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Phish proves strong artistic foundation is key to longevity

Trey Anastasio, guitarist and composer
Trey Anastasio, guitarist and composer
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

On June 24 Phish will release their 12th studio album, Fuego, and their first new release in five years. Together for close to 30 years, the band has a devoted fan base, and an enormous plethora of repertoire, but most importantly, artistic intelligence, allowing the band to experiment, and take risks throughout a successful career.

Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, and Mike Gordon met at the University of Vermont, forming Phish in 1983. While in Vermont, Anastasio began studying composition with Ernie Stires, whose jazz based approach to classical music, helped give Anastasio a solid musical foundation, and a framework to work within.

The basic compositional forms of classical music, as well as riff ideas based on classical pieces can be heard throughout Phish’s catalogue.The use of polyphony, two independent melodic lines played simultaneously, as well as the fugue, a Baroque period compositional technique repeating the main melodic theme in different voices, used prominently by Bach, can be heard distinctively in Phish’s music.

Improvisationally, Phish uses classical and jazz techniques, to experiment, develop, and push the musical boundaries within each piece, specifically using arpeggios, scales, and modes. This solid musicianship has helped to sustain Phish’s creativity, helping the band continuously explore new musical ideas.

As the primary songwriter, Anastasio has continuously branched out through the years, creating and developing new works, always searching for further musical depth. These projects include a free jazz experimental album, "Surrender to the Air," orchestral works that comprised the 2004 album “Seis De Mayo,” and a symphonic composition “Time Turns Elastic,” which had its debut with the Baltimore Symphony, with a later performance by the New York Philharmonic.

Most recently Anastasio took his compositional talents to Broadway, composing the musical “Hands on a Hardbody,” which earned a 2013 Tony nomination for Best Score.

Fuego was recently made available on NPR, as part of their "First Listen" series. Phish’s complex and distinctive style can be heard throughout their new album, a new creative work from a band who continues to evolve.

To listen to Fuego go to npr.org
Phish is currently on tour. For dates log on at phish.com