There’s something about music that makes an impression on people. The right tune at the right time forges memories, even crafts lifelong bonds between friends. For many, the artists behind those songs become an indispensable part of their identity, and when those artists step off the stage for the last time, many a fan are left longing for just a little more.
Cover bands rarely fill that longing. But, every so often, an act comes along that, in infusing innovative set structure and a dash of their own unique personality with the legendary soundscapes they are trying to emulate, invent an entirely new and refreshing creation.
One such creation is Pink Talking Fish (PTF). In coalescing the psychedelia of Pink Floyd, the danceability of the Talking Heads, and improvisation of jamband forefathers Phish, PTF is an invigorating reminder of how remarkable well-crafted music can be.
The hybrid cover band will head to Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre on February 10 to perform Pink Floyd’s The Wall, with songs from the other two bands sprinkled in for good measure. In anticipation, we caught up with PTF keyboardist Richard James to talk tunes, and why these three acts work so damn well together.
Let’s talk The Capitol Theatre. The last time you guys were there you did the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense. Why The Wall this time?
Well, we haven’t done The Wall before. And The Wall is an important thing to all of us as far as Pink Floyd goes; it’s one of the most epic performances that there is. It’s a huge undertaking; there’s a lot of different tracks that have a lot of orchestrated parts, and there’s a lot of different instruments involved. We decided to take on some special guests who are going to join us.
I heard you’re going to have Dopapod guitarist Rob Compa and some Turkuaz vocalists tagging along.
Yep, having that second guitar is going to add a lot to the rhythm and texture in the background with the lead on top of it.
We’re also going to have joining me on keys, second synth, and organ Nate Wilson from Percy Hill and the Ghosts of Jupiter. I’m super excited about that, partly because he’s going to make my workload exponentially lighter. We’ll both sing, and there’s room for us to work together to really make that iconic Wall sound.
I’m a Meddle fan myself. It’s a much more sweeter-sounding Pink Floyd album.
It’s a beautiful record. We’ve done San Tropez [off Meddle] once, it was real fun.
How do you guys manage to emulate these renowned musicians while still bringing your own unique sound to the music?
I think that’s the beauty of this group. We spend a lot of time on the front end basically emulating these artists. Trying, for me especially, to zone in on certain types of sounds, analog sounds and synthesizers, samples and then trying to make the tone of my voice sound a certain way. Then once we kind of found our groove together as a group it started to become its own thing.
I actually just saw Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (J-RAD) for the first time for two nights in Boston, and it was awesome. Those guys just blew me away, the way they take the [Grateful] Dead’s music and put their own twist on it. There’s a real beauty to that. The energy levels are through the roof, and those guys are so accomplished musically at any point in time they can just pivot and go from one direction to another, and that’s kind of what I strive for with this group.
It’s not about going trying to get a facelift to make my face look more like [Phish keyboardist] Page McConnell or anything. [Laughs].
I haven’t had the chance to see J-RAD yet, but I’ve seen the Benevento/Russo Duo, and those guys are extremely versatile.
Marco [Benevento] is so innovative, with all his tools, running effects through piano. He’s a wizard. I remember, when I was going to Berkeley and going to Newbury Comics I listened to one Benevento/Russo record back in my dorm room, and then immediately went back to Newbury Comics and bought everything they had. It just spoke to me; he’s clearly having a blast. And at the core of Pink Talking Fish is having fun and doing what we love.
What do you love most about being associated with the music of these bands that have made such a large impact on the world of music?
I was just thinking this morning when I woke up about how much I respect each of these three bands. It’s incredible what they’ve accomplished in their own ways. So to be able to wake up and put on three different hats of three artists that completely shaped my love for music is a really, really soul warming thing for me.
It’s nothing about me; I’m playing other people’s music. I’m just a vessel for other people to enjoy a really awesome live experience of The Talking Heads, or Pink Floyd, or Phish. There’s a great dynamic between the three acts, and I get to do this over and over and over and over again.