Notoriously known throughout the jam band circuit, Umphrey’s McGee produces a sound that has developed a cult-like following among its fans. Mixing the genres of jam and rock, the band has successfully accomplished numerous goals, some of which include headlining Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza music festival. Yet, the band continues to look toward the future, performing each night to give its fans the ultimate funky progressive rock show comprised of improvisation and endless dancing.

Comprised of Brendan Bayliss (guitar/vocals), Jake Cinninger (guitar/synthesizer), Joel Cummins (keyboard), Kris Myers (drums), Ryan Stasik (bass) and Andy Farag (percussion), the group formed as a college band in 1998 at the University of Notre Dame where a core of the group was studying. In an interview with Farag, he said he became introduced to the band from one of the founding members.

“I ended up in the band because I went to high school with the original drummer, [Mike Mirro],” Farag said. “He would let me sit in once in awhile, and sooner or later I eventually ended up moving to South Bend, [Ind.], and joining the band.”

Shortly after the move to South Bend, Farag and the rest of the band relocated to Chicago to further their career. Now as a major force in the music scene, Umphrey’s McGee recently released their 11th album, Mantis.

Meaning “prophet” in Greek, Mantis is an unusual product compared to other albums the band has produced.

“The biggest difference is we have never played the songs live before the album was released,” Farag said. “That is something we have never done before. We had to sit on these songs for two years before the album even came out.”

Not only did Umphrey’s McGee “sit” on the songs while fans anxiously waited but to hype up the sales of the album, the band also offered a pre-order incentive to anticipating fans. By purchasing the album before its release date, fans were able to gain admission to downloadable bonus material.

“There is bonus material of 54 tracks,” Farag said. “The CD acts like a key that will lead you to a website. We are going to continue releasing more bonus stuff throughout the year. So the more people buy the album, the more bonus material people will get.”

Gearing up for their winter tour, Umphrey’s McGee will kick-off with a four-night run at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison this weekend.

“It is more of like an event,” Farag said. “We could go to the Orpheum and do one show, whatever, then we are out. But by playing at the Barrymore, we kind of build it up as an event. We’ve been to the Barrymore a lot of times over the years, and it’s just a great place to play, so why not?”

While already accepting gigs for upcoming summer music festivals, Farag said he and the band are continuing to look forward, always trying to improve themselves.

“We are just trying to play good music, write good music and give people their money’s worth when they come to a show. We are just trying to make things happen and maintain good work ethic.”

When asked why people should come see Umphrey’s McGee, Farag simply said, “Because it’s a great rock show.”

Umphrey’s McGee will be playing at the Barrymore Theater from February 12 to the 15th. Tickets are $23 in advance and $25 at the door.

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