As part of the promotional effort behind their diverse new album, it’s not us, progressive-jam titans Umphrey’s McGee stopped by New York City’s The Cutting Room for a special BackStory event. BackStory, a partnership with Guitar World, is a Storytellers-esque event, combining an interview, a fan Q&A, and a short performance by the band du jour.
Right out of the gates, it was clear that this would not be your normal night with Umphrey’s McGee. Fans were seated at tables as they filed into the venue, and a full menu of food and drink items were available to order. Most fans took advantage and had dinner while waiting for the event to start. At approximately 7:00 PM, New York Times Best-Selling author and renowned music historian Alan Paul took the stage for some brief remarks, before introducing his esteemed guests for the evening.
Paul asked a few questions about it’s not us, focusing on the album’s typewriter-themed art, the album’s overall diversity, and how the band went about recording the album. All six band members were in fine spirits, eager to answer all of Paul’s questions and pull the proverbial curtain back on their recording process. They told several stories of how immersed themselves in the recording of it’s not us
The band explained that, typically, drummer Kris Myers needs to lay down his drum track first, with Ryan Stasik attempting to record his bass track simultaneously to give off that “live” feel in the studio. From there, the rest of the band builds their sonic layers on top of that initial drum and bass take. The band also explained that their musical conversation was non-stop throughout the recording process, as they rented a large apartment in Chicago that allowed them to all live together. This afforded them the ability to put in fifteen-plus hour days in the studio, followed by long nights discussing the album as a team. They noted that that this was the first album that the band has recorded while living together in the same house or apartment since their very first album, Local Band Does O.K.
After touching on the album for a few questions, Paul moved on to ask about the magnitude of the band’s three-night runs at iconic venues like Red Rocks or Beacon Theatre (where they’ll celebrate their 20th anniversary with a three-night run this weekend), their use of technology via the Headphones & Snowcones program, and their experiments with incorporating virtual reality into their shows in unique ways. When Paul finally opened it up for fan questions, attendees took the opportunity to ask the band a smattering of random questions. The most memorable (and, easily, the most random) question involved a superfan asking guitarist/vocalist Brendan Bayliss to describe each member of the band as if they were a Yankee Candle.
By far the most informative question of the night came when a fan asked the members of Umphrey’s McGee to explain the difference between a “Jimmy Stewart”, a “Jazz Odyssey”, and a standard piece of improvisation, as they have long been denoted on the band’s nightly setlists. To the surprise of everyone in the room, the band explained that there was, in fact, no difference between any of it, and they all mean the same thing. At this point, drummer Kris Myers (who was the final addition to the band in 2005) admitted that he had always thought there was a difference between the two, and thanked the fan for his question and for helping him to better understand his band.
Finally, the band took their familiar places on stage and delivered a four-song set of tracks from it’s not us. Opening with the ethereal anthem “Half Delayed”, the band offered up a tight and concise version the industrial rocker “Looks”. Brendan Bayliss, Ryan Stasik, and Jake Cinninger each took time to try food off the plates of members of the audience who were seated in the front row, which required a short break so Bayliss could properly whistle on “Whistle Kids”. Finally, the band offered up a raucous version of “Remind Me”, which the band jokingly announced would “include a Jimmy Stewart.” And that it did, as the band left the song’s funky opening section for a Joel Cummins-led jam. Eventually, The jam dissipated, and Myers, Cinninger, and percussionist Andy Farag locked in to lead the band through the song’s heavy metal closing stanza. At this point, a few fans couldn’t help but stand up and rage with their favorite band.
Umphrey’s McGee’s BackStory was a special event that provided hardcore fans with an excellent opportunity to dig deeper into how the band creates their art, and how they operate as an organization. It was the perfect appetizer for fans for this weekend’s three-night run at the Beacon Theatre. Thankfully, this interview and Q&A portion of the event was streamed live on BackStory’s Facebook page.
Below, you can watch full video footage of the full-band BackStory interview and check out a gallery of photos from the special event courtesy of Capacity Images:
[Cover photos via Capacity Images]
If you are heading to Umphrey’s McGee‘s 20th anniversary run at New York’s Beacon Theatre this weekend, don’t miss Live For Live Music‘s Umphrey’s Late Night shows.
Tonight, Friday, January 19th TAUK‘s Matt Jalbert & Isaac Teel will once again team up with Joel Cummins & Ryan Stasik of Umphrey’s McGee to form TAUKing McGee at the Highline Ballroom.
For the second night of the run tomorrow, Saturday, January 20th, vinyl impresario and longtime friend of the band, Wyllys, will play an official Umphrey’s McGee after-party at The Cutting Room feaeturing Rob Compa (Dopapod), Peter Apfelbaum, Mike “Maz” Maher (Snarky Puppy), Chris Cartelli (Newton Crosby), & Zac Lasher (U-Melt). For more information, or to grab your tickets, head here.