DeadPhish Orchestra brings its legendary jam band mix to Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — One Colorado quartet was notorious for its jam sessions that often detoured into the territory of two undisputed legends known within the jam band music scene.
The group played the earthy, folk blues sound of the Grateful Dead and they played the more edgy funk sound of Phish. Ruminating on what would occur if they combined the two, DeadPhish Orchestra emerged.
The group of friends formed the band in 2009 with the likes of frontman Paul Murin on guitar, Ted Tilton on keyboards, Brian Adams on bass and Chris Sheldon on drums.
This weekend, the Boulder-based band will bring its unpredictable mix of improvisational rock classics and curveballs to the Schmiggity’s stage at 10 p.m. Friday .
Earlier this week, Explore Steamboat caught up with Murin to learn more about how the band merges its two styles and what Steamboat can expect for the show.
Explore Steamboat: What was it about this music that drew you to these bands and inspired the formation of DPO?
Paul Murin: More than anything, it was the spontaneity and improvised nature of their live shows. The fact that fans can go see these bands hundreds of times and still be surprised and entertained.
ES: What really happens when you merge two quintessential jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish?
PM: Of course, lots of people compare the two bands due to their improvised live shows and their similar audiences, but when you look at the nuts and bolts of how each band plays, they’re actually very different. Merging the two styles sort of opens up all of that stylistic space in between them and gives us all of that room to explore it in our own way.
ES: When you guys do the improv/jam breaks, which one of those influences comes out most do you think?
PM: It’s hard to quantify that, but I guess I’d have to say that we lean a little closer to Phish, mostly due to our instrumentation. We are a four-piece band, like Phish, whereas the Dead were a six-piece band. So just by that fact alone, I think our sound is probably a bit more Phish-ish.
ES: What’s the longest song you guys have played? What keeps that momentum going?
PM: We haven’t actually measured that, but recently, we have been exploring the idea of doing four- or five-song sets (especially for second sets), which forces us to stretch each jam for 15 minutes or more. It has been a great creative exercise for us, forcing us to get our conscious minds out of the way and really dive deep into the creativity of it, and have faith that we’ll find our way out of the jam and into the next song.
ES: What are some unique characteristics that set DPO apart from other jam bands?
PM: Well, the Dead have been around for half a century, and there are dozens if not hundreds of bands that do a decent job of sounding like the Dead. Phish is relatively recent, and there are a lot of newer jam bands out there who are clearly influenced by them. But I think DPO is really the first to mix equal parts of the two. The repertoires of both bands are enormous, and DPO’s repertoire is approaching 300 songs, so there are infinite possibilities as to how that can come out onstage.
ES: What can audiences expect from DPO this weekend?
PM: Yes, we have gotten to Steamboat at least a couple of times a year for the last several years. The ski town crowds tend to be pretty adept at partying, so we always go for a song list that features high energy and a lot of funk.
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