Trey Anastasio Talks Quarantine, Phish’s ‘Sigma Oasis,’ Touring & More In New Interview
Phish released a new album entitled Sigma Oasis on April 2 just two days after announcing the LP and one day after a live listening party. Guitarist Trey Anastasio discussed the making of the album, his life in New York City while quarantining and more in a new interview published by Rolling Stone.
The quartet still has a summer tour on the books but count Trey among those who doesn’t know when Phish will take the stage again. Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle asked Anastasio when the guitarist thinks he’ll be able to play again and Trey turned the question around on Patrick. “I don’t know. Soon, I hope,” Trey said. “Honestly, do you have an answer?” Doyle brought up an expert who told the New York Times large concerts won’t return until Fall 2021. “Wow. That’s a year and a half,” Trey responded Listen, I think about it sometimes, and I think, what the hell do I know? But you know how 9/11 changed everything, and it was a different world? I’m guessing it will probably be something like that.”
Doyle asked Trey about Phish’s annual New Year’s Eve show. “Do we still plan it? And our feeling is, yes,” Anastasio said. “Hopefully someone will come up with some kind of vaccine and we can tour, that would be my favorite outcome.” In the mean time, the guitarist/composer is in the middle of a creative outburst that has led to the creation of a number of new songs. Trey explained he uses the Spire app to record, “It’s an eight-track on your phone. Works like gangbusters.” He added the process isn’t as quick as fans might think, “These things always take a lot longer than you think they’re gonna take.”
Trey and his family are riding out the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. Anastasio revealed he’s only left his apartment twice since March 21. “It’s tense,” Anastasio explained. “It’s not really a pleasant walk. You can go out, but then you immediately feel like, ‘Is this the right thing to be doing?’” One question asked by Doyle that many fans had is why The Anastasios didn’t go to Vermont. “I kind of ran it by all of them, and their reaction was, ‘Are you nuts?’” Trey said of asking his family to hunker down in The Green Mountain State. “‘There’s barely any cell reception. And there’s no beds — you’d be sleeping on a futon!’ So we just stayed.”
Vance Powell recorded Sigma Oasis with the band over a five-day period prior to Phish’s 2019 fall tour. Both Trey and keyboardist Page McConnell added overdubs while Powell focused on a Chris Stapleton project and was unavailable until March. “Then Vance got back in the studio on March 9 to start mixing, and almost couldn’t finish because of the quarantine,” Anastasio explained. “He had one song left the day that they locked down, and he managed to get it done. He ran into the studio and got it done. He was doing a song a day, I think. It was fast.
“Then it was done,” Anastasio added, “and we were all on the phone, and we were like, ‘Well, we should just get it out.’” A listening party was held on April 1 the day after Phish announced the album via a video chat during setbreak of a Dinner & A Movie livestream replay. Trey wasn’t intending to watch the live listening party. “But then just as it was starting, I was sitting in my house with Sue. I popped it on and it went up on the TV, and we ended up watching the whole thing,” the guitarist revealed. “I was very emotional. It was weird. It was great, just knowing that our community was gathering, even though virtually. I admit I cried a couple of times. There was just something about it. I can’t remember how long we had been in quarantine by that point, but it had been a little while. We were definitely locked down, and then this thing happened.”
Head to Rolling Stone for much more from Trey on the making of Sigma Oasis and other topics as well as thoughts from McConnell on the LP and what he learned from watching Anastasio perform at 2015’s Fare Thee Well – Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead concerts.