Spotlight: Pink Talking Fish

Raffaela Kenny-Cincotta on May 10, 2018

Last summer, Pink Talking Fish played four full Pink Floyd albums over three days. It was an ambitious undertaking—reenactments of Animals, Dark Side of the Moon, Meddle and Wish You Were Here. However, as their increased presence on the jam scene affirms, Pink Talking Fish are much more than a bar-style tribute act. While exploring the depths of the Pink Floyd songbook, founder Eric Gould and his compatriots creatively weave together songs by Phish and Talking Heads to create setlists that shed new light on each band’s storied songbook.

“We take a producer’s design mentality to Pink Talking Fish,” the bassist says. “Every show is really just saying, ‘What type of adventure can we take people on that they haven’t been on before?’”

Following their “Pink Floyd Box Set Experience,” the band traveled to see Roger Waters perform at Denver’s Pepsi Center. According to Gould, it was “the ultimate exhale,” the perfect way to conclude such an exciting musical challenge. “When the lights came down, and ‘Speak to Me/Breathe’ came on, all of us had our arms around each other in awe of the production. As a band—a brotherhood—it was a beautiful bonding experience.”

Gould—who co-founded the popular livetronica act Particle in 2000—refers to Pink Talking Fish as his “brainchild,” and says it was conceived at an interesting time in his life. In late 2013, he had just become a father. Simultaneously, his bandmates in Particle pitched an extensive, coast-to-coast tour. “My attitude was: ‘Yes. Particle needs to do that. That’s awesome. I just can’t be the guy to do that,’” he explains. Gould played his final shows with Particle over New Year’s 2013–2014, and after a few test concerts, the idea for Pink Talking Fish began to truly marinate. He approached it with an attitude of “whatever happens, happens,” but once he felt the amount of joy onstage and in the audience, “It snowballed into what Pink Talking Fish is today.”

Listening to the cohesive quartet that currently flies under the PTF flag, it’s surprising to learn that the band originally relied on a revolving lineup of players. When Gould moved back to the East Coast from Los Angeles (by way of Kansas City) in early 2014, he began searching for a more permanent Pink Talking Fish roster. He eventually found his way to a concert in Worcester, Mass. Phish tribute band The Phreaks were performing and, by the end of the night, the bassist had enlisted drummer Zack Burwick and lead guitarist Dave Brunyak.

At the time, however, Brunyak saw this significant performance as just another gig in New England.

“Somebody mentioned Eric from Particle was in the room and I thought that was great,” Brunyak recalls. “I was running around during setbreak, meeting folks and taking care of some business. He pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey, Dave, I’m Eric from Particle,’ and I was like, ‘I gotta go play. See ya later.’ [Laughs.] So the first meeting was nothing special, but he had made his decision that he wanted to offer me the job.”

The next day, over some hamburgers, the two musicians made it official. “I could just tell Dave was going to be a good fit,” Gould remembers. And with the addition of Richard James on keyboards, the current lineup of Pink Talking Fish was solidified.

Pink Talking Fish after their February 2017 guest-filled tribute to Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, featuring members of The Meters, Turkuaz, Kung Fu and more (Scott Harris)

“Many musicians can play these songs, but to do this concept—and every one of these band members fit this bill—you have to have a certain mindset. It’s a mix between being able to chameleon between the songs, between the emotion involved and the technical capacity involved within it, and it’s also being able to lose yourself in the moment of what this music provides,” Gould argues.

“It’s not easy,” he adds later. “It’s not for everybody. And these three guys, my god, I couldn’t have picked a better group to share this journey with. Every single one of them is an expert in what Pink Talking Fish is.”

As the quartet’s founding member and de facto team captain, Gould writes the majority of their setlists, although he’s quick to note how often they build on each others’ ideas. The bassist cites one of Brunyak’s contributions, a blend of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” as an example of how Pink Talking Fish has expanded to become more collaborative. “To this day, it’s one our favorite things to play,” he says. “If Pink Talking Fish were to ever record an album, that would be on it because it’s the epitome of what we’re trying to do. We’re taking the songbooks of these incredible groups and we’re presenting them in a way that fans of this music have not seen before.”

Following a recent, three-plus-hour marathon performance of Pink Floyd’s The Wall at The Capitol Theatre, Pink Talking Fish are looking ahead to how they can further push the creative envelope. Gould still writes original music, but for now, he’s “engulfed in the timeless,” fully devoted to breathing new life and carving new avenues into the music of all three bands (as well as additional forays into groups like the Allman Brothers Band). Thinking quickly, he rattles off ideas on the horizon: tackling Talking Heads deep cuts, exploring classic Phish setlists and, hopefully, one day, diving into Pink Floyd’s fabled performance in Pompeii.

“Music is all about joy, love and adventure,” he asserts. “To be able to have music be a huge part of my life—the only thing stronger is family. And there’s so much collaboration between the two. It’s a good life. It really is.”

This article originally appears in the April/May 2018 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here