Fresh off a summer tour that featured a historic 13-night run at Madison Square Garden, Phish bassist Mike Gordon isn’t seeking any downtime in the foreseeable future. He returns Friday (Sept. 15) with his fifth studio album OGOGO, a collection of punchy rock songs he recorded with his touring band, with production from Shawn Everett (Weezer, Julian Casablancas, Alabama Shakes).
“As artists we try to stretch in different ways, otherwise we stagnate,” Gordon says. “But whenever you’re stretching something, it’s never one direction. There’s a whole-handful of [songs] that I think we were experimenting with in the music.”
Gordon recently caught up with Billboard about the inspirations behind his new album, his indie rock diet and Phish’s Baker’s Dozen.
What is an ‘OGOGO’?
That’s a good question. A lot of the things with this album came together based on gut feelings and resonances. That’s what’s happened with a bunch of songs that were crying out to become this album. There’s a couple themes that were coming through — we tried to be more honest with our writing and writing about stuff we care about more than ever. There’s a theme about going back and forth and balancing acts. And there’s a lot of songs talking about “going.” So we wanted the word “go” — to have it be indirectly about going, but have it in there.
There does seem to be a desire to be in sync brimming throughout. Were you feeling off-kilter lately?
When we’re writing and looking at different relationships across the board, we go through phases in our lives — and relationships play out based on how we’re acting. I just became familiar with this feeling of a relationship getting off-kilter and what it takes to get it balanced in the middle — it’s very delicate. And to stay there is very delicate.
You’ve played on Cass McCombs’ recent albums. Do you think a more indie-rock sound has seeped in this time?
I’ve been listening a lot more indie rock and indie pop stuff than before these past couple years. Doing another funk jam that’s syncopating a certain way and uses a clavinet with a wah pedal — I still enjoy it, but at a certain point, I think something becomes cliche. That can happen with words and sounds. It wasn’t like I said “Oh my friends are listening to indie bands, I must also.” It’s more like I heard something and was like “Oh! I really like this and it’s different than the bands I listened to in high school.”
How long did it take you to process the Baker’s Dozen?
I get a lot of inspiration from experiences like that. Certain jams, I’m always keying in on ones that move me. But meanwhile, I’m going onto the next thing. It processes.
Trey said a day after how in the moment so much of it was a blur and it was hard to keep track of all the moving parts. Did anything stand out to you as pretty euphoric?
It’s more of a general thing. To be camped somewhere, so convenient, and getting it to all work like clockwork. We did have a couple weeks beforehand and a lot of rehearsal from the individual band members — more than usual. We had a lot more original material, covers, a cappellas. I don’t think we played all the new originals. There wasn’t even time to play everything in the flow.
For me, it’s often that it’s a set that’s my favorite. I really liked the first Sunday, “The Red Velvet” donut. But the one that I liked playing and listening back was the last Friday — the “Lemon” night. We did the Radiohead cover and some of the jamming [in that set]. “Scents and Subtle Sounds” was probably my single favorite track to listen to back.