UM: It’s a very deep meaning. No, it’s actually Brenden, our guitarist’s, distant cousins who is a gentleman who lives down in Mississippi. Fine outstanding guy. And he of course has an “h” in front of the “u” and no apostrophe. But he pronounces it with a silent “h”. “Umphrey’s McGee”, is how he says it. So, it started out, it was kind of funny and now we just hope we don’t get harassed too much. He’s a lawyer too so if he ever wanted to sue us we’re totally hosed.
AD: So tell us how you’ve mixed the sound of so many different styles in your band?
UM: Well a lot of it came about from our influences. Each individual was influenced by something in the past whether it be Frank Zappa or Guns N’ Roses or even hip hop artists like Beasty Boys or Dr. Dre or jazz or even world music–Cuban music, Brazilian music. We sort of throw it in together, kind of like fusion music was developed in the 70s in a very tongue and cheek sort of way–in a very humorous way. It’s kind of put together through songs and structures we put together at shows. At the time we’ll improvise, listen to it and then use them as pieces, like Lego pieces, and build the blocks later on and create songs from that.
That’s kind of how it’s put together.
AD: What was the defining point in your career that turned you from a local band to a national one? Was there one particular event?
UM: Definitely not. We’ve been touring the whole country since 2001 and for us we really felt like once Chris joined the group in 2003 that our sound was really solidified and that was obviously a huge thing as far as getting where we are today. Kind of the missing piece of the puzzle, we felt like. But when our last album came out, “Anchor Drops”, in June of 2004, that was a pretty big step for us. We put a lot of time into that. One of the things, you know, jam bands are supposedly not good at, is making albums and so we don’t want to be like that. We want to be a band that can succeed in the studio and a live setting as well, and we came the closest we’ve come to accomplishing putting out a good album and that helped quite a bit.
AD: Tell us about your new album.
UM: The newest album that will be coming out this year is called, “Safety in Numbers”. It’s basically a lot of the newest material we have that’s sort of changed to more of a darker, progressive rock direction–along the lines of King Crimson and XTC. I think a lot of subjects will be based on darker subjects, more emotional lyrics in a sense and also just really strong and very bright and positive tunes as well. It’s been a stronger improvement in the writing and we’re very happy with the sounds and the production and the people that worked on it (for which we worked on for about a year). We’re very happy about it. It’s going to be really exciting.
2005 was a pretty turbulent year outside of the band so there are a lot of things going on for us at home and, you know, real life tough things that we had to deal with. So some of that is reflected in the music but at the same time we are putting together an album of really strong material. One thing that is really exciting is that we’ve got five or six out of the eleven songs that no one has ever heard before. That we haven’t played live and that we won’t play live until the album comes out. So that was something we wanted to do. To have some things we could really work on and craft over the course of this last year and try to write songs that were developed not in the live setting which is more of what we’ve typically done in the past. Maybe breaking away from that Lego concept a little bit more and creating more of “motive-ic” flair.
AD: How do you feel about being categorized as the next Phish?
UM: It’s a great compliment but you have to be careful in that if you take that too much to the heart…you have to take that with a grain of salt. Because, and that’s with every band, you’re going to get compared and be the next this or told you sound like that. I mean it’s a great compliment because they’ve definitely been very, very successful but at the same time you have to go and do your own thing and be your own identity.
For a lot of people it’s a frame of reference, you know, how do you describe that? Because, you know, there are points of that that can also make you a little uncomfortable because it’s like, well, we’re not really trying to do that. It’s just a frame of reference for people who know that band and are like, oh ok, maybe this is kind of what it’s like.
AD: So what do you think of Austin?
UM: Love Austin. Love the food, love the music, it’s great. What a great town. A lot of fun.
AD: Are you guys planning on trying to get into ACL?
UM: We think we are going to do it this year.
AD: Awesome. Well, we’re looking forward to seeing you there then. Is there anything else that you would like to add because this is for you guys as well.
UM: Just that our album is coming out in April (we think) and we’ll have some songs at radio stations and stuff for people to call and request so we just hope people will check it out and take a listen to them.**