HomeInterviewsPink Talking Fish - How One Band Pays Tribute to Phish, Talking...

Pink Talking Fish – How One Band Pays Tribute to Phish, Talking Heads & Pink Floyd

Pink Talking Fish Logo

There are countless tribute bands out there. However, none of them can match up to the musicianship, and the ingenuity (and originality) of Pink Talking Fish.

Founded by Particle’s Eric Gould, the band pays tribute to Phish, Pink Floyd, and The Talking Heads all in one show. We recently chatted with the band’s drummer Zack Burwick about the band’s setlist, their origin story, and some big things on the horizon.

So, the obvious first question is this…how did you guys ever come up with the concept of Pink Talking Fish? It’s absolutely awesome!

This concept really started with our leader and bass player, Eric Gould. He was a founding member of the band Particle and after a while, this is an idea that he really wanted to take flight.

I remember when he first told me about the group and when you think about the three bands, all the possibilities and the catalog of music, it’s really exciting. All of us in the group are fans of these bands just like the people who come to see us! The idea is that we want everyone there to have just as much fun as we’re having playing the songs we love. To give the fans the same thrills and chills they may have gotten listening to a record in their youth or seeing their favorite band live with their best friends.

The three bands have similarities yet are so different. They stretch over so many decades. Pink Floyd can be as cool and haunting as ice while Phish and the Talking Heads can be straight fire. Maybe this is just me being a drummer but all three bands are really concentrated on the pocket of the grooves too. With all three of them, you don’t want to play too much or over play. If you play too many beats with a lot Pink Floyd, you kind of lose the soul of the music. With that being said, we get room to put our own little twists on what we play as well.

Pink Talking Fish Bandshot

While the concept is super rad, how did you guys go about constructing a setlist? Combining the songs of three bands, one of which is renowned for live improvisation, must be extremely challenging?

Putting the setlists together is one of the best parts of this band to be honest. I grew up obsessing over Phish. Half the fun of them is every night it’s a different setlist. Never repeating songs in runs. Seguing in and out of songs. Seeing a setlist and saying, “How did they play “Tweezer” three or four times in this set? What were those transitions like?” We get to take all this material and have a ball with it. I wouldn’t say it’s challenging as much as saying it’s like having a blank canvas with all your favorite colors to choose from.

In the same vein, there are variations on all of the songs of all these bands, especially Phish, because of live versions — does this allow you more freedom to create new mash-ups because there are so many variations, or do you guys tend to stick to the album version?

This is a good question. I suppose it depends on everyone’s opinion of what they’re used to. Some people may have always listened to album versions of some songs. With a band like Phish, their live catalog is endless. You can listen to almost every single show they’ve ever played and they rarely play any song the same each time. This definitely helps us with the mash-ups because we can take these jams anywhere we want to go.

Bands like Talking Heads and Pink Floyd, their albums tracks have become staples. When you hear a David Gilmore solo, often times you’ve heard it so many times in life that you almost want to hear it note for note and that’s what gets you off. You could say there’s a unique combination of live versions and studio intricacies that lead up to possible mash ups.

How much improvisation goes onstage during a live show?

There is plenty of time for improvisation during our shows. There’s a time and place for all of that and it’s on stage with each other.

What has been the combination of songs, or maybe just a song in general that you play that crowds seem to really go really crazy for?

We have a handful of fun combinations we do that get a great crowd reaction. One of the best is from when we threw David Bowie in the mix. The legend, not the song in this case. We took “With You Were Here” and mashed it with “Space Oddity.” We found spots in both songs to go back and forth, in and out to make one big epic song. We’ve done the same with the Phish song “Ocelot” and the Grateful Dead song “Tennessee Jed.” Watching people’s reaction when they figure it out is always exciting for us.


Are there songs in any of these bands’ catalogs that you guys have not found a place for in a set yet, but really want to?

Not necessarily. Every song has a place in these shows. I can say that there’s songs we haven’t tackled yet but that’s only because there’s so much to learn.

You’ve done “In the Mirror” and “Animals” before, are there any other albums you guys are planning on covering soon?

Yes. We are very, very excited to be taking on The Wall coming up at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on February 10, 2018. This is kind of an ultimate concept for us. This album has meaning to a lot of fans out there and we’re really stoked to be tackling this on such a big stage and with friends as well. We’re having some special guests help us out this with like Rob Compa, guitarist from Dopapod and the lovely Sammi Garett and Shira Elias from Turkuaz. All great friends and extremely talented people.

Explain the live show for those who haven’t seen you yet. Is this one, long continuous jam with songs following into each other, or is this more like a traditional set where there’s stops, between songs?

This makes me chuckle a little bit because, being the drummer, I remember when I first started playing in this band, I would always request more stops between songs. I quickly learned that this was not going to happen. Again, a big part of this band is finding connecting points between the material. It’s a great thing to keep the music going and connected. But at the same time, yes we do stop between some songs in sets. I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle of the spectrum here.

You guys are performing one at one of the Phish after-parties during the band’s NYE week run. How do Phish fans react to your style?

Yup, we’re playing at Irving Plaza after the 12/30 Phish show at MSG. The reactions can vary but most people come there to have a great time and enjoy the music they love. I think for diehard fans of any of these bands it’s understandable for some people to be a little critical at first. But in the end, everyone is there to have an amazing time. That’s what music is for. Again, we’re fans of the music just like them. It’s very humbling to be in this band and play the music you grew up loving your whole life.

What are you guys most excited about for 2018?

The Wall show at the Capitol Theatre. Expanding our catalog. Traveling new places and meeting new friends. Growing as a band. We’re always excited for what’s ahead.

This interview was originally conducted when Pink Talking Fish performed at The Stone Pony in December. 

Pink Talking Fish returns to Asbury Park for Jams on the Sand on June 28, 2018 for FREE.

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.

Most Recent

Stay Connected