Photo Credit: Bill Kelly

Phish fans should brace themselves for the latest from Trey Anastasio, who delivered a heaping helping of lore in a newly released profile from Vulture. In conversation with Jordan Hoffman, the legendary jam frontman dished on all things Phish, highlighting key entries from the quartet’s four-decade catalog that best demonstrate what makes the band so special. From entry points for the uninitiated to odes to his bandmates, the artist divulged heavily, assembling a de-facto playlist of Phish favorites.

Trey opens with a shoutout to the band’s forthcoming 16th studio album Evolve, which is expected on July 12. Among other options like “Free” and “Theme From the Bottom,” the artist picks out the latest record’s title track as the best option to hook a new listener; to the artist, the wide-eyed, breezy and string-lofted cut is simple enough, but retaining the band’s “left of center” perspective. In stark contrast, Anastasio sees “Mercy” as the most challenging song from the new project, tracing the long road from its quarantine recording, through trio performances with Dezron Douglas and Jon Fishman and an unreleased solo album, to finally arrive on the new collection.

On the classics, Anastasio underscores the complexity and depth of the band’s canon, from the unbelievably weird and abstract to the deeply personal. When asked which lyrics he can’t believe he’s still singing, the frontman countered, “A lot of them. I’ve found a way to … accept that voice. It’s horrific at times, but I got into all this — writing songs — when I was really really young.” Nonetheless, even the bizarre sides prominent in Phish’s earliest releases still ring true for the time they recall. “When I sing those early songs, I think about the early friendships,” he says. “In the same way that if I sing ‘Valentine’ from the Traveller album, which I wrote when I got sober, or something from Ghosts of the Forest, I think about where I was in my life then. ‘Drifting’ is a song about my wife. These songs are all personal to me.” 

In another moment, Anastasio traces the differing origin stories of “Fluffhead” and the chaotic Nectar’s culture that gave rise to staples like “Sanity” and “Gamehendge.” With a particularly vivid and entertaining anecdote, he recalls “Meatstick”: “We were in Germany, at a party, the mini-bar was cleaned out, I had my guitar, I was making up songs about everything. If you walked in wearing that blue shirt, it’d be “Blue shirt / blue shirt.” So a German sausage was in the mini-bar. It said “BiFi Meatstick,” and I’m like, “No more alcohol, time for the meatstick!” … then the next thing you know, you are doing it onstage at Madison Square Garden up in a hot dog!”

In the wild ride of Phish’s journey to cult reverence, Anastasio and his bandmates have had plenty of time to appreciate the fans that make it all possible. The artist’s gratitude beams throughout the interview, but he notes the group’s crucial fan service most vividly when he illustrates how new songs find share in the band’s complex setlists. “The thing with Phish is that we believe in our audience,” he states. “I don’t know that there’s ever been a relationship between a band and an audience like this. The audience are our peers, always have been. It’s a conversation. It’s sincere. There are no Grammys. It’s audience feedback. And Phish fans can be judgmental. When they think it sucks, we know about; we hear it! But when something connects, the second time we play it and everyone is singing along, we’re following the audience at that point.”

For Anastasio’s takes on key influences, the best moments from his bandmates and the Phish tracks he’d most like to be in the audience for, read the full interview at Vulture. Read more on Phish’s upcoming album here, and visit to track the band’s upcoming live appearances.