Photo credit: Shervin Lainez
Earlier today, Umphrey’s McGee dropped an entirely new record of original tunes, just five months after the release of their album it’s not us. The group recorded the material on it’s you in November 2016 at IV Lab Studios in Chicago, IL, during the same sessions that produced it’s not us. The new record presents 10 original compositions, seven of which the group has not yet performed live. it’s you is not a collection of outtakes but rather a series of songs that the band had intended to appear on a separate album.
Here the group’s Joel Cummins, Brendan Bayliss and Ryan Stasik discuss some of the tracks on it’s you. For more on how the album came about, check out the story on Relix.com.
it’s you is now available.
Brendan: I think “Triangle Tear” a strong opener. I’m a big fan of that one because it sounds fresh to me. But it’s funny, I don’t know how it’s pronounced, whether it’s tear [“tir”—rhymes with beer] or [“ter”—rhymes with bear]. Jake [Cinninger] and Joel came up with that instrumentally and I put vocals over it. The last time I asked Jake, he was like, “I don’t know, what do you think?” So when you speak with Joel, you should ask him.
Joel: It’s tear [tir]. Jake actually named it that. We wrote it at his studio, Boondock. I go there a few times a year and we have these mammoth songwriting days and sometimes they stretch into a day and a half or two. The original piece of music is like 12 minutes long and there were all these other sections that went with it. This was right after Chris Squire passed away, so it was a little bit of a tribute to Yes. And especially the second half of it—that is no longer with the song—had this really cool, sort of acoustic, vibey thing.
We wrote it in one of these sessions and I think, out of all the new songs that we wrote, it was the one that took Brendan the longest to come up with a vocal thing that he was comfortable with. It’s pretty dense, and it’s pretty harmonically complex, and there are some weird changes in there. So it ended up being this really sort of cool idiosyncratic thing. I also told Jake after he came up with the part with the big guitar hits that he’s got to do some Pete Townshend windmills.
The end section which is this kind of a really weird out progression, was something we came up with at Boondock. We had this keyboard that was malfunctioning and was making these weird kind of Super Mario sounds, like when you do the jump and get the coin. We kept some of that from the original demo because we weren’t able to figure out how to recreate those malfunctioning sounds, and we thought they were just so cool and weird.
For the last part of that puzzle, after we do the big group session together, we sort of have various breakout sessions. In my case I got together with Greg Magers, who’s one of our co-producers and engineers and I had two days to do extra keyboard parts and vocal stuff. That last vocal section is actually all me singing the vocal parts. I came up with this four-part, really angular vocal section, that kind of mimics what’s going on with the chords underneath it. I think that one, for me, is a nice thing to have. I come from a vocal background, and we don’t do a ton of really complicated harmonies, and this one is definitely the most challenging thing that we did—with a lot of minor ninths in there and notes up against each other that eventually resolve. It really does kind of emanate this eerie, dark, spooky sort of vibe throughout and that’s something that I was really excited ended up being on the album.
Brendan: That song kind of started with the chorus. On the original demo of the song, it was just those four chords and that chorus and I thought the chorus was strong enough that I’d show it to the other guys. And when we went to Jake’s studio to work it out, my version was super stripped down and basic. Jake came up with what I would call it the AC/DC intro which kind of kicked it up a notch and brought it into a rock-and-roll world. Then Ryan came up with the progression at the end, just to make it a full song. So we had a beginning, a middle and an end, although it started with the middle.
Once we had the form, we started playing it live and then it just sort of solidified quickly. So we went into the studio and I think we were able to get that in two or three takes.
Joel: When it’s not us came out, a lot of people asked us about things like “Upward” or “Attachments” that we had played before. They wanted to know “How could you not put those on there? What are you guys thinking?” [laughs]
We have a Japanese friend who really loved “Attachments.” My wife and I went over there and snowboarded and skied with her for a little while, in April of 2017, and I played her the recording of “Attachments.” I guess we still didn’t know what we were gonna do at that point because [after it’s not us was released] she said something on social media: “I heard ‘Attachments,’ where is it?’
I was like, “Oh shit!” So I think I told her, “Yeah, not everything could make the album.” So she’s been sad for like a year now and I felt really bad about it.
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