Page McConnell Discusses Phish’s ‘Sigma Oasis,’ Life In Vermont & More In New Interview
Phish keyboardist Page McConnell spoke about the band’s new Sigma Oasis studio album, the teaching he’s doing while sheltering at home in Vermont, the future of touring for the band and more in a new interview published by Rolling Stone. The feature comes a week after Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio discussed some of the same topics with the magazine’s Patrick Doyle.
McConnell revealed his current life in Burlington, Vermont isn’t much different since the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic began. “I don’t go out much in real life anyway, so it’s not such a radical change for me,” Page explained. “I think about others a lot, and how it must be really hard for so many people right now.” He does have one new job as part of the self-isolation. “I was teaching common denominators to my nine-year-old daughter,” McConnell added. “I’ve been the math instructor, and music appreciation.”
The main focus of the interview with Phish’s Sigma Oasis studio album. Phish announced the LP on March 31, premiered the album via a listening party on April 1 and released Sigma Oasis on April 2. The band recorded the bulk of the album over the course of three and a half days with engineer Vance Powell at Anastasio’s The Barn facility in November. “Then Trey went to a studio and worked a lot of vocals. He did that first, so I wasn’t working on anything until toward the end of January because we went and did the New Years run and I was away,” McConnell said of the process. “We came back, and I started about mid-January doing my overdubs. I didn’t really change any of the basic tracks. I just put stuff on top if it.”
Page recorded the overdubs at his own studio and discussed what that meant for him:
I have my own place. It’s not in a bigger studio, where you look at the clock, and you’re thinking, “OK, how many hundreds of dollars an hour am I wasting here trying to figure out this keyboard part?” I was just on a roll here with myself, and there were two different engineers that I worked with in my studio. Just [having] the leisure and the freedom to, when I finally hear something that sounds right to me, [say] “Ah, that was the key that unlocked it for me.”
While Trey had plenty of praise for Page’s additions to Sigma Oasis in his chat with Doyle, Page reciprocated those feelings. “I think Trey’s singing is really good. There have been times on albums in the past where I felt maybe it was a little tentative, or not as full-throated, if you will, and he sounds comfortable,” McConnell noted. “He sounds like himself to me when he’s singing these. I think he worked at it and did a great job with that.”
McConnell listened to Sigma Oasis along with the fanbase during the listening party on April 1. “As I was listening to it, I watched the comments go by, which is something I would never do, either, but I did. It really felt like you were getting a full set at a show,” Page explained. “A lot of the people were having that experience, and I was as well. It has a little bit of everything: It’s got some evil jamming, and it’s got some ballads and some funky, danceable stuff and some more cerebral stuff. And more than one jam in the course of that set.”
Though Page isn’t sure exactly when Phish will next take the stage, he is “really confident that there will be a day that we will be doing this again in front of people.” Other topics McConnell discussed with Doyle were Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, the comparisons between Phish and the Grateful Dead, attending 2015’s Fare Thee Well concerts and more. Head to Rolling Stone to read the full feature.