Umphrey's McGee 'Want What They Cannot Have' on New Single 'The Silent Type': Exclusive First Listen

Umphrey's McGee
Shervin Lainez

Umphrey's McGee 

On Jan. 21, 2018, Umphrey’s McGee will play their third consecutive night at New York City’s Beacon Theatre, marking 20 years to the date since they played their first show -- but don’t expect frontman Brendan Bayliss to wax poetic about the sextet’s two-decade tenure.

“It’s 20 years since our first-ever gig as a band with a bad name,” the singer and guitarist deadpans on the other end of the phone. Bayliss founded Umphrey’s at the University of Notre Dame with bassist Ryan Stasik, keyboardist Joel Cummins and drummer Mike Mirro, and they made their live debut at Bridget McGuire’s Filling Station in South Bend, the go-to watering hole for college students at the time. “The bar itself actually got bulldozed and leveled because it had a reputation for allowing underage drinking or minors with questionable IDs in,” Bayliss recalls. “So that’s why we were able to get at least 12 people to go to the show from the dorms.”

Umphrey’s McGee have no time for sentimentality because they’re busy preparing the release of their 11th studio album, it’s not us, whose first single, “The Silent Type,” premieres Wednesday (Nov. 1) on Billboard. The band has built a reputation for blinding virtuosity and live improvisational jams, but on “The Silent Type,” hooks take top priority. Atmospheric synthesizer flourishes and vintage guitar riffs swirl over a dance-rock beat as Bayliss wails in the song’s anthemic chorus, “Everybody wants what they cannot have!”

The rest of it’s not us, which comes out Jan. 12, follows a similar pattern, placing a greater emphasis on economic songwriting -- the band’s biggest hurdle yet. “When we started, we were just trying to fill time, and now we don’t feel the need to make everything so long. We just want to make it right,” Bayliss says. “I feel like we’ve really honed in on the songwriting. We take a lot of pride in it. It takes a lot of time. For every song that people hear, there’s two or three that get thrown away. So we’ve really focused on being more concise and trimming the fat.”

Umphrey’s McGee first developed their chops by recording all of their live performances, extracting catchy chord progressions or lyrical snippets from their improvisations and fleshing them out into complete songs. Bayliss, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, admits he’s far more comfortable onstage than in the studio.

“Live is all about the moment and trying to make the room go off,” he says. “If 1,000 people are fist pumping and don’t want the moment to stop, it’s your job to read it and ride it and keep it going, whereas the studio, it’s a completely different beast, and you’re not living in the moment. You’re actually doing the exact opposite. You’re etching something in stone. So if you are not happy with it, it’s printed, it’s done and it’s out there forever, and you can’t get it back. So I personally have a harder time in the studio, because I always think I can do something better.”

Despite Bayliss’s reservations, it’s not us masterfully incorporates a slew of different genres over 11 tracks, from blues-rock to prog-metal to acoustic balladry. It’s a testament to the band’s willingness to experiment and their desire to write the best songs possible, drawing on their individual influences rather than trying to fit a specific mold. “I listen to the Indigo Girls, and my bass player definitely does not listen to the Indigo Girls,” Bayliss jokes. “But our band works because we all respect each other, and we all see merit in everything.”

Umphrey’s McGee are eager to play new songs on their upcoming tour, focusing on their future rather than simply celebrating their past. “The thing about having a bunch of new songs is it makes the old ones better, because you don’t have to play them as much,” Bayliss says. “You get excited about playing a song that you’ve done 100 times because you haven’t played it in a couple weeks. So it makes that fresh.”

In fact, don’t expect the frontman to wax nostalgic about Umphrey’s McGee’s legacy for a long time. “We can maybe do a greatest hits anniversary tour at the 40th reunion,” he says. “I’m proud of where we are after 20 years, to be so focused on moving forward and not patting ourselves on the back for what we’ve done. I’m more excited about what we haven’t done yet.”

Check out "The Silent Type," the it's not us track list and Umphrey's McGee's tour dates below:

it's not us track list: 

1. "The Silent Type"

2. "Looks"

3. "Whistle Kids"

4. "Half Delayed"

5. "Maybe Someday"

6. "Remind Me"

7. "You & You Alone"

8. "Forks"

9. "Speak Up"

10. "Piranhas"

11. "Dark Brush"

Umphrey's McGee Tour Dates:

11/02 - Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues

11/03 - Madison, WI @ Orpheum Theater

11/04 - Madison, WI @ Orpheum Theater

11/09 - Hermosa, CA @ Saint Rocke (Non-UM: Stickum feat. Kris