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Published: 1999/01/15
by Matt Iarrobino

The Amfibious Tom Marshall

“Marshall’s words balance Anastasio’s bright compositional yang with dank verbal yin that often urges the music into darker and more emotionally complicated spaces” -Richard Gehr, The Phish Book

As the full time lyricist for Phish, we have all to come to know Tom Marshall through his words. Think of your favorite Phish song and chances are that Tom wrote it, or had a hand in it. Tom’s collaborations with Trey Anastasio began way back before Phish was even conceived. As far back as Golgi Apparatus and Wilson and as recent as Story of the Ghost and Birds of a Feather Tom’s compositions have kept us, literally, on the “highway to the great divide.”

We’ve all seen Tom on stage with Phish at one time or another. Most recently, at the Hampton, Virginia show on October 21, Tom joined the band for Chumbawamba’s one hit wonder Tubthumping. If you attended the Madison Square Garden show on December 30, you heard Tom and Trey sing an original composition, Grind, which was slated to appear on “Billy Breathes”. Now we can see Tom Marshall up-close and personal, in his new band, Amfibian.

Amfibian is Tom Marshall, Matt Kohut, Scott Metzger, Andrew Southern, Peter Cottone, and J.P. Wasicko. Tom and I have been emailing each other back and forth for the past couple of weeks, as I conducted my first “computer interview.” Here’s what we talked about. I mean, typed about.

MI: Tom, many people are excited to see your new band Amfibian. How did the idea for the band first come about?

TM: Actually it came from an aborted Trey/Tom project called Utalk. I’m not saying that Utalk is completely dead, but for the time being, Trey and I won’t be in a touring band together. We have other potential plans on the back burner though. Trey is always cooking up something. We’ve been kicking the Trey/Tom tour idea around for a while. We’ve gotten close a couple of times. That would be fun, but we have no real idea how we’d do it, or with whom. I’m just glad to be involved in his thinking process now and then. Anyway — we were going to do some of the Trey/Tom songs that we wrote for Phish, but in our own way – the way we first composed them, often with me on keyboards and singing a bit. Then, for various reasons that include my living in New Jersey and Trey living in Vermont, the band never fully developed. Meanwhile Matt and Pete and I were ready to jam, so Matt had his F-Hole boys join us and I asked my pal Andrew and we became Amfibian.

MI: Tom, I would guess that when most people think of Tom Marshall, they think of the lyricist, not musician. What should people expect when they go to see Amfibian? Or, should we “expect” nothing.

TM: Well, we still play a good number of those songs that Trey and I wrote, Twist, Velvet Sea, Brian & Robert, etc., but we’ve also been writing a bit as well as covering a wide variety of other bands. I’d say don’t expect Phish what ever you do — that’s all.

MI: Will you be playing an instrument and singing? Also, what is the instrumentation of the rest of the band?

TM: I play keyboards and there is an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar a bass and a drummer and a percussionist. Last time I called him a percussionist I think he didn’t like it — but I’m not sure. Maybe he’s a drummer too.

MI: I was talking with J.P. from Amfibian, and he told me that members of his other band, F-Hole, comprise Amfibian. Where are the other guys in Amfibian from?

TM: That’s him, JP, whom I was talking about. He, Matt on bass and Scott on electric guitar comprise F-Hole. Pete plays drums — he’s a long time pal, and a grade-school classmate of mine and Trey’s. Matt also went to Princeton Day School with us but was a year behind. Andrew is the acoustic guitar player — he also went to PDS, but graduated about 15 years after us.

MI: I have heard the F-Hole CD, and I like it’s approach to experimental rock. It reminds me of some of the songs Pink Floyd did in the “Live at Pompeii” video. There’s lots of rolling crash cymbals with effect laden guitar, and sometimes, minimalist percussion. Will Amfibian sound similar, with the addition of your vocals? If not, what will the sound be like?

TM: We have that capability, which is nice, but we’re also a tightly reigned-in band when need be and can sound folky even I think — we do the Band’s Long Black Veil for example, and I think Rick Danko wouldn’t be too shocked with the treatment.

MI: Tom, I know that you are a fan of artists like Ween, The Beatles, and Tom Waits. Do you perform any covers by these folks, in addition to Amfibian originals? Do you cover any Phish tunes?

TM: All of the above. And more. Come check us out!

MI: What about the name Amfibian. Any significance behind it?

TM: Not really!

MI: How often do you and the guys in Amfibian practice?*

TM: Once a week, although to get ready for the Middle East and Wetlands, we’ve managed to squeeze in a couple per week for the past few weeks.

MI: I was reading the entries on your website’s guestbook. There are entries from people all over the country including Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, and Atlanta, to name a few. Do you have any plans to travel out of the Northeast in the near future?

TM: I think so, although, our plan at the moment is to scale way back on the touring plans and actually record an album of some kind, so when we do tour, we have something to show for it, rather than a bunch of Trey/Tom songs…you know?

MI: Do you have enough material to go into the studio at this time?

TM: No — we’re about halfway there I’d say. We’ve got several songs that are almost there — that just need work.

MI: Have you looked at any studios for when you get around to recording?

TM: We have several places that we want to check out — some people I know through Phish, some Matt knows through his recent F-Hole sessions, etc.

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