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The Road To AURA: Eric Gould of Pink Talking Fish March 01, 2016 01:26

The 7th Annual AURA Music & Arts Festival is right around the corner, taking place at The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida from Thursday, March 3rd to Saturday, March 5th.  As a part of our coverage of the festival, we are sitting down with a handful of this year's performers for a series of interviews called "The Road To AURA".  Next up is Eric Gould (bass) of Pink Talking Fish.

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Pink Talking Fish has quickly become one of the most innovative, exciting acts in the jam/festival scene, fusing together the catalogs of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, and Phish. How and when did the idea for this band come to life?

Eric:  I formed Pink Talking Fish in the Fall of 2013. I had played some cover heavy shows over the past couple years and wanted to create something unique in the tribute genre. I picked 3 of my favorite bands that I thought would blend well together and wrote down a mock setlist so see what it would look like. Once it presented itself on paper, it was clear that this had to happen!

What’s great about this project is that it blurs the lines of tribute and originality. We utilize the songbooks of these three amazing acts as puzzle pieces to create something fresh for fans of this music.

Each of these three bands' catalogs are extremely diverse, with countless options that could be included in a set on any given night. How does the band go about putting the setlist together each night? How often do you guys learn and incorporate new material into the rotation?

Eric:  We are constantly learning new material and thinking of new concepts. We, as both musicians and fans, have a passion for pushing the envelope. We are always searching for new combinations and exploring material that will enhance the band.

I write the initial setlist draft and present it to the guys. We finalize it together as we run through the flow of the transitions. Our drummer, Zack Burwick, loves to challenge me on the setlists and make sure that we are keeping a solid variety show to show.

Even though the song order mostly comes from my initial setlists, how we transition is very much a group effort. Our guitarist, Dave Brunyak, is fantastic at coming up with innovative transition ideas. I wrote a setlist with a combination of "Stash" > "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" > "Psycho Killer" > "Stash", and Dave came up with a sweet idea to dissolve "Stash" over the “maybe so maybe not” vocals at the beginning of the jam into the introduction to Shine. It was awesome!

Watch Pink Talking Fish's entire set from Catskill Chill 2014 here:

This band's ability to weave in and out of each song is astounding. Have you guys developed certain patterns/tendencies with certain songs following another? Is there a specific focus on keeping your audience on their toes, wondering what could possibly come next?

Eric:  “What comes next?” is one of the best parts of Pink Talking Fish. We love executing a setlist and watching the audience reaction to how it unfolds. We have some combinations that have become staples like "Slippery People" > "Sand > "Slippery People", "Another Brick In The Wall"> "Life During Wartime" > "Another Brick In The Wall" and "You Enjoy Myself" > "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" > "You Enjoy Myself". We also love to sandwich songs in a Mikes Groove or in between Dogs.

For the most part though, we do our best to create new ideas. It’s important to us to make sure that each show is a different journey. We are performing “dream setlists” for ourselves and hope that it is the same thing for the audience. The last thing we want to have PTF become is stagnant for anyone. It is our responsibility to both honor the material and also present it in a way that offers a special experience for the audience. We take that very seriously. 

Over the years, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park has become the home to many of the nation's most anticipated annual music festivals. What is it that differentiates Suwannee from other festival sites and makes it so special? Do you feel the atmosphere has a direct effect on this music?

Eric:  I’ve performed at Suwannee many times over the years, and it continues to be one of my favorite festival sites in the world. Obviously, the beauty of the trees, the weather, and the layout of the place is top notch. However, it’s the energy that gets me. There are certain places that have an incredible energy among the community, and Suwannee is high on that mountain. It enhances the music and it creates a sense of family through these incredible experiences.

Watch Pink Talking Fish perforrn "This Must Be The Place" > "Character Zero" here:

This year marks the 7th Annual AURA Music & Arts Festival. You have been a part of this scene for long enough to see many festivals come and go. What do you feel are some of the most important factors in establishing and growing a successful music festival?

Eric:  Community is the most important and AURA has that locked. Festivals are, first and foremost, about the people. With that involved, there is an effortless drive to work hard to make the logistics behind the festival as special as possible. Daryl and the other people behind the curtain of AURA have done an incredible job making that happen.

This year's lineup features a notably diverse variety of the festival scene's most exciting groups. What do you think this lineup says about the depth of this music scene in 2016?

Eric:  The beauty of the jam scene is that there is an open mind towards other genres. In my opinion, the best festival lineups that cater to the jam scene audience have some jamband staples but also provide different flavors from different scenes to heighten the quality of experience. AURA has always done well with this.

I love that Thievery Corporation did a Grateful Dead late night in Chicago last year for GD50. I think it turned a lot of the jam scene on to them, and it’s awesome that AURA has them as a headliner. The first time I saw them live was a Coachella years back when I played there with Particle, and they blew me away.

There is a surge of amazing original music out there right now. Some of it is not in the textbook jam scene realm. At Catskill Chill last year, the best band I saw was The Ballroom Thieves, and they are the polar opposite of a classic jamband. I was very thankful that they were incorporated into that festival. I look forward to finding a surprise like that at AURA this year.

Photo by Josh Brick Graphics