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Questions for Umphreys?


lara
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So I have an interview with Ryan tomorrow for a Jambands.ca story on Umphreys... just in time for their 2007 Toronto show :)

We'll be talking about The Bottom Half (B-sides album due April 3rd) and their upcoming album they're currently recording, random misc. stuff.

Any questions you skanks want answered??

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Not really a question but I wonder if they remember stopping in at La Luna Hamilton between gigs in Michigan and upstate NY, 1999.

I had just heard of them a year or so earlier and was back from Banff when I was talking to Rusty at the door and he’s like hey meet so and so from Umphreys. Turns out they decided to cut some time off their trip and check out Canada at the same time. They stopped in Hamilton, and of all places at Fat Cats show, at the old La Luna. They gave me a live tape that I still listen to … they’ve come a long way. We exchanged emails for awhile after that and I tried to get them back to Hamilton to no avail. Glad they finally made it back this way.

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Ask him how difficult it is to play his parts with 2 fucking shredding guitar players flanking him onstage.

;)

Seriously though, I got nothing aside from the standard flow of things. What's with you and bass player interviews? Didnt you marry a guitar player?

Haha... I thought those questions were aimed at Ryan! I was like, what is he talking about? Stasik isn't married!

Well actually, its totally random. I didn't ask for a particular person this time so I got Stasik. Same thing for moe. But the majority of my interviews over the past year have been female guitarists. So what does that say about me?

But truth be told. I do have a thing for the bass.

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Info from Madison House on the upcoming release...

Those eager to partake of Umphrey’s McGee’s fruitful outpouring during the recording sessions that resulted in 2006’s Safety In Numbers can rejoice. On April 3, 2007 the sextet plans to release The Bottom Half, a double-disc of unreleased songs, bonus material and odds and sods that will essentially tell the whole story of those extraordinary sessions.

Upon its release in the spring of 2006, Safety In Numbers, their third studio album, helped Umphrey’s McGee attract new waves of attention. The highly anticipated release charted on Billboard’s Top 200, peaked high on the Heatseekers Chart, and received a “4 Star†review in Blender. Umphrey’s sold out shows coast to coast in support of the album, appeared at both Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, and made their late night television debut on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Contrary to its name, The Bottom Half is a top-rate sequel to Safety In Numbers. The double album is full of spontaneity and intrigue, fresh ideas, and the kind of dazzling musicianship we have come to expect from Umphrey’s. The first disc packs ten recordings that didn’t make it onto the initial work, while the second serves up over two-dozen outtakes, alternative versions, dialogue, a cappella recordings, and other offerings designed to sneak glimpses into the band’s creative process. As with Safety In Numbers, famed album artist Storm Thorgerson designed the cover of The Bottom Half.

“Originally,†says keyboardist Joel Cummins, “Safety was planned as a double album, a set of one electric disc and one acoustic disc.†The variety of material spanned genres and styles, tone and content. But that good-humored m.o. changed abruptly when the band lost dear friend and band ally Brian Schultz to a drunk driver on New Year’s Eve 2004. Umphrey’s songwriting focus shifted to more emotional terrain. The mood of the sessions had changed and so did the band’s recording goals. “Because we were going through this emotional period for Safety In Numbers, the songs became heavier and more deeply felt,†says guitarist Brendan Bayliss, “and we left the fun, upbeat, more progressive stuff behind.â€

Until now. The Bottom Half ropes the sessions’ surplus and ties it neatly into two capsules. Cummins explains: “The first disc is finished tracks we worked really hard on, songs that could have made it onto Safety. The second disc is excerpts, and more about unfinished material and insight into how the band makes its music.â€

Umphrey’s used different songwriting sources as well, including frequent band guest Karl Engelmann (“Bright Lights, Big Cityâ€) and arranger Jeff Coffin (“The Bottom Half,†“Higginsâ€). The band toured with Bela Fleck on the Acoustic Planet tour and ended up collaborating with the banjo virtuoso on Disc One’s “Great American.†“We opened it up to other contributors for the first time,†Cummins says, “and it really added new dimensions to our sound,â€

Of course, Safety In Numbers already boasted pretty impressive dimensions of its own. “We’re all proud of how that disc turned out,†says Cummins. “We wanted to focus more on the songs and we felt it was a real achievement from an artistic standpoint.â€

“We had kind of a crazy year and it all came out on that record,†adds Jake Cinninger, guitarist and vocalist. “Though it’s not all obviously dark, there’s kind of a theme that runs through it.â€

That theme along with a cool, hip vibe, permeate the material on The Bottom Half. In fact, UM has — since forming in the late ’90s in the South Bend, Indiana area — cultivated an impressive presence both live and in the studio, quite an accomplished when considering their humble roots. Cummins, Bayliss, bassist Ryan Stasik and original drummer Mike Mirro all studied at the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Indiana, while percussionist Andy Farag at the South Bend branch of Indiana University. Cinninger, from Michigan, had a South Bend-based band called Ali Baba’s Tahini — as well as an open invitation to join Umphrey’s, which he accepted in the Fall of 2000. His addition, along with Kris Myers’ arrival in 2003, proved critical to the band’s success. Together, the gifted collective elevated its game.

