An Interview with Eric Gould of Pink Talking Fish

Unique cover band spans three decades of rock favorites.

Catch them at Gem and Jam in Tucson, AZ on Sunday, February 4th.

We caught up with Eric in advance of their closing night show at the Gem and Jam festival. “I didn’t start playing bass until the summer after my college freshman year,” he explains. “I had tried instruments and been into music, but nothing ever really took or spoke to me and then and at one point I was going to resign and just consider myself just a music aficionado and appreciator. I was super into it, just no instrument really worked, then one day I started hearing baselines underneath, the music that I was hearing and a lot of it was hearing some modifications that were just my personal flavor within old-school hip-hop and funk. And as I got into deep into Phish, I was hearing my own bass lines over that too and so I just picked up the bass just to try it out and it’s one of those things were sometimes, something comes into your life and it just immediately clicks. Once I picked it up, didn’t put it down.”

“I’ve had a couple little small lessons here and there. Mainly unofficial ones out there, and in my own just study of general theory and things like that.”

Eric Gould on being self-taught

Pink Talking Fish are part of 16th edition of the Gem & Jam Festival , set to take place February 2 – 4, 2024. The three-day music, art, performance, and gem & mineral festival will return to the scenic desert landscapes of Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona. Headliners include Philadelphia-bred jamtronica outfit The Disco Biscuits, genre-blending bass act Of The Trees, two sets from bass producer/multi-instrumentalist Boogie T (one solo and one with his band Boogie T.RIO) and house maestro LP Giobbi making their Gem & Jam debuts. Gem & Jamveteran headliners include funk-fusion group Lettuce, Arizona’s-own multi-genre jam band Spafford, and versatile electro-soul artist Daily Bread

Gould wound up at film school in Ithaca, New York, and afterwards, he says, “I was into music, I was into film. It brought me out to Los Angeles I because I had the degree in film. I owed it to myself to work there first professionally, did that for a while, but eventually came to my crossroads, and went full force music. Shortly after that, I formed a band called Particle, and that band was really the launching point into my professional music career. We did some pretty awesome things together during my time there, and around 2014, I was just becoming a dad and Steve Molitz, the keyboard player for Particle is just coming off of a stint with Phil (Lesh) and Friends. He was ready to go back full force and I didn’t know it, but being a new dad I said, ‘You know what, go for it – Particle needs to do this but I can’t go with you cause I just don’t know what it means.’ I’m not gonna just hop out on the road for a couple months at a time with without knowing what being a dad means yet.” Gould just couldn’t commit to full time touring as a new parent.

At the same time, Eric came up with the idea for Pink Talking Fish. “I was like okay, well I’ll do this. It’s super fun and I haven’t even tried yet, but I know putting together the other dream set lists of three of my favorite bands and implementing them is gonna be awesome so maybe it’ll be professional. Maybe they’ll just be something that I do. Who knows, so when I left Particle it was very friendly and amicable.”

Gould’s repeated his philosophy several times during our conversation: “Open the door, be prepared to walk through it.” He adds, “The minute I took the stage of Pink Talking Fish for the first time both the people on stage and off knew we had something special. Nowadays we tour, funny enough, it’s ironic, because we tour way more than Particle has even since I left, it so it’s kind of funny.”

How did the band get started? “As a revolving lineup. But I kept full control. September 2013 through 2014 it stayed a revolving lineup, but there were definitely A-listers in the group and in 2015, there were three members who were ready to go full force on it. You know, we saw this as a viable thing and that’s when it took off. When the song lists were able to bust open, was when we had full-timers going on, and even since then, there’s been some lineup changes and some modifications but it stayed strong. What I love about Pink Talking Fish is so many things, but one lean to the other, this band blurs the lines of tribute and originality. We’re taking the song books of three incredible acts, but we’re doing something different in that we’re presenting them in a way that is so fresh for people who love this music in ways that they have heard it before.

When asked how he chose these three bands in particular, Gould responded, “when I decided to form a tribute band I didn’t just want to pick one band and have it be your classic tribute band. That wouldn’t have sustained it for me. It wouldn’t have ever met my creative inspiration for what I was going for, and so I’m like ‘Okay, how about three acts, three favorites that I think are compatible’, and I knew Phish was gonna be one of them. I wanted Phish because they are such a bridge to so many different styles of music, and so then Pink Floyd and Talking Heads. I’m not gonna say these are my three favorite bands. There’s other bands that I consider my favorite bands, but these are three of my favorite bands that I felt were the most compatible for what I was looking to do. Where I would have the most fun with.”

The live repertoire has grown to “a couple hundred songs,” leaning heavily towards Phish, whose fans base wants to see the most variety in the song output. To satisfy Talking Heads fans, PTF relies on a blend of hits with some deep cuts, while also supplying hits for the Floyd fans, but Gould like to add lesser known Floyd songs because, “there so many amazing rarities that are epic and incredible to play. So we want to make sure we’re having those in the mix too.” He cited Obscured By Clouds as a relatively unknown Pink Floyd album with some great deep cuts.

So how does a PTF set list come together? “We generally like to write our set list in advance, but that doesn’t mean they don’t change in the middle of it. We’ll have some fun just, mess around with different ideas a lot of times. I’ll write the original list and then it modifies and I’ll say all right so we’re gonna get from “Young Lust” and we’re gonna open up that groove and we’re gonna get into Talking Heads “Cities”, and and so I put that in there and I have an idea of how I’d like it, but I put it out there to the group and we discuss and often times before I even talk about what I think would be a good idea. Then someone else has an idea am I’m like, ‘yeah forget it we’re doing that absolutely.’  So even though we talk about something, it doesn’t necessarily go that way with the improv and we wind up a different way . 

Here’s a video of the band in action.

Gould also talked about playing festivals and what a PTF show is like. “What’s great as you see the faces. You see the people who are just passing by. I’ll check this out and then when they see what we’re doing, it’s awesome, it’s so cool. Even at our own shows when there’s people who haven’t seen us. You don’t fully understand Pink Talking Fish unless you actually experience it live, because that energy of the ‘what’s gonna happen next’, that energy there it’s really exciting and everybody’s in for the ride together in the moment. There is something special about that. When it comes to our show, the other thing that’s really fun is you see the straight up Pink Floyd fans, who are just there to see Pink Floyd songs. Same with Talking Heads. The Phish fans generally are open for the entire ride because most Phish fans love Pink Floyd and Talking Heads as well, so so that’s that’s nice but it’s great to to see in the crowd.”

Here is a set list: The Vogel, Red Bank, NJ, January 12, 2024

Listen to the full interview.

As one can see and hear, PTF incorporates a lot more than just the core bands. Catch them at the Gem and Jam Festival in Tuscon, Arizona the first weekend of February. Their set is Sunday night.

See them on the festival circuit this year as well.