The conversation continues on their eleventh full-length album, it’s not us [Nothing Too Fancy Music]—out January 12, 2018.
“It represents the band, because it basically runs the gamut from prog rock to dance,” says Brendan. “We’ve mastered our ADD here. The record really shows that.”
“No matter what you’re into, there’s something on it’s not us that should speak to you,” agrees Joel. “This is a statement album for Umphrey’s McGee. The sound is as fresh as ever. The songs are strong as they’ve ever been. We’re always pushing forward.”
It is also how the band is celebrating its 20-year anniversary. Instead of retreading the catalog, they turn up with a pile of new tunes.
“It’d be easy to play the hits from our first five or ten years,” continues Joel. “We’ve never been a band to rest on our laurels though. New music is key to our continued development. We’re known as a strong live band, but we take so much pride in our writing. This album distinguishes us because the focus is on that writing.”
Appropriately, this idea gestated on a sunny May afternoon at Wrigley Field. Six months before The Cubs won their first World Series since 1908, Brendan took in a game on a rare day off.
“I can pinpoint the actual a-ha moment,” Brendan goes on. “My wife was out. My kids were at daycare. I walked to Wrigley, bought a standing room ticket, and enjoyed the game. Halfway through it, I thought to myself, ‘If we can get into the studio by the end of the year, we can have a brand new record.’ That’s where it all started.”
Bringing things full circle, Umphrey’s McGee entered I.V. Labs Studio in Chicago ready (and maybe a little hungover) a week after that historic game seven. For the first time since recording Local Band Does O.K. in 2002, five of the six members roomed together in a rental condo with Brendan staying a stone’s throw away at home.
“We would wake up, bounce ideas off each other, and go to the studio together,” recalls Joel. “We did all of this as a unit. There was something really special about our group ethos coming together for this project. We decided to go in for a week, live, eat, and breathe Umphrey’s McGee. It’s the most fun we’ve had in the studio. It really was a blast. Having that camaraderie was really cool.”
That camaraderie shines through in their inimitable interplay, which finds them at the pinnacle of their craft and groove as a band. That chemistry defines the approach—which sees Umphrey’s McGee hone their songwriting to its sharpest point to date.