experience. What excites me the most about Pink Talking Fish is the innovation in creating a new sub-genre in tribute music.

When it comes to typical tribute music, there are cover bands that perform a collection of music from various artists. There are also tribute bands that focus on perfecting the recreation of one act through the music, the look and the show production. Sometimes the tribute bands also add alternative flare, such as all girl bands performing classic rock act like Lez Zepplin or AC/DShe.

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Photo by Earl Gardner

The sub-genre we have created is called Hybrid Tribute Fusion. A unique act has been formed by combining the psychedelic power rock of Pink Floyd with the layered dance grooves of the Talking Heads and the eclectic composition of Phish. Sometimes the rhythms or melodies are segues between the songs. Occasionally, there are mashups written. Simply connecting the songs from the different bands together make for an extra layer of excitement to the show and leave the audience wondering and eager to find out what comes next.

What has happened here in the Hybrid Tribute Fusion scene is that the lines have been blurred between tribute and originality. The choreography of the show involves constant segues which are often written by the band. Original music has been written in order to blend some of the songs together. Some examples are chord progressions in and out of the songs, mashups and rhythmic shifts. The design of a Pink Talking Fish show is intentional and specifically meant to present a completely new live music experience using songs that people know and love. The audience doesn't come to see Pink Talking Fish to hear an exact replica of any of the three bands we tribute. They come to see a performance that honors the songbooks while also offering a fresh experience.

What we have noticed, through the feedback from our audience, is that many people forget that they are witnessing a tribute act. While fully aware that they are not at a Phish show or a Pink Floyd show, people who really embrace our performance find themselves not quite sure how to categorize it. There are music fans who often stay away from tribute bands that are coming out to see Pink Talking Fish and find that they surprisingly enjoy the show even though they technically don't like cover bands. While many people just like to come out and have fun with the band's performance, other people lose themselves in the musical journey that we create in the choreography of our setlists.

To bring a sense of originality into the tribute scene is very exciting for us as a band. Other bands have contacted us, saying that they formed a group that fits into the Hybrid Tribute Fusion sub-genre because they were inspired by what we have accomplished. Forming and developing a band is a great ride, but the creation of a new genre of music is simply phenomenal. I was a part of something similar once before with the Livetronica scene and it is a pleasure to be involved with a new innovation.

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Photo by Brian Hensley

Taraleigh: Yes! That's what I love most about Pink Talking Fish. I'll be rocking out to an upbeat dancy Talking Heads song when all of a sudden you seamlessly transitioned into a spaced out Pink Floyd song right before my very eyes. What is an example of a setlist?

Eric: In The Flesh > Slippery People > Sand > Slippery People, Fearless > Burning Down The House, Makisupa Policeman/Brain Damage Mashup > Life During Wartime > Mike's Song > Shine On You Crazy Diamond > Once In A Lifetime > Weekapaug Groove

Taraleigh: There aren't many new ideas anymore, but what makes everything new and interesting is the individual and what they choose to do with the ideas. I love what you choose to do. What direction do you see tribute bands going in?

Eric: The tribute scene is vibrant right now. I see a solid amount of successful acts making a decent living in the music industry and putting on incredible shows that are endorsed by the original artists. I imagine that there will always be a place for tribute music. We are entering a time where many of the first wave of rock and roll bands are retiring and I hope that there will be some talented musicians who will choose to honor these artists by creating professional tribute shows so that the music continues to have a home in a live arena.

I hope that there continues to be outside the box creativity similar to what is happening with Hybrid Tribute Fusion. The specific tribute acts and the cover bands out there will always be the meat and potatoes in the scene, but it is always healthy to find something new and exciting happening as well.

Taraleigh: What was the best piece of advice you've ever received regarding your music career?

Eric: John Scofield gave me some great financial advice about saving money when I was young on the scene. He told me to make sure that my future self gets a commission for every gig that I play. Set aside 10% (or more) and make sure that those dollars go toward my future. I didn't follow it until a bit later in life, but now that I'm a bit wiser it works out very well.

