In the course of the busy pre-finals music weekend that is coming up, you may have only one opportunity to see painstakingly-recreated Pink Floyd songs. If that’s your bag, then Eclipse, a Nashville-based septet, will make sure that your Floyd void is filled. They’ll be playing Saturday night at the Canopy Club starting at 9:30 p.m., and advance tickets are $10.
After the jump, Eclipse guitarist Tod Weidner, who’s also the guitarist and lead singer of Dayton, Ohio’s Shrug, joins us to discuss Pink Floyd’s lack of a cult of personality and the joys of scheduling rehearsals for a seven-piece band.
Smile Politely: How long has Eclipse been a band, and how long ago did you join the group? How did you get involved with a Nashville-based band?
Tod Weidner: Our drummer, Brian, is the founding member. It’s pretty much his baby and his vision. He started gigging out with the first lineup in 2006, gradually tweaking the lineup over time to end up with the band as you now see it. I was the most recent addition, joining up in June of this year. One of our other guitarists, Patrick, is originally from Dayton (and plays with me in my original band, Shrug). When he joined and told me about it, I half-jokingly told him to let me know if they needed another guitarist. Little did I know they actually did, and Patrick greased the wheels for me, giving me a recommendation I’m still trying to live up to.
SP: Is this your first cover band? How does it differ from playing your own compositions?
TW: The first few bands I played in growing up were cover bands. I don’t read music, so learning other peoples’ songs by ear was how I developed as a guitarist. As for how playing covers differs from playing my own stuff, I guess you could say it’s sort of a different set of mental muscles involved. Writing my own songs demands a lot of blood, sweat and tears in getting out what I want to express in as an original and personal manner as I can. I work very hard on the composition and lyrics. With Eclipse, I also work hard, but that hard work goes into taking an existing piece of music and performing it as accurately as possible, which is a point of pride for us. At the same time, I try to avoid having the music come across as a cold, clinical exercise in regurgitation; I try to play it with soul and feeling, which can be kind of a tricky line to walk.
SP: How do your performances work: do you play entire albums front-to-back or a collection of hits, or does it vary from night to night?
TW: So far, our shows have taken the form of a mixture of hits and more obscure songs, leaping about in no particular chronological order. That said, we have discussed the idea of presenting whole albums in sequence, and I’m sure that will happen sooner or later. That would be a lot of fun — for us and the audience.
SP: How many dates does Eclipse play per year? It must be difficult to coordinate everybody’s schedules. Are you able to rehearse together much?
TW: Well, we haven’t been together for a year yet, so I don’t know the answer to the first question! We have just signed a deal with a management/promotion/booking company, so it looks to be a very busy future for us. The idea is to be a full-time, constantly-gigging group of professional musicians; to make a living doing this.
And yes — it can be a challenge coordinating the schedules of seven people, each with his or her own music projects and personal lives. But we’ve all made a commitment to this and it’s a priority. That’s the only way it can be successful. We had a series of really intensive rehearsals last summer — Pink Floyd boot camp really, seven to nine hours long every Sunday. Now that the music is internalized a bit more, we don’t rehearse as much.
SP: From your website, it didn’t look like each member takes on the “persona” of one of the Pink Floyd members. Is that something that the audiences expect, or are they there mainly for the music?
TW: No, we’re not that kind of tribute band. Some tributes go the whole nine yards and dress like their counterparts. I heard of one of the Beatles tribute bands’ “Pauls” actually going so far as to relearn how to play bass lefthanded like McCartney. I applaud that kind of dedication. But here’s the thing about Pink Floyd: The band members have always been somewhat anonymous and subservient to the music. There are stories about members of the band wandering through the audiences of their own stadium shows and not even being recognized. The cult of personality factor is lower for them than any other band of their status you could think of. Truth be told, that was a big reason I wanted to be a part of this band.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s a point of pride that Eclipse recreates the music as faithfully as we can. And with music as layered and atmospheric as Floyd’s, that necessitates multiple guitars and keyboards. That and the point I made earlier about the band’s anonymity kind of lets us conveniently sidestep the impersonation issue. Our audience appreciates the accuracy. We’ve gotten a lot of comments in the vein of, “I close my eyes and it’s just like the real thing!” That, to us, is “mission accomplished.”
SP: Do you focus on any particular era of Pink Floyd? Do you play any Syd Barrett songs (sorry, my wife’s a big Syd fan)?
TW: Your wife will be happy to know that we currently do “Arnold Layne” and “Astronomy Domine” in our show. I’m a big Syd fan, too. Our set covers the whole career of the band, from the very first single to material from The Division Bell. We include some stuff from albums like Meddle and The Final Cut to keep the hardcore fans happy, as well as the songs you’d expect to hear.
SP: Have you or anyone in the band ever met any of the members of Pink Floyd? What was it like? What do they think of their tribute bands?
TW: No, which is probably a good thing in my case. I would no doubt embarrass myself thoroughly! Actually, the surviving members (we’ve lost Syd and Richard Wright, sadly) are pretty reclusive and not very accessible. Which only serves to heighten their mystique, the clever buggers.
I know Roger Waters in particular is very protective of stage props and other “intellectual property,” but the band as whole has no problems with tributes as far as I’ve heard. I know I would be flattered.
SP: Do you have any standing rivalries with other Pink Floyd tribute bands?
TW: Actually, we all get together once every two months, tie our wrists together and have West Side Story-style knife fights. Just kidding. We haven’t been around long enough to have met any of the other Pink Floyd tributes, and as far I’m concerned there’s plenty of room for everyone. Is that innocuous enough?
SP: Do you ever find yourselves questioning the musical decisions that Pink Floyd made on a particular song? Do you get into arguments over WWPFD?
TW: Not really, no. Generally, the decisions they made tend to be treated as the definitive versions. Now, having said that, we sometimes arrange a song to follow a live version by Floyd or Roger Waters or David Gilmour, but there are no real theological arguments. Or schisms.
SP: Has Eclipse played in Champaign-Urbana before?
TW: No, we haven’t, and we are really looking forward to it! We’ve heard a lot of great things about the Canopy Club and we can’t wait to meet the local Floyd maniacs!