Page 32 - Cityview Magazine - July/August 2017
P. 32

Umphrey’s McGee
August 20th at 8:30 pm
Tennessee  eatre
If you’re strolling along Gay Street on a hot August Knoxville Sunday and get the jones to jam out to some live music, Chicago’s Umphrey’s McGee is your ticket. Known for their funky rhythms and vibrant light shows, and performing a wide range of genres, the band has been on the road annually for 17-plus years. Their most recent studio album, Zonkey, o ers a mash-up of reworked tracks by various artists—from Phil Collins to Pink Floyd.
UM’s keyboardist Joel Cummins was good enough to answer a few of our questions.
Cityview: What motivates you all to work this hard after 20 years together? Joel Cummins: To put things in a bit of perspective, we played 162 shows in 2003 and in 2017 we’re going to play
86 or 87. So we’ve been able to cut way back on the frequency of shows which has also increased the quality of what happens on a nightly basis. We’re very fortunate to be able to have control of that aspect of touring. Most of us are married and half the band has kids now. Having a more balanced schedule where we play three-four days in a row and then everyone goes home for a few days has kept our music fresh.
The last couple studio sessions & albums we’ve sunk our teeth into have been incredibly different experiences, with the London Sessions being recorded in just one day at Abbey Road Studio in London in 2015 to many days both together and apart in the studio for Zonkey.
CV: On your most recent album, you feature the mash-ups that have been a part of your Halloween shows for years. Where did the inspiration come from, and what’s your favorite? JC: The mashups started as us hearing Z Trip’s mashup of the Beatles’ “Come Together” and Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer.” We decided to cover it live one night, and it sounded pretty good—the crowd loved it, too. So we figured why not
try to write mashups of our own for
an annual Halloween event? Nine
years later, we have around 30 original mashups we’ve created. My favorite new one from the album is “Can’t
Rock My Dream Face.” The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face” and Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” mesh together pretty seamlessly—that one’s easy to hear. But interjecting Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” into it is that one that really surprises you.
CV: You do lots of cover tunes. What’s pleasurable about performing them? JC: For me the best covers we play serve one of two purposes: it’s either to set
the mood and bring the crowd together with something that’s known by most or to educate the audience on something they should know. Kick ass, well-known songs will always get the room going. The second group we cover because they need to continue in the musical lexicon and we think part of our job is to make sure the next generation knows who Genesis and King Crimson are.
CV: Everyone we’ve talked to says “see them live.” Why?
JC: 2300 shows later, there’s a certain familiarity with each other’s playing that the unique language we speak feels more effortless and natural than ever. There’s a human connection happening up there between the musicians and there’s also a human connection happening between the musicians and the audience. These relationships have all developed over time for those who’ve invested the time. There can be a very special, impactful bond that can only be achieved and felt through music.
Full interview available online at

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