This Friday, May 6th, Charleston’s very own Phish tribute, Runaway Gin will perform an outdoor concert at the Windjammer’s Liquid Aloha Beach Stage. The Windjammer Show is the hometown staple in a run of Southeast dates that will take the band through the middle of June.
The band Phish is also gearing up to tour later this month, and just finished a run through NYC’s Madison Square Garden to make up for a set of NYE dates that were canceled due to Covid. Runaway Gin frontman Andy Greenberg was in attendance at the MSG run, and that’s where our conversation begins.
Tickets to Runaway Gin at The Windjammer are $15 in advance, bumping up to $20 day-of-show. Get yours here.
Read our interview with Andy Greenburg below.
How was New York for the rescheduled dates, how was the gag? Do you draw inspiration from these types of runs?
Wow! It was a truly life-affirming run. The band was at the top of their game and the Garden turned into the ocean may have been the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I am just getting my energy back but I am deeply very inspired by the high level of artistry Phish displayed at this run. As an artist seeing such a strong personal influence mature so beautifully is something that I can never under-state the power of. That is, in fact, the basis of the inspiration behind this very project.
Do any other runs over the years stick out in your head as ones you will never forget? What was it about them that you instill in Runaway Gin?
I will certainly never forget Big Cypress. the Atlanta and Atlantic City runs in 2021 come to mind quickly, Charleston 2010, SPAC 2013… I probably won’t forget any of them really. I listen very intensely during the course of a run and they ways I hear the band communicate through the music definitely makes an imprint on me particularly in regards to Runaway Gin.
Runaway Gin has gone through a lot of changes, who is new to the band and their musical background?
Jennifer Reiser was the first new member to join after Fitz passed away in 2020. She is from Greensboro, NC and I would describe her as a progressive rock virtuoso. She can pretty much play any Yes song on keys and many on guitar also. Obviously she knows tons of Phish also and is a huge fan. She graduated from music school and is just a fabulous all around musician.
Tim Khayat and Sean Bing joined us in September of last year.
I would describe Tim as a French bass prodigy although he has been in the States for some time now. Tim comes from a jazz background and is very well versed in latin as well as funk. Tim is currently finishing his Master’s Degree in Music.
Sean is from Barnwell, SC and has a rich background in soul, funk, rock, latin, and jazz. I would describe Sean as a virtuoso musician in every way. He can play the most complex of beats while simultaneously singing lead. He’s got an amazing ear for harmony, a classic and timeless voice, and a captivating stage presence that ensures everyone on stage and in the audience is thoroughly enchanted.
What was your process like in finding new members?
I think first and foremost you need someone who is capable of learning complex songs, singing lead and harmony, improvising at a high level, and is available to play in a touring band. Personally with the Phish catalog I think it very important to find someone who takes the music VERY seriously but not THEMSELVES. Once I was faced with the task of finding new musicians I went through all the candidates I knew of and weighed them out based on these attributes.
Did you want to find musicians not directly in the Phish community? Why?
I did not honestly have a strong preference for having bandmates who were already in the community or not. I deemed the characteristics I mentioned before as the most important.
What shows/songs did you use to introduce Tim and Sean to playing the music of Phish?
I listened to some of my favorite deep OG jams with them like Bangor Tweezer, Lakewood Ghost, Went Gin, Providence Bowie, Clifford Ball YEM, Riverport Gin, Centrum Jim, and a few others early on. Then we started working on YEM, Reba, the Divided Sky, and David Bowie. Then there was Chalk Dust, Twist, Wolfman’s, Tweezer, Stash, Possum, Mike’s, Weekapaug, and Llama. For never hsving even heard these songs they picked them up REALLY quickly.
Tim is so active on stage compared to Mike Gordon (aptly named, Cactus), is his playing indicative of that as well?
I actually think that Tim plays a lot like Mike at times. Tim’s playing is more ‘active’ though I would say also. Tim has so much positive energy in his playing it’s impossible not to get into it being in his presence!
So many huge jams from this new lineup have already surfaced, like the PoHo Tweezer, what is practice like to build these improvisational skills together in such a short time?
Most of our practice time currently is devoted to learning new material and tightening existing songs on our repertoire. The very first time I got together with Sean and Tim we played a 50 minute type-2 YEM. It was completely spontaneous. The first time I played with Tim we improvised over 3 hours of music with no preparation. We have since worked on certain aspects of jamming and there is an open dialog between all four of us about all aspects of the project. We tend to talk more about improvising than we actually spend practicing it. It’s probably because right when we get together instinctively we all just start going. It’s a very unique chemistry and openness to be a part of!
Do you use any exercises when practicing? Trey mentioned the band taking turns playing and shifting tempos as they pleased, do you take any similar approaches?
We actually have spent time doing jam exercises. I used it as a way initially to get us better at listening to each other. We haven’t done any tempo exercises though at this point because we haven’t been pushing and pulling each other tempo-wise to necessitate it.
Over the past years you’ve gotten to collaborate with longtime songwriters for Phish like Dude of Life and Tom Marshall, what insight to the music of Phish does this give you?
It’s super interesting! Being able to ask them questions and hear stories about the music and Phish in general has definitely changed my perspective on everything. Maybe it simultaneously makes me realize how special and unique this whole thing is while all makes such perfect sense in context. Often my mind is blown. It is always such an honor and pleasure hanging and working in all arenas with Dude and Tom and I look forward to continuing to in the future!
What are some of your favorite Phish on the beach experiences south of the border?
Wow, I have so many at this point! The best part is always running into dear friends in paradise and the collective feeling of how incredible the whole experience is. The energy and vibes in Mexico are always in the charts! Loved seeing some late night UFO’s with friends this past time.