Pink Floyd. If you are a fan, immediately your mind is filled with imagery of pigs, an iconic black cover cut by the effects of light through a prism, and the animation style of Gerald Scarfe seen in a certain full-length screenplay. Like the concept album kings themselves, Wish You Were Here: The Sight and Sound of Pink Floyd pays tribute to rock’s great innovators. And most appropriately, the band hails from Cleveland, Ohio, where the house that rock built resides. I’m here with Eric “Eroc” Sosinski, the lead vocalist and bassist for band.
I first thanked Eroc for taking his time to talk to me today and asked him to share how Wish You Were Here: The Sight and Sound of Pink Floyd got started. “Wish You Were Here evolved from a band called Harvest, which did a “Pink Floyd Revue” starting in 1988. We played a set of classic rock covers and originals, then a set of Pink Floyd,” Sosinski explains. “We successfully toured throughout the Midwest and Eastern states for five years. In 1995 we decided to tribute Pink Floyd exclusively with Wish You Were Here, adding another guitarist and sax player, with a more theatrical focus. It took off from the very first show,” he concludes. And speaking of theatrics, one of my questions for Eroc regarded the challenges of pulling off such a large-scale endeavor. With such a definitive sound and style, I was quite interested in how a venture such as this was possible. “It was definitely a ‘work in progress’ for the first ten years or so. We went through some member changes and found what worked best within the show. As the production has grown, so has the professional level of the musicians, both new and older. It hasn’t always been easy but I enjoy the challenge of trying to create the best possible show I can,” Eroc says.
I wanted Sosinski to tell me otherwise if I was wrong, but Wish You Were Here has been one of the first groups to tribute Pink Floyd in the U.S. These guys were the innovators. I asked what kind of reaction was had when other Pink Floyd tribute bands began to pop up. “We’ve been at the forefront of not just Floyd tributes but also the whole tribute band movement in a way. In 1988 you could count the number of tribute bands in America on probably just two hands,” Eroc says. “Moonlight Drive was one of the very first [tribute bands] being from Cleveland. And bands like Clearlight and The White from Canada would play here as well.”
“We found that we were having success with all the Floyd songs we were performing. I was into theater and performing as a kid. I loved bands like KISS and Alice Cooper, so putting on a show was almost second nature to me. With rock music added, it felt natural.” Eroc goes on to say, “It used to frustrate me to find my band’s “bio” from our web page often rearranged and rewritten to be used by so many new bands. There are even Cleveland-area acts that use our tagline of “the Sight and Sound of Pink Floyd” in their promos. Then I realized, ‘hey, they’re just copying what works, and I should be flattered by that’,” he says humbly. And Sosinski is right when he says, “This is the tribute business after all. The cream will rise to the top, as they say.”
Sosinski and his bandmates create the best possible show, cutting no corners and dedication is more than evident. I wondered how a show such as this goes on the road during a tour. “Well, we don’t really take it on the road too far. I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t break up the magic I have with this particular lineup by trying to find other people that can go on the road,” Eroc shares with me. “About half of our members have full-time day jobs and the other half are full-timers in the music industry. We tend to stay in Ohio and that way we can dedicate all our resources to the show at hand,” He adds.
All showmanship and technique considered, I simply had to know if there were any particular bass riffs of Roger Waters’ that were particularly challenging for Sosinski to perform. “Actually Roger is a very simple bass player. That can be just as challenging – to not overplay, as I’ve seen some bass players do. You have to serve the song and in Pink Floyd music, often what you don’t play is just as important as what you do. There are reasons why parts are played the way they are on an artist’s original recording. My job is to replicate that, playing not only the parts but copying the same style. I have to put my own tastes and style on the back burner,” Sosinski states, making a very valid point about the balance of personal style and recreating a style.
Eroc and I took a moment to talk keyboards performed by Bob Gerhard. Eroc was asked how Bob uses his keyboard setup for synth effects, if at all. “He uses it very well, thank you!” Sosinski tells me with a good laugh. “Bob is the master of vintage sounds. He has always used a real Leslie speaker cabinet and there is no substitute for the sound of that, just like with a Moog. Recently he has brought both a vintage Farfisa and chopped Hammond B3 into his onstage setup.”
Eroc and I further discussed musical style and the layering and experimenting that Pink Floyd often used in the studio. I asked him to talk to me about recreating some of that complex layering. “In the case of earlier material, it’s often more about duplicating the sounds and style of the particular player.” He says, when referring to the live show, “The parts are not always that difficult. As Floyd music evolved, then it does get more involved which is why we have three guitarists, two female vocalists, a sax player, and so on.” And fans would also be pleased to hear that “we’ve been able to avoid using prerecorded musical backing tracks.”