Just a few months after their first gig in 1998, the band released their first album, the cleverly titled live document, Greatest Hits Volume III. Songs for Older Women and One Fat Sucka followed — as did their first ever DVD, Live from the Lake Coast. Building a reputation with the critically favored studio recording Local Band Does OK (not to be confused with Local Band Does Oklahoma — a live EP released soon after) and honing their groove as a stellar live act, by the time 2004’s Anchor Drops was released to raves, the buzz on Umphrey’s had grown loud. Rolling Stone tipped them in their Hot Issue and the Washington Post named the band “rock’s undisputed lord of sonic shape-shifting.†And if you need further convincing, one look at their second DVD—2005’s Wrapped Around Chicago: New Year’s at the Riv says it all: Umphrey’s had arrived.

The jam crowd hoisted the band up on their proverbial shoulders as heroes, heirs to the Phish throne. Fans reveled in Umphrey’s flair for inventive improvisation, incredible covers, and unpredictable moments. The band had also developed an uncanny visual language onstage that includes dozens of unspoken cues — a happy face, for example, symbolizes a major key, while a sad face indicates a minor one — that make their signature “jazz odysseys†and “Jimmy Stewarts†legendary on the jam scene. These cues manage to keep things tight and prevent their improv interludes from spiraling into hippie jam orbit. The band retains space, breath, and patience in performances, yet maintain masterly control in the process.

These days, Umphrey’s spends half the year on the road habitually flooring audiences. Their anything-goes musicianship, humor, and good-nature all make remarkable entertainment. The band shuttles between styles with precision, from straight-up pop and rock to jazz, prog-metal, and classical. If you can name it, chances are Umphrey’s can play it.

To that end, The Bottom Half might just be the best-recorded representation of the band’s peripatetic ethos, serving as it does as a kitchen-sink collection. “Overall, even though it’s all over the place, I think we’ve been able to come up with a cohesive vision of what we’re trying to do,†says Cummins, about the band and the new collection, “which isn’t easy for bands that don’t play only one style of music. But we often use the studio to find our voice and you can see through that process on The Bottom Half.â€

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None the less, try to get inside his head and have him explain how he feels about his role between two nutcases. How much have you listened to them recently? Use that as a minor missle.

When is the interview?

Not that I have ever done one Lara but I am sure I would listen to as much as I could. With Umph, I would be happy to delve into their most recent catalogue to get an idea of what is what.

The only thing setlists can cut on that level is a fart and you wont know if it is stinky or clean.

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Phorbsie. I saw them I think three times this past year... Loved every single second. I seriously cant say enough about this band. And

I have at least one of their shows or studio albums playing at any given time. I have found with Um over the past few years that my appreciation has increased with my understanding of their music. Take their Jimmy Stewarts for example, watching/listening closely I've developed a huge respect for their improv. It is incredibly sophisticated. Very cool article on Jimmy Stewards and Jazz Odysseys right here http://www.umphreaks.com/forums/index.php?topic=23093.0/

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None the less, try to get inside his head and have him explain how he feels about his role between two nutcases. How much have you listened to them recently? Use that as a minor missle.

When is the interview?

Not that I have ever done one Lara but I am sure I would listen to as much as I could. With Umph, I would be happy to delve into their most recent catalogue to get an idea of what is what.

The only thing setlists can cut on that level is a fart and you wont know if it is stinky or clean.

Booche are you a huge Um fan? I had no idea. I felt so alone in this world! ;)

You cant have written that unless you were a big time fan. Perhaps a closeted fan?

I'm stuggling with how to word that question. Stasik's been there since day one pre-1998. I imagine he's used to it.

Jakes the nutcase. You'd classify BB as a nutcase as well? IMO Hardly. Rather a smooth, soulful guitarist with an edge of Cinninger influence.

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Booche are you a huge Um fan?

I wouldnt say 'huge' having only seen them here that one time in Ottawa but I have downloaded their high quality matrix offerings and lost my fucking shit numerous times. A jaunt to Montreal would not be given a second thought on my part. Hell, I am seriously considering that TO show even though it is midweek.

[insert subliminal advertising here]Jaimoe would love those guitar players.[/insert subliminal advertising here]

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Stasik's been there since day one pre-1998.

Yeah, it's a tough question to word but the only way you can do it is via something tangible or at least one that he can recall.

I havent read many Umph interviews but if this is for a Canadian publication I think I would ask how their 'covers' come about, whether most are incidental or accidental but dont ask it as a close-ended question.

Get my drift? If you prepare for that one, you might be able to run with 2-4 more questions.

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Booche are you a huge Um fan?

I wouldnt say 'huge' having only seen them here that one time in Ottawa but I have downloaded their high quality matrix offerings and lost my fucking shit numerous times. A jaunt to Montreal would not be given a second thought on my part. Hell' date=' I am seriously considering that TO show even though it is midweek.

[insert subliminal advertising here']Jaimoe would love those guitar players.[/insert subliminal advertising here]

That would be awesome. I hope you're there. I'll be at Rochester and Toronto.

If it wasn't for mommy-ing I'd have been a lost cause a long time ago. This is one band I could happily follow around the world. Yup, seriously.

And, I like the name. Its grown on me. Its actually after a distant cousin of Brendan's, a lawyer from NY if I remember correctly. His name is Humphrey Mcgee.

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