Live for Live Music’s Chris Meyer recently spoke with Umphrey’s McGee bassist Ryan Stasik prior to the band’s shows in Portland, Oregon. Both he and percussionist Andy Farag were getting ready to play a round of golf, a sport that the members of Umphrey’s are very passionate about.
Stasik discussed the recent announcement of the return of the Omega Moos, their upcoming gig at the Major Rager Festival w/ Gov’t Mule, Lettuce, and the Revivalists), UM’s experience recording at the legendary Abbey Road studios, and the throwdown of a party that will ensue at The Fort shows with Lettuce in Fernandina Beach, FL. Check out what Ryan Stasik had to say.
L4LM: So, the Omega Moos are back for the first time since South Carolina in 2013?
Stasik: Has it been that long? That’s crazy. Yeah, it was after the Widespread Panic show. Was an awesome time.
L4LM: How did the Moos get started? Originally, Darren Shearer was in the band, right? No more Darren, and Kris Myers in at drums….
Stasik: Yeah, it’s easier scheduling wise, now that Darren is not touring anymore with the New Deal and pretty settled into his life. Kris has jumped in to fill in his shoes, Brendan and I have no problem making the gig, and we get Jamie to come down, so it’s a bit of an overall progression.
L4LM: How did that decision to have the Omega Moos play the Major Rager Festival come about? You excited for that?
Stasik: Hell yeah! Gonna rent the old minivan and drive down. And it’s nice because it’s during the Master’s Tournament, so it’s two of my favorite things in the world – play 80’s cover tunes and check out the Master’s.
L4LM: It’s pretty clear that the gentlemen of Umphrey’s love their 70’s/80’s songs (“Eminence Front” by The Who, “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart, “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics, and other songs from Toto, Genesis, Huey Lewis & The News, etc.). That mix of metal, classic rock, dance, jam, funk, – always most importantly, progressive – etc. was clear, and definitely hooked me from the start. But Omega Moos covers are clearly different than how you do it in Umphrey’s.
Stasik: Definitely. Omega Moos covers are different from the types of covers we perform in Umphrey’s in that we pick some of the real popular hits from the 80’s, but also the obscure stuff as well. We are definitely trying to educate some of these younger kids that might not know these tunes, or artists, and how incredible they are. A lot of it is based on improv too; it’s not like Umphrey’s or New Deal improv, it’s definitely different. Playing with Jamie is a real treat. We try to do a mix of all flavors, with bringing in some house beats, some untz, Kris loves playing house drums and drum n’ bass. It’s fun because you really get that 80’s vibe.
L4LM: Umphrey’s played Major Rager last year, and you guys attended the Master’s at Augusta National. How was that experience?
Stasik: A+ on all levels! Great organization, great group of guys running things to work with, and they are doing great things. Looking forward to getting back down to Major Rager this year I don’t have a bad thing to say. I feel very fortunate to be able to play a festival like this, that is doing such great things for communities with their Friends with Benefits non-profit organization. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out with Umphrey’s this year, but the Moos will be there, and then we are going to hightail it down to The Fort to play those shows with Lettuce.
L4LM: Were you able to go check out the Master’s last year?
Stasik: Andy [Farag] and I were able to go for the Wednesday practice round, and I brought my father-in-law, so that was pretty cool. You had Arnie (Arnold Palmer), Jack Nicklaus….Gary Player brought a tear to the eye.
[photo courtesy of Dave Vann]
L4LM: You guys play basketball too. What happened with the UM vs. TAUK game?
Stasik: We played a little basketball with the guys from Tauk. And I’ll be the first to admit it, they kicked our butts. But I am going to take this opportunity to give the real goddamn excuse of what happened here….we played some bullshit “make-it-take-it” rules, which we should have never done, and we played to eleven, win by one. They were dropping two points early on, and it was six to eight nothing before we even got the ball. If we get them on a real size court, I demand a rematch. I think that we actually can take them with what we learned in the first game. We’ll play some Umph rules, none of this “make-it-take-it” bullshit, and we are going to play by one, to twenty-one, win by two.
L4LM: Umphrey’s vs. Tauk Part Deux sounds like it’s right around the corner.
Stasik: Hey, man, they can play, I’m not going to take it away from them. But it only happened once, so we need to do that again.
L4LM: The Fort shows look like they are going to be ridiculous, by the way. Umphrey’s with Lettuce, and then after-parties each night (Omega Moos & UM/Lett collaboration?!)
Stasik: That’s a good question, I have no idea how this all happened. We are good friends with the Lettuce guys, I’ve known them for awhile now. They are great guys, and like to have fun, and we certainly like to have fun, so it was an easy mix to put it together. I don’t know if it happened through management, or if it was drunken Joel talk with one of their guys, but it worked out, and we are looking forward to it. We played a festival with Shady Horns, covered Huey Lewis, so some type of collaborations like that is to be expected. We always end up at the same festival, like Summer Camp, and we see each other a lot. I think it was only a matter of time.
L4LM: And you were both on Jam Cruise too?
Stasik: Yeah, we were. That’s always a blast.
L4LM: Do you think any of you will be back on the boat this year in some capacity?
Stasik: I’m sure Joel and Waful will be back on. I don’t think Umphrey’s will necessarily do it again this year, but you never know. Depending on what we do for New Year’s, that is important time off to have to rest and be with the family. Joel doesn’t have kids, so us family guys need some of that time.
L4LM: Very cool. I wanted to take a minute to talk about The London Session at Abbey Road Studios. How did that idea come about?
Stasik: Well, long story short. We booked the gigs at Brooklyn Bowl, and our long-time sound engineer threw the idea out there. The light bulb literally exploded, and they had the B Room open a day early, so we made sure our flights were a day early. We booked the room, the people that work there are super nice, and were really into it, and we had 12 hours to record. We said, “Listen, let’s go in there and lay it all out.” We own our own record label now, let’s put the time in, and then get drunk and eat Indian food.
It was crazy, and tiring, but well worth it.
L4LM: The first cover to grace an Umphrey’s album happens to be would be the Beatles track “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” which was recorded at Abbey Road. Very apropos.
Stasik: Yeah, it was kind of spontaneous. At first, it’s like “No, don’t do this.” But then we decided “Why Not?” and to just do a run-through. The tapes were still rolling, and it’s not like we knew it was going to end up on the record, or even be good enough to make it on the album. We just went for it, and did it in one take, it sounded good, and it did wind up making it up on the record.
L4LM: You mentioned your record label, Nothing Too Fancy Music. How is the feeling of having your own record, and having the freedom to do what you want?
Stasik: Well, it’s definitely a lot more work, obviously. But, it is much more rewarding as well. It gives us the flexibility and time to put the effort into every detail to work on what we think is most important. It’s a great position to be in, to get the results that we want and what we work hard for.
L4LM: You guys certainly deserve it as one of the hardest working bands in the business. Thanks so much, Ryan. Best of luck on the course today!
For more information about the Umphrey’s McGee Fort shows with Lettuce, and info on travel packages click HERE.
Check out Umphrey’s McGee on tour. For remaining tour dates, click HERE.
– Chris Meyer
[cover photo courtesy of Jake Plimack Photography]