Umphrey's McGee's Joel Cummins on the act's ADD tendencies and elaborate hand signals/cues
For over a decade, Umphrey's McGee has been melting faces with insane covers, complex compositions and wild fan-interactive show. Ideas like the Stew-Art Series, the recently added "sUMmer School," in which band members teach classes on songwriting, instrument improvisation and lighting techniques, and the UMBowl, are just a few of the ways the act keeps engaging and exciting for everyone. We recently caught up with keyboardist Joel Cummins for a chat about all that.
Westword:One of my last run-ins with Umphrey's Mcgee was the Stew-Art Series last year in Denver. How did that idea come about?
Joel Cummins:Its something we came up with as a band for something that would be able to involve the fans. One thing that we've realized over the years with the fans, the really devoted ones, is that they really like to voice their opinion of our music. Why not give them the chance to see if they can help us create something new.
So basically everyone texts in an idea, a theme, or anything really, and then you just take that and run with it?
There really is no limit to what can be up there. The thing about it is that, for us, if they
want us to keep a certain song, but then we get some abstract ideas, there really is no
wrong answer, and we can run with anything.
Do you have any favorite moments from the Stew-Art series? Last year I got to hear your "Daft Umph," which really stuck out for me, being a dance music guy and all.
Now that you bring that up, that one really shines for me. Being the keyboard player
in the band, I'm a big Daft Punk fan, so whenever we get to throw out riffs like that,
it's really fun to do on my Moog. Also, last year we got a theme of "soaring" or
maybe "uplifting," and we really took our time with it. It was maybe an eight or ten
minute segment that really went in the direction we wanted it to go. That was really
rewarding, because it was really developed.
What do you mean by "It went exactly where we wanted it to go"? It just flowed perfectly, or the band just really came together?
Both of those things! I think that's the essence of trying to create something successful
for our S2 concept. Musically, it needs to push us, and at the same time, it connects with
the fans. When those two things combine, you can really feel the energy in the room, and that's exactly what we want. We've been accused of being somewhat of an ADD band, because occasionally, we go off on tangents. With this, we took our time and really let the music develop.
Continue on for more of our interview with Joel Cummins