Imagine if the darkest, most mysterious bass player you could find hijacked Trey Anastasio’s airy guitars and vocals. One who exchanges funk for evil slapping, one more comfortable being the rhythm than being a part of the rhythm section. The Phish frontman’s new band, Oysterhead, is just that, complete with Primus’ Les Claypool in tow.
Phish is on an indefinite hiatus. They haven’t played since the summer of 2000, a return doesn’t look likely any time soon, and the band members are all doing their own thing. Bassist Mike Gordon is making movies, pianist Page McConnell added studio work to Tenacious D’s debut album. Drummer John Fishman is probably doing something weird involving musical vaccum cleaners and dresses. And the red-bearded Anastasio is with Oysterhead, who will come through town this Sunday, Nov. 11.
Oysterhead’s debut album, The Grand Pecking Order, was released in October. It’s a collaboration between Anastasio, former Police drummer Steward Copeland, and the darkest, scariest bass player they could find — Les Claypool.
If you’re looking for Phish’s patented sweet, calm, jammed-out studio work, look elsewhere. With the exception of a few songs (“Oz is Ever Floating,” “Radon Balloon,” “Birthday Boys,” “Owner of the World”), prepare for Claypool’s bass, and lots of it.
The opening track, “Little Faces,” starts with Anastasio’s swirly guitar, but quickly yields to Claypool’s satanic bass lines. Most of the CD follows suit with dark melodies taking the place of fluffy ones.
The band started when Claypool invited Anastasio and Copeland to join Oysterhead for one show as part of the annual SuperJam series in New Orleans in the summer of 2000. The power-trio had a rough first outing and Anastasio was ready to call it quits. But Copeland sent Anastasio a tape of the gig and the three decided to push on.
They spent a month improvising and jamming at Anastasio’s Vermont barn, which doubles as a studio. And just like in the studio, jamming will be the first order of business at Oysterhead’s shows. But with only a slim lineup of original songs, expect to hear plenty of Anastasio’s guitar on Sunday. And don’t forget Claypool’s bass. Have your crosses and holy water ready.
Oysterhead will play the Tweeter Center in Camden with Lake Trout on Sunday, Nov. 11.