Once More With Umph: Brendan Bayliss Reader Interview (Five Years On)
“What stage are you on with the new studio album and when will it be released?” Kevin A
BB- What we’re doing is we’ve recorded everything live with two different rooms. So we have like three different drum sounds for every song. And we’re picking each song drum tracks first and we just finished about three of them. We have eleven, I think, so we’re not close. We’re trying to take our time with it. 90% of it is going to be stuff we’ve never played live before and maybe one or two songs people have heard before. One of the new songs is 14 minutes long and it’s thru-composed and there’s no jams in it or anything, so we need to get it right. The goal is to be done and have it out by next summer. I’m really excited about it. It’s really hard to sit on this stuff because it’s some of the best stuff we’ve ever done.
“Will we recognize any of the material on the next studio album from prior Jimmy Stewarts’?” Brian C
BB- Let me think-there may be 2 songs that have a section or two but a lot of it is straight new stuff.
“Have the band’s intentions changed over time regarding the Jimmy Stewart’ segments and what do you get out of those on a given night?” Steve D
BB- Going into it always the idea of composing on the spot and not do a dance party jam or some rock climax, just create something that we could use as a song. So every night we still go into it, some group improv where we’re playing as a team and not backing a soloist. And we’re trying to get one or two moments a night where maybe we’ll produce four chords and a progression that we can actually use as a base for a song. So the goal I guess is that maybe one night you’ll come see us write a song or what will become a song two years later. Every night you might actually see us write something. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Will you go back and listen to all of those or only when something strikes you?
BB- I think we always know when we walk off the stage if something is good.
“Umphrey’s following has grown quite significantly over the past few years, yet most new fans never have had the opportunity to hear the band’s out-of-print early releases. Since these releases reflect an important part of the band’s early years, even though they may not represent the band’s current sound or lineup, have you given thought to making these recordings available in some form?” Brian V
BB- Yeah, some time. We squashed them for a while because they’re so bad. They’re absolutely terrible and we did our best to not circulate them because if somebody came to me and gave me our first CD and said, “Here’s this band, check them out,” I’d be like, “Thanks but no thanks.” So I guess in time when we have more security, we’ll probably just give them away.
You still play a number of those songs, though.
BB- Yeah but for me it’s just more embarrassing than anything (laughs).
“Brendan, how often do you and other band members visit The Bort (UM Message board)?” B Lamlin
BB- About a year ago we realized that it was influencing us. If there were people complaining about a song some of us wouldn’t want to play it. I think that’s pretty lame. If 50 people like it and one person gets on a message board and says he doesn’t like it, that shouldn’t be a reason not to play it. So it’s been a while and we make a point of not allowing ourselves to look at it because it can be a bad place.
When we interviewed Marc Brownstein earlier in the year, he said the Biscuits were doing the same thing.
BB- I thing we were all talking about how it’s great to have a community but ultimately the musicians need to be making their own decisions. It was just too personal. People would take it personally and it put people in bad moods so we decided to blacklist it.
“What is the worst thing a fan can do during a live show?” Salem K
BB- Throw something at somebody in the band. Because you’re up there vulnerable as it is and then have shit thrown at you
So I assume that applies to light sticks?
BB- I see so many people in the very front row get hit the back of the head and then they turn around and get hit in the face. I’ve seen a kid have to leave once because he got hit in the eye. I guess it’s cool if you’re on drugs and it might look awesome for like two minutes but it can break gear. Jeff Austin has a really nice mandolin and if someone throws a glow stick and cracks some wood who’s going to buy him a new mandolin?
“It has been said that the band is its own biggest critic. To you, what are the characteristics of a bad’ set of music from Umphrey’s McGee?” David O
BB- A bad set is usually characterized by lack of enthusiasm, we’re tired or not paying attention, no one’s making eye contact. Sometimes it can be hard to get pumped up after you’ve played seven nights in a row and sometimes you’ve got to get going and be professional about it and then eventually a good musical idea will come and you can grab it and that will re-energize everything. I guess that’s a natural thing that happens to a lot of bands. I think that’s where a bad set comes from, it’s not what the songs are, it’s just how they’re played.
“Brendan you always somewhat jokingly said you want to be successful enough playing music to have health insurance, I have also heard it said you want to just get better and better gear. The for mentioned things have and are happening I am sure. So, what do you have your sights set on now, in terms of UM musical milestones, personal musical aspirations, or more specifically, venues, collaborations, etc.?” Kate M
BB- Wow. I guess the first goal with success would be to sustain this and not to have to get a real job and have this to be our job for a long as we want it to be. That’s our main goal and then secondary to that would be still creating and writing good music. I don’t know if we have yet, we’re getting around to it.
Have you noticed a gradual progression? Does it come in waves?
BB- No, we’ve been on a slow 2% incline from the beginning. It’ll be ten years in two months and when I look back on it, there may have been a few jumps but if there was a jump, there were two steps back the next day. So it’s been slow and steady.
You mentioned day jobs, “At what point did you know this was your career?” Ryan S
BB- I don’t know, that’s a good question. When we moved to Chicago and we were doing it full time. Right when Mike Mirro graduated from Notre Dame, we all said, “Screw it, let’s try it.” And we might have gone a year at that point where none of us were doing other jobs. I didn’t know if I could call it a career but it was what I was doing. So I’d say about 2001, right when we made the move.
Do you get a thrill when filling a forms that ask for your job and you write musician?
BB- You know just recently I was trying to get an apartment and two places turned me down because I was a musician. I have a self-conscious thing about it, I guess I don’t have it as much anymore. A few years ago someone would ask, “What do you do?” It’s like, “Oh I play in a band but it’s the stupidest band name ever.” So you try to explain and people are like, “What the hell is that?” And then, “Oh you’re a jambandokay, come on.”
But I guess just recently I’ve come to realize we have 15 employees and everybody’s on health insurance and everything.