Written by Caleb Oldham
Spookfish are a breed of small, deep sea vertebrae. They have mirrors for eyes and transparent, illuminated heads which hold inside them small, swirling galaxies of fluorescence.
The Spookfish is a musician in Brooklyn named Dan Goldberg. He does not have mirrors for eyes, nor is his forehead transparent, but his music is reflective of an inner world that is as surreal and dream-like as the animal he takes his name from. Since 2009, Goldberg has used a guitar, a MicroKorg, a drumset, and the “moments where you feel very lost and things are flowing,” to compose faraway, yet immersively warm, tracks as The Spookfish.
From an early age, Goldberg engaged with music as naturally as his peers engaged with color: “Songs had colors like a tree had colors,” he explains. At five years old he was already singing a few interludes in his older brother's punk band Smoll Fat Child that would end up on a list of Animal Collective’s 127 most important influences. As Goldberg puts it, “music was, and still is a way to share a part of myself that I’m not able to express in any other way.”
Over the past ten years the artist has lived in Philadelphia, Miami, Portland, Korea, Berlin, and NYC, yet the environment that he finds himself in doesn’t seem to affect the music he writes. This is most likely due to the way he writes and records music; on his bed, alone — “it’s close to my dreams,” he says. “When I sleep, I hear music in my dreams that I’ve never heard before. When I was a little kid it was very scary music, but as I got older it was like ‘Cool, I’ve never heard this song before!’ I realized that there’s a place inside of me that’s generating music. It feels very natural. My brain is constantly putting out this stream of music and a lot of times I don’t experience that [while awake] because it would be really distracting. I try to be very patient.” It is this patience for what feels “natural,” coupled with a masterful sculpting of a worn-out tape sound that characterizes The Spookfish's music.
Each month, Goldberg gathers a group of friends and musicians together and hikes Mt. Taurus, taking breaks for performances in locations like “frog-filled wells,” or “the ruins of a Cornish farmhouse,” along the way. The idea came to him a couple years ago when the image of a Korean hiking trail he'd visited kept coming back while recording. The mental picture was so strong that he felt compelled to make a music video there, but decided that outdoor shows would be an even better idea.
In addition to being a recording musician, a performer, and organizer of the monthly mountain show, Goldberg lives in an artists’ space. He's managed, therefore, to pour music into every aspect of his life besides his job: “The whole professionalism thing is just something that kind of formed in our society as a way of reacting to this really mysterious phenomenon that sounds, for some reason, can make us feel things. Even though they’re just random pieces of metal vibrating, or wind blowing through something. I try to remember that and use it as a way to communicate with the people around me. I think that music is just a part of being human. In a healthier world we would all make music or art."
Listen to more of The Spookfish on his Bandcamp.