Supergroup Showcase: Oysterhead

For the purposes of Supergroup Showcase the term supergroup means a band or group of musicians made up of two or more artists from previously successful bands, but not a super huge bands like Led Zeppelin.

THE PLAYERS: Stewart Copeland on drums (The Police), Trey Anastasio on guitar and vocals (Phish) and Les Claypool on bass and vocals (Primus)
HISTORY: Some folks asked Claypool to put a band together for a music festival, he called up Anastasio as they were both working the jam band circuit at the time (I saw them separately at the first Bonnaroo). The two of them decided to ask Copeland to join and he said yes. They performed that show, recorded an album in 2001, toured behind it and then called it quits. (via Wiki)

Back in 2000/2001 when I first started hearing about Oysterhead through Guitar World and my buddy Toth who was really into jam bands at the time, I was excited. I wasn’t a big fan of Primus, Phish or the Police (huh, just realized they’re all P bands, weird), but I did respect all three musicians–Claypool’s one of the sickest bass players around and I like Trey’s style of playing and singing–and wanted to see what they would dream up. I was expecting something unusual and they really delivered on that expectation with their only album The Grand Pecking Order.

“Oz Is Ever Floating” is actually one of the more normal songs on the record as far as the music goes, which is probably why it was chosen to be played on Conan. They get really experimental and out there on tracks like “Army’s On Ecstasy” and “Rubberneck Lions.” Even with all the strangeness, though, you can hear these musician’s musical influences as the record plays out. There’s some latter day Beatles going on at one point which gives way to a Tom Waits-like vocal from Claypool.I should note that when I say the music is strange or unusual, I don’t mean that in a negative way whatsoever, just that the music might seem pretty crazy to some. I know I didn’t know how to process it when I bought the album in high school, but I appreciate it on both a musical and lyrical level now because they didn’t go the Chickenfoot route and just throw the songs together. These feel hand crafted.

Like with all the greatest supergroups, Oysterhead came in as three incredibly talented individuals and created a record that reminds you of their original bands and solo projects, but also creates something brand new that’s a solid synthesis of all the parts. Plus, you can see from the live videos that these dudes were having a lot of fun working together and challenging each other to make great music. It would be fun to see them get back together for another record sometime, but it would be even better if they added another musician. Possibly another guitar player or someone on keyboards? That’d be sick.