Mickey Hart and Particle joined forces and formed a band called Hydra in 2004. He and I often spoke on trance. Not the trance genre of electronic dance music, but the trance that you find when locking in on rhythm and submitting yourself fully to that groove. As an artist who chooses music for an outlet, exploring the trance of a groove that is beyond oneself is of the utmost importance. If you can lose yourself in the groove, but remain locked into the wave, the spirit of the music that is beyond the individual rises to the surface and opens up a whole new sense of creativity. Some of my favorite musical ideas have happened as a result of this methodology.

Taraleigh: Those are two golden nuggets of advice anyone can take to heart. What I got from that is to really embrace the present moment while planning for a wonderful tomorrow at the same time. What advice would you give to a young tribute band?

Eric: Well, I would say this to any young band in general:
Embrace what you love. Be smart when things start getting exciting. Don't be overeager. Be a businessman as well as an artist. Be respectful of everyone in your band. Good communication is the key to a long lasting partnership.

For tribute band specific:
Love, honor and dedicate yourself to the music that you pay tribute. Listen to as many different versions of the music that are available. Along with that, make sure that you have a piece of yourself in the music.

Taraleigh: So much truth there. It's all about being yourself, appreciating the present moment, treating people the way you would like to be treated, speaking your truth, doing what you love and to do it with love. That applies to anything and everything that you do in life. I'm getting hungry! If you could compare your music to a food, what would it be and why?

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Photo by Luke Stratton Designs

Eric: Pink Talking Fish would be best described as a Chinese/Japanese Buffet: Filled with a variety of flavors ranging from fresh sushi to boneless spare ribs to shrimp in lobster sauce. Every plate of food that comes from the buffet is unique and also fills the belly with extreme satisfaction.

Taraleigh: You nailed it with that one! Now I want an egg roll. Haha. What are you looking forward to most in your career? In life?

Eric: I have a beautiful wife and we adopted two children from China. I have an incredible band that keeps my creative force invigorated. I have been given two very special gifts in life: One is my family and every day I look forward to strengthening the loving bond that embodies us. The other gift is my ability to perform music for people around the world and bring them joy. I love working hard to develop Pink Talking Fish on both the artistic side and the business side so that we can maximize the power and joy that live music brings to the masses.

Taraleigh: You have so much to be grateful for. Anything else you'd like to share?

Eric: Yes I have two completely separate thoughts:

Thought 1:

Since entering the tribute scene, I have developed an enormous amount of respect for the players involved. There is a deep love for this existing music and these musicians put so much passion and dedication into providing fans with an alternative outlet to celebrate the artists that they love. There isn't any pressure around writing the next batch of hit songs. The effort is channeled towards honoring existing material and making sure that the show is pristine. It is a very different dynamic and one that I greatly appreciate.

Thought 2:

While Pink Talking Fish is a concepts band in itself, the band has expanded its show exponentially by creating Hybrid Tribute Fusion concept shows. Pink Floyd's albums Dark Side of The Moon and Animals have both been performed in their entirety, but with Talking Heads and Phish songs intertwined through the album cuts. This presents these albums in a way that no one has heard before and that has brought a great deal of excitement to the fanbase.

The band also added The Grateful Dead catalogue into the mix and titled the show Pink Talking Fish Are Dead. This has been quite successful during 2015 while The Grateful Dead celebrated their 50 year anniversary in Chicago.

We have many more concept shows that will be performed as special events throughout the years as we continue to develop the Hybrid Tribute Fusion genre.

Taraleigh: What other unique tribute bands are out there?

There is one band, in particular, that I want to recognize. While I had the idea of Pink Talking Fish and Hybrid Tribute Fusion before I met them, this band was doing it long before we were. DeadPhish Orchestra is an incredible band out of Colorado. They combine the music of The Grateful Dead and Phish into one show. We discovered each other soon after Pink Talking Fish debuted and developed an immediate brotherhood. Their band leader Ted Tilton always says that PTF may be the father of Hybrid Tribute Fusion but DeadPhish Orchestra is the Grandfather of the genre.

I am honored to share the Hybrid Tribute Fusion ride with this band and highly recommend that people go out and enjoy their live experience.

Taraleigh: I am looking forward to the future of Pink Talking Fish and this exciting new genre. I've created an epic playlist of songs like the ones Eric plays and you can get it here.

Check out Eric doing his thing with his band Pink Talking Fish

The awesome in me sees and bows to the awesome in you,

Taraleigh Weathers