The experimental era

Pink Freud

The song is from the iconic, psychedelic progressive rock band’s most famous album, The Wall, and the lyrics have resonated through the years, unapologetically emotive and sentimental. (Some critics, and even some fans, would say self-indulgent.) As popular as the album and its accompanying 1982 movie have remained, many critics and fans will tell you that by the time The Wall came out, Pink Floyd was no longer the band they had once been. They were beholden to Roger Waters’ vision, which was very clean, even formulaic.

“Half that record — if you read the liner notes — is session musicians,” says Tony Orant, the lead singer of Pink Freud, an Albuquerque-based Pink Floyd tribute band that formed in 2015. He knows that these are fighting words to some people, but he doesn’t mind throwing down this particular gauntlet.

“[Toni] Tennille sings on there, from Captain & Tennille; Jeff Porcaro from Toto plays drums,” he says, presenting these names to support his point. “All kinds of session guys. It’s become a whole different thing.”

Orant, 58, prefers the albums from earlier in the decade, when the band was still a cohesive unit. His favorite album, Animals (1977), came out when he was in high school and stole his imagination away from the Elton John and Kiss albums he’d been exploring at the time. But Pink Freud plays the gamut at their shows and incorporates a Floyd-worthy visual experiences, similar in feel to the wildly popular Pink Floyd laser light shows that have played at stadiums and planetariums over the years.

At 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, Pink Freud streams a free concert from the Sunshine Theater in downtown Albuquerque. Pasatiempo caught up with Orant for a video interview.

Pasatiempo: Start at the beginning. How did you come to be in a Pink Floyd tribute band in Albuquerque, New Mexico?

Tony Orant: I put the band together after I moved here from Chicago at the end of 2014. My wife grew up here, and we moved back here for her health. It took about a year to get the lineup together. I can’t believe I found all these people at this level of the game in Albuquerque. I’m really lucky.

Pasa: What’s the difference between a cover band and a tribute band?

Orant: In my mind, with cover bands — and I’ve played in plenty — you’re amassing a quantity of music. I’d liken it to a cafeteria. You can get all kinds of things, not necessarily the best quality, but you get ’em all. Whereas a tribute band like ours, we really concentrate on emulating a certain thing that they did. There are a lot of Pink Floyd tribute bands out there, but they focus on the post-Wall stuff, after Roger Waters had gone. The band was very consistent, and if you saw a show at the end of a tour, it would be pretty identical to the show you saw at the beginning of the tour. I like the ’70s stuff, when they were still more experimental and exploratory.

Pasa: Is the name of the band just a pun, or is there more to it than that for you? Are there psychological implications?

Orant: To me, it hits all the points. I think the pun is funny. And the name pretty much tells you who we are, even if you don’t know anything about us. Whether you think of Pink Floyd as a psychedelic acid band or [from] The Dark Side forward, where they’re really just a thinking band. I was considering “Pink Fraud,” but I couldn’t do that.

Pasa: Pink Floyd went through many leadership changes, resulting in distinct eras for the band. Can you offer readers a primer?

Orant: Pink Floyd started out like a lot of bands in Britain [in the 1960s] — they met in art school. Pink Floyd originally was Syd Barrett’s band. He was a pop star and looked really good in psychedelic fashion. But he was an acid casualty. After a couple of years of being a rock star, he kind of fried himself out. When he ended up leaving the band [in 1968], they get this model-guy, David Gilmour, who they knew from school. Then there’s a few years when they didn’t really have a songwriter, and there’s a lot of instrumental noodling that sounds like what we now call ambient music. Right about Atom Heart Mother [1970], they start having a direction. From Atom Heart Mother to Meddle [1971], they’re a psychedelic band with definite jazzy exploration, but then The Dark Side of the Moon happens [in 1973], and that changes everything.

Roger Waters was kind of crazy and stressed out, and Dark Side of Moon is like a human tragedy. It’s got everything. All of a sudden, they have a cohesive direction. The next record is Wish You Were Here [1975] and then Animals [1977], and punk is happening. I can’t think about Animals without thinking about everything else that was happening around them, and that’s why that record sounds so mean. It’s definitely dark. I was never much into [heavy] metal [music], although I appreciate and listen to it sometimes, but Animals is more metal than most metal!

And then you have The Wall, and it’s not really Pink Floyd anymore. … And then, the post-Waters Floyd [starting in 1978], which is all David Gilmour. So, you have four real distinct periods.

Pasa: How many times have you seen Pink Floyd live?

Orant: Waters, three times, Gilmour, three times, and Pink Floyd twice. They played Chicago at Rosemont Horizon on their Momentary Lapse of Reason tour [in 1987], and I had sixth row for that. But they were already kind of the new, corporate Pink Floyd thing. And then I saw them on their last tour to Chicago [in 1994]. They played Soldier Field. It was me and 65,000 of my closest friends. It could’ve been anyone onstage. It sounded good, but even their lights looked really small in Soldier Field, because it’s so huge.

Pasa: Why do you think Pink Floyd’s music continues to resonate with listeners? A lot of similarly psychedelic music sounds hopelessly dated.

Orant: David Gilmour is one of the best rock guitar players ever. His guitar playing elevates things and takes you out of the right brain where you’re listening to the lyrics, and yet the lyrics are totally on point.

Pasa: What do you say to people who react as though it’s inherently funny to be a member of a Pink Floyd tribute band?

Orant: I’ve had more than a handful of people tell me they didn’t expect anything like this. They thought it was going to be like going to a bar to see a cover band doing some Pink Floyd stuff. So, come in with your preconceptions. We’ll change your mind. ◀

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