Phish ‘Undermine’ Podcast Explores Early Compositions
The latest episode of JamBase partner Osiris Media’s recently launched Phish podcast, Undermine, examines three of the quartet’s early compositions. Musician and Phish fan Drew Hitz co-hosts Episode Four of Undermine with longtime Trey Anastasio collaborator Don Hart.
Hitz and Hart dive deep into complex early Phish originals “Divided Sky,” “You Enjoy Myself” and “Foam” with lyricist Tom Marshall serving as tour guide. “It’s remarkable that this is really the beginning of their foray into writing their own songs and that they are songs we are talking about at length on a podcast in 2021,” Drew says. “Not just because it’s early, because they’re important, they’re huge and they’re canonical.”
Drew and Don take listeners through the history and structure of “Divided Sky” first. The musicians discuss the unusual time signatures in “Divided Sky” with Marshall weighing on the story behind the “Divided Sky” lyrics. Hitz points out versions of the song from Phish’s early years that are particularly noteworthy, which he would also do for “YEM” and “Foam” later in the episode.
Next, Hart and Hitz talk “You Enjoy Myself.” Drew notes Anastasio once described the song as “the national anthem of Phish.” Don explains “YEM” also includes fun elements like the vocal jam that ends most versions of the song. Both musicians share memories from collaborating with Trey as Drew performed at an orchestral show with the guitarist and Don helped arrange “YEM” for symphonies.
Hitz, a tuba player, does a great job of breaking down “You Enjoy Myself” and the other songs in a way non-musicians can understand. “It’s a complexity that just grooves its ass off,” Drew states regarding “YEM.”
This week’s Undermine episode ends with a look at “Foam.” Marshall notes Phish initially played portions of “Foam” under the title “Marijuana Hot Chocolate” on April 22, 1988 at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “‘Foam’ is one of the first really complex Phish songs that they highly refined and began to nail every single time that they played it,” Hitz explains. “Part of that was just repetition. They performed ‘Foam’ 31 times in 1989 alone.” Phish’s intense work ethic and “insane dedication to practice” during their early days is a theme Undermine keeps coming back to and it’s clear those efforts paid huge dividends.
Other topics hit upon are what Phish drummer Jon Fishman brings to the music, the drama Trey embeds in his songs and why Junta is such a major accomplishment for the nascent band. Listen to Undermine’s “The Early Compositions” episode below: