It’s been twenty-four years since Chicago’s own eclectic rock and roll outfit Umphrey’s McGee played their first show together. In those two dozen decades, the band has all but conquered the live music scene, put out 14 studio albums and countless live releases, and quite frankly, matured—as band members, husbands, fathers, and importantly, as musicians and songwriters. Their collective, earned maturity has never been more prevalent than on UM’s forthcoming full-length album of entirely new music, Asking For A Friend—a collection which legendary music journalist and author, David Fricke, calls “the best and most emotionally direct album Umphrey’s McGee have ever made.”
Today, the band premiered the second track on Asking For A Friend, “Small Strides.” Standing on a rock-solid foundation of drums and bass from Kris Myers and Ryan Stasik, respectively, “Small Strides” highlights how UM processes individual influences—in this case everything from kick-drum driven pop and dance music to heavier, guitar and synth riffing—and recapitulates them into a style and sound synonymous with the band while singer Brendan Bayliss’s opening line encapsulates a universal feeling of the past few years: “I’m so tired of the run around / Everybody’s all wired to burst.” Fans can hear “Small Strides” at this link, check out the previously-released single “I Don’t Know What I Want” here, and pre-order vinyl or pre-save Asking For A Friend ahead of its July 1st release.
In a first for the band, Umphrey’s McGee have teamed up with Osiris Media to produce Talking Circles, an Asking For A Friend-centric podcast. With episodes leading up to the album release and stretching through the summer, Talking Circles will tell the story of the writing and recording of this set of brand new songs. Utilizing demos, live recordings, alternate takes, mix stems, and interviews with all six band members, fans of the band will get a unique look into the creative process—including the story of how Asking For A Friend came together in the middle of a global pandemic, as well as look at the space this album occupies in the rich history of Umphrey’s McGee.
More About Asking For A Friend: Mostly recorded in three distinct sessions at three different studios during the pandemic and never played live—their first album since 2009’s Mantis of which fans haven’t gotten a sneak peek of from stage—Asking For A Friend explores a feeling that UM guitarist and vocalist Brendan Bayliss describes as “tapping into the idea that we were all isolated yet somehow still connected and experiencing the same emotions.” That isolated feeling is perfectly captured in the album’s cover art: the lonely, surrounded-by-clouds peak of Chicago’s John Hancock Center (or 875 N Michigan Ave) photographed by “Chicago’s Picture Poet” himself, Barry Butler.
Asking For A Friend began to take shape in a pre-COVID world during September 2019 when the band met up with longtime UM engineer Greg Magers and producer Ryan Hewitt (Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Lumineers, The Avett Brothers) in Nashville for a session that would ultimately produce standalone UM single “Suxity” as well as the first few tracks of this new album. Session two found the band at guitarist Jake Cinninger’s home studio in Niles, Michigan, deep in the throes of the first few months of the global pandemic. Working on new music by day and performing via live stream at night proved to be highly successful and entertaining for the band who’d just been sidelined a mere three months before. The final full-band session for Asking For A Friend took place at ECTO productions in Chicago, a.k.a. the band’s production warehouse. Relying on the record during the day/perform at night mentality once more, UM completed full-band, live tracking for the record before putting finishing touches on from their home studios. “It was a real welcome change to be able to sing the vocals in my pajamas,” says Bayliss.
Pulling the ripcord and taking an enforced break after twenty years of touring resulted in not only a complex emotional reaction from members of Umphrey’s McGee. “Those first three months felt like an eternity,” keyboardist Joel Cummins says. But “there was a huge excitement and motivation when we got back together again. More than ever, we realized how much we needed each other and this music. But their reunion also refined a newfound approach to letting their new music flow freely; not over-thinking it. “This album reflects how our songwriting has really come a long way since the days of putting ‘legos’ together, a term given to explain our past process of assembling the greater sum of the parts in eclectic fashion,” says drummer Kris Myers. “Instead, we were able to naturally connect with these songs with our hearts, and a little less from our heads through simple, serene songs.” The end result is an astoundingly cohesive fourteen song album that feels like a fresh statement from a group of world-class musicians and friends reapproaching their craft with a new lens, but long time fans will be happy to know that the Umphrey’s McGee they know and love is still very much present on Asking For A Friend, just more refined. More focused.
Catch Umphrey’s McGee On Tour:
March 18 – Aspen, CO – Belly Up Aspen
March 19 – Aspen, CO – Belly Up Aspen
March 20 – Aspen, CO – Belly Up Aspen
March 25 – Reykjavik, Iceland – Rockjavik
March 26 – Reykjavik, IS- Rockjavik
March 27 – Reykjavik, IS- Rockjavik
April 29 – Atlanta, GA – SweetWater 420 Festival After – Variety Playhouse
April 30 – Atlanta, GA – SweetWater 420 Festival
May 27-May 29 – Chillicothe, IL – Summer Camp Music Festival
June 16 – Dillon, CO – Dillon Amphitheater
June 17 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre
June 18 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre
June 19 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre
July 8-July 10 – Marshfield, MA – Levitate Music & Arts Festival
July 21-24 – North Plains, OR – Northwest String Summit