Improv-rock group Umphrey’s McGee have always had an uncanny ability to melt down any genre of music, blend the molten styles, and hammer forge a new sound for each new song they write. While writing and recording their newest single, “Suxity,” the ingredients were—in guitarist and co-writer Jake Cinninger’s words—part Sly Stone, part Alice In Chains. “Suxity” was the first song Umphrey’s recorded during their sessions with producer Ryan Hewitt (The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Lumineers) at Nashville’s famed Blackbird Studio .
“When I first heard Jake’s demo for “Suxity,” I immediately got excited and knew it would turn into something substantial, and that it would happen quickly,” recalls guitarist and “Suxity” co-writer Brendan Bayliss. “Right away, I was getting ideas in my head for melodies and lyrics, and I always take that as a good sign after listening to something for the first time.” Cinninger was looking for a “drastic contrast between the verses and choruses,” a sound which keyboardist Joel Cummins considers “two of Umphrey’s hallmark sounds battling it out.” “A James Brown style funk verse with a 90s grunge chorus,” Cummins muses, “and Jake’s guitar solo adds a dash of Steely Dan to round it out.”
“It was the first time we’d ever tried to sit down with an idea in the morning and have a brand new song finished and recorded by the end of the day,” says Bayliss, and Hewitt had a steady hand in the success of their mission. “Working with Ryan Hewitt on ‘Suxity’ really helped shine a light on the song and bring out all of its idiosyncrasies,” says Cummins. “Ryan guided us toward the perfect arrangement where every note and space has a purpose and meaning.” At the end of the day, Umphrey’s left the studio with a fine-tuned product which Cinninger calls “one of the more exciting tracks that we have ever cut live in the studio. Just grinding, tight and heavy.” The band proved, once again, just how easy they can make it look, creating something strong out of seemingly thin air; musical blacksmithing for the 21st century.
Umphrey’s will headline two nights at New York’s famed Beacon Theatre to start off their 2020 tour. Stops at fan favorites like Penn’s Peak, The Fillmore Detroit, The Caverns in Pelham, TN, and the ExploreAshville.com Arena fill out the band’s January and February schedule before they head west for the remainder of February and March. Umphrey’s sold-out Rockjavik shows at Eldborg Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland, mark the first of their kind for the band, and fans lucky enough to get tickets couldn’t be more excited.