“People would be surprised how much of the shows of the international-touring bands are tracked,” Sosinski says. When asked if there are any tracks that the band doesn’t tackle live due to the complexity, Eroc said that, “There are songs from the later David Gilmour-led era that we’ve avoided due to the sequencing and tracking that would be involved. I’ve made that choice to keep to the more ‘organic’ songs of the band’s catalog. There are certainly plenty of those to still tackle. The hardcore fans will always request songs that you can’t or don’t choose to play.” Eroc adds that this can be a challenge when it comes to paying tribute to a band with such an extensive catalog as Pink Floyd’s.
Another quality about Wish You Were Here’s live sound is the smooth and well-executed vocals. Naturally, I inquired about the Gilmour/Waters/Wright sound and how that dynamic was achieved. “Twenty years of playing with professional vocalists, especially when it comes to our female vocalists. With “Great Gig In The Sky” as the standard, that will suffer in the hands… or throats of anyone less than a pro,” he said. I commented to Eroc on the size of the Wish You Were Here ensemble, which is pretty large. I asked him about the amount of rehearsal time it took the group when prepping a set list. “We don’t actually get to rehearse much due to everyone’s work and gig schedules. Of course we do [rehearse] when we learn new songs. We tend to utilize our sound checks more often than not to brush up on material that we haven’t played in a while,” he says.
And while we are on the subject of the set list, Sosinki shared with me information about the set list and how the ensemble sticks with continuity and ventures into new territory. “We’ve got a particular flow with some of the standards and we move different songs in and out of the structure. Even that basic structure often changes as well. I’m proud to say that in our twenty year history almost every set list has been different.” To this, I tip my hat to Eroc and all musicians who make Wish You Were Here, as this is a feat not easy to accomplish.
As Sosinski mentioned, this year marks the 20th Anniversary season for Wish You Were Here and so I conveyed to him my enthusiasm for such an achievement. “Yes it’s hard to believe! This year we’ve been performing the Wish You Were Here album in its entirety, to celebrate its 40th birthday. We’ve been adding different songs in to the set list with every show; plus new videos as well as lighting elements to our production. That has changed since even the last time we were in Columbus, Ohio, which was this past spring. This production is always evolving, which helps to keep it exciting for us as well.”
We also discussed the effects that accompany the stage production and in particular, I inquired about the projection that is seen during the show. “Yes, that has been the newest element added to our regular production in the last few years as part of our light show. Our lighting director John Middleton has really stepped up to the plate with that,” he says. And of course, the burning question in my mind was whether or not we can expect the presence of a flying pig during the production! To my delight, Eroc answers, “Yes, our inflatable pig Ziffel is always with us. As long as the stage size permits, It’s like flying a Volkswagen!”
Wish You Were Here is more than just a group of musicians who get on stage and play the songs of Pink Floyd. Personally speaking, I get chills when I listen to The Wall. As a musician, Eroc told me what it was like for him when he’s up there performing that one Floyd song that’s extra special and hits a deep chord with him. “It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.” He shares. “Dogs” is probably the song that does it the most for me. It goes from driving to psychedelic with intense dual-lead guitars. Lately, “Cymbaline” has also become one of my favorites. The dynamics and intensity of that song…it’s just brilliant!”
Wish You Were Here will be at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio, on October 24. I asked Eroc where the next performance would happen. “Our 20th Anniversary Tour finale will be at Akron Civic Theatre on November 14.” He says. After that, they will return to their home venue of The House Of Blues in Cleveland. On January 2, the band will be playing their annual Holiday show there.
On a side note, I had to mention that David Gilmour is doing a brief tour this spring and the ticket availability is at a premium. So, I needed to know if Eroc was one of those lucky ticketholders? With all my jealous feelings at the surface, Sosinski informs me that, “I’ve got 8th row [seats] for one of the Chicago shows and looking forward to it! I have not seen Mr. Gilmour live since 1994.” I’m still jealous, Eroc.
In conclusion I had a couple more crucial questions for Eroc: What is his favorite Pink Floyd album and finally, why? The Dark Side Of The Moon. He says emphatically. “It is the most classic Floyd album where all the elements of musicianship, lyrics, songwriting concepts, and emotions are brilliantly tied together.” Very well stated.
It’s been an honor talking with Eroc and I thank him again for talking to me about this amazing project. He adds, “We are looking forward to our show at the Newport this Saturday (October 24). Our Columbus friends and fans are always a pleasure to play for and the Newport has such a funky rock and roll vibe to it. It’s always fun to play there!”
Interviewer/Writer: Amanda Knight @AmandaJill82
Photos courtesy and copyright of Eroc Sosinski and the Wish You Were Here team
Wish You Were Here: The Sight and Sound of Pink Floyd Site links: