Today’s Feature, November 13th-14th: Umphrey’s McGee

November 14, 2007 at 9:43 pm (Today's Feature)

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The development of a band’s name is generally an extensive and intricate process… one that usually involves each member of the band agreeing on a name that reflects the sound and message of the group. You know the names that best represent the sound – Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down and of course the “heirs to the Phish throne,” Umphrey’s McGee.

Wait a sec. Umphrey’s McGee? “How does that name match up with a sound and/or message??” If this crossed your mind, then you obviously don’t know UM. Umphrey’s McGee, the 6-piece posse that formed in the late 90’s in South Bend, Indiana, “shuttles between styles with precision, from straight-up pop and rock to jazz, prog-metal, and classical.” Once you take in the Umphrey’s experience, you’ll understand that the name fits.

Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), Jake Cinninger (guitar, Moog, synthesizers, vocals), Joel Cummins (keyboards, vocals), Andy Farag (percussion), Kris Myers (drums, vocals) and Ryan Stasik (bass, no vocals) made a statement right from the start when they released their first album, “Greatest Hits Volume III.” Their statement to the world was made official when “Anchor Drops” was released in 2004 – Rolling Stone placed them in their “Hot” Issue and the Washington Post named them “rock’s undisputed lord of sonic shape-shifting.”

Umphrey’s McGee’s latest release, “Live at the Murat” was recorded in Indianapolis in April 2007 and features fan favorites like “Push the Pig” and “The Triple Wide” along with rare tunes like the set-ending “Padgett’s Profile.” Throughout the album, UM’s “invention brings the progressive instrumental chops of Zappa and the stylistic savvy of Steely Dan. It is innovative without being indulgent, exhilarating without losing control, and there are plenty of improv passages that keep the band and their fans off-balance.”

Luckily for you, Umphrey’s McGee spends about half the year on the road entertaining audiences around the country. Their live show is quite the event – their uncanny visual language onstage that includes dozens of unspoken cues is more or less art in motion. So check their tour dates… and get into their XXQ’s

XXQs: Ryan Stasik – Umphrey’s McGee

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How’s everything going? Where’d I catch you?

Ryan Stasik (RS): Everything is going well. I’m in my place, reading the Jerome Bettis book.

PEV: Oh, big Steeler fan?

RS: Hardcore

PEV: I’m a Ravens fan so don’t be too mad (laughs).

RS: Sorry to hear that (laughs)

PEV: Nice, nice, thanks man. So, to the music, how and when did Umphrey’s McGee first form as a band?

RS: We started in 1998. At University of Notre Dame. A couple of years later, Jake and Andy joined us. Then in 2003, Chris became our permanent drummer and we’ve been the same group since 2003.

PEV: What is the story behind the name Umphrey’s McGee?

RS: Unfortunately there is not a really good story behind it. It’s actually Brendon’s (guitar player) lead singer’s cousin. We changed the spelling around and thought it sounded unique.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to?

RS: Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin… Snoop Dog and Dr.Dre were big. A lot of Iron Maiden, AC/DC. I like the heavy metal stuff too. In high school I went to some Pantera shows, White Zombie…

PEV:Who’s in you iPod right now?

RS: I’m listening to band called “Between the Burried and Me”. Death metal stuff too. I’m big into Death Metal.

PEV: Tell us about the Latest release, Live at the Murat?

UM: Yeah, we just recorded that. I don’t remember the date exactly but we did two live shows at the Murat in Indianapolis. And it’s out now.

PEV: How is this different than Bottom Half- Double Disk?

RS: Bottom Half Double Disk was never really supposed to come out. When we went in to record Safety In Numbers, we wanted to record a double disk; one acoustic and one electric and we found there to be too much material to pull out and make sense. And when we looked at Safety In Numbers we had all this material that we didn’t want to have to record again or it fit anything new, so we thought it would be a compilation B Side album. That’s what it ended up being.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

RS: It depends. Sometimes people write on their own when we are at home. If we are on tour, it can be back stage or on the bus. Whatever is there.

PEV: Speaking of road life, how is road life for the band?

RS: It’s all we know. I guess it’s normal.

PEV: Best and worst parts?

RS: The best and worst parts? Well, we have it down to a pretty good system. We are only on the road for two weeks or less. Then I come home in Chicago and spend some weeks here. We don’t get burnt out.

PEV: What’s a normal show day like for Umphrey’s McGee?

RS: We do sound-check around 3, then go find some good food that town has to offer. I like to eat good food… drink good wine. We rehearse for a while or hand out for a while. Or we listen to music together. We like to hear about what people are listening to. Then it’s show time, and when that is over it’s party time and then when that is over we do it all again.

PEV: In all your touring what has been your favorite city to play and why?

RS: My favorite city to play? I’m a big fan of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The people, the food, the weather. Every time I’ve been there it has been unbelievable.

PEV: You talk about listening to other kind of music and you get a good chance to see it. Is there a certain up and coming band we should all be listening to?

RS: Up and coming? Well, I would have to say the “Between the Burried and Me” guys. They are from North Carolina I think. Very smart band, heavy, heavy rock.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for Umphrey’s McGee?RS: Um, like six or seven dudes, living in a band (laughs). Driving around trying to make a buck. Sleeping in the same motel rooms, same money. We’ve upgraded a little bit (laughs). But then we were just really broke. It would be like ‘alright we got to do two more shows so we can pay our rent’ (laughs).

PEV: Is there one band you haven’t had a chance to collaborate with yet?

RS: Dream Theater. Haven’t had a chance to collaborate with them yet.

PEV: When you aren’t touring, what can we find you doing?

RS: Everyone does different things. I like to go check out fine restaurants…I’m into the food thing now. There is so much Chicago has to offer. Going to check out live music too, I do that a lot.

PEV: What’s the best place to check out music in Chicago?

RS: Oh, man, so many. If you want to find jazz players there is a place called the Underground Wonder Bar, live jazz and Brazilian reggae until 4 in the morning. If you want the indie punk scene, you go to Double Doors. The United Center as well.

PEV: What’s one thing would you be surprised to hear about Umphrey’s McGee?

RS: One thing is we’re pretty good poker players. If anyone wants to come over and lose their money to us. And that our keyboard player Joel, is newly single.

PEV: I’ll make sure to let our readers know that Joel.

RS: Thanks for that!

PEV: When do you guys get to practice?

RS: We have stuff set up back stage. Like before dinner or after dinner. I mean, it’s what we do so we do that a lot

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success?

RS: They love it. They have always supported it from the start and never really had that doubt question. They are very ecstatic about it.

PEV: So what is next for Umphrey’s McGee?

RS: We are going to the east coast and then flying out to the west coast. We have some projects down in Atlanta and then we start out the tour.

PEV: You coming up to Baltimore soon?

RS: We were just in Baltimore a little while ago and had the best crab cake in my entire life there. Somewhere in the harbor there.

PEV: Of course! We have the best. Well, thanks for the time and I appreciate you talking to us.

RS: Maybe if you guys get a bit tougher you may get that wild card spot (laughs). Good talking to you man.

PEV: Good one man, thanks. Good talking to you too (laughs).

For more information on Umphrey’s McGee, check out www.UmphreysMcGee.com

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