"Continue to the top of the hill, make a right. The house is at the end. The lights will be on, door open, key is inside. Enjoy your stay."
In early 1997 I got a message from Trey that he and Tom Marshall, his longtime writing partner, wanted to get together to come up with some new material for Phish. They asked if I could help them find a quiet place to write and record some demos. Not really having anything particular in mind, I spent a day driving around north central Vermont looking for a place that had a good vibe and at least one big room. I found three farmhouses that wre available for rent, and we took the first one, Mountain View Farm, to begin the first of four sessions of writing and recording that produced all of the material on this disc.
Mountain View Farm is a big old farmhouse with a big old barn. It sits on 125 acres of land and has a 65 mile view in one direction. The house is pictured on the cover. Trey and Tom spent two three-day weekends there in March and May of 1997. They recorded on a small demo studio that Phish sound technicians Paul Languedoc and Pete Carini put together for them consisting of a Tascam DA88, a Mackie board and some various drums, guitars and keyboards. The songs that were written and recorded during those first two writing sessions were Olivia’s Pool, Piper, Limb By Limb, I Saw It Again, Ghost, Dogs Stole Things, No Regrets, Wading In The Velvet Sea, Dirt, Twist, Flat Tornados, I Don’t Care, Water In The Sky, and Vultures.
The next house that was rented, the Kaplan House, where Farmhouse was written, is small but it has great views – 360 degrees of Vermont hillsides up in the Green Mountains. I visited it for the first time in early autumn just as the leaves were beginning to turn. Trey and Tom moved in for the weekend of 10/10/97, just in time for the colors to peak.
That weekend, my husband David and I were driving down to southern Vermont to visit some friends. We got a late start. As we cruised along a winding Vermont road in the dark I noticed some lights in the sky beyond the mountains ahead of us. Over a period of about 5 minutes they got brighter and started dancing around above us. David pulled over on the side of the quiet road and we sat on the hood of the car, next to a river, for about half an hour staring up at what he knew to be the Northern Lights.
When I got back to the office the next week, Trey had dropped off the tapes from that weekend. I smiled when I heard Farmhouse. It must have been quite a sight from the house where they were recording.
Though the process didn’t always work this way, Trey would usually drop off the tapes from the weekends to Kevin Shapiro (Phish’s archivist). I’d listen to the songs in bits and pieces all day long as kevin made dupes in his office, which is across from mine. After work we’d sit around in Kevin’s office for hours becoming even more familiar with the new material. His office became a cool place to be at that moment.
Of course, I made Kevin play Farmhouse over and over again in the beginning, not only because of the lyrics, though I’m sure that had something to do with it. I’ve always been a big fan of Bug too. I have to say that the songs that came out of the Kaplan house (Sleep, Blue and Shiny, Farmhouse, and Bug) are my favorites of the four writing sessions. That was a perfect Autumn weekend so I’m not really surprised.
From Mountain View Farm session #1, Limb By Limb and No Regrets are my favorites; from From Mountain View Farm session #2, Vultures and Water In The Sky; from Mountain Road House, which was the final house I rented, Driver, Windora Bug, Name, Heavy Things, Never, Brian and Robert, and Somantin were also written during the fourth weekend. Somehow in my memory, most of these songs sounded so complete as demos, as good as the finished-off productions they turned into albums – maybe even better. There’s a spirit to them that doesn’t need the extra fluff.
In the end, Trey and Tom wrote and recorded for about eight or nine days. All of the material on this disc was completed at those sessions, and remains untouched since they left the farmhouses. It’s cool to think that these few days ultimately produced the bulk of material that Phish recorded and performed over the next three years. Many of these songs ended up on the two Phish albums that followed these sessions – The Story of the Ghost (1998) and Farmhouse (2000). Others became part of the live Phish repetoire for the same time period. Credit should also be given to Scott Herman, whose lyrics have been used in previous Phish songs and whose poems can be found in bits and pieces throughout these works.
All songs by Anastasio/Marshall except Limb by Limb, Heavy Things, Vultures and Dirt, by Anastasio/Marshall/Herman
Design: Faith Livak
Thanks to Brad Sands, Kevin Shapiro, and Brett Hughes
All songs published by Who Is She? Music ©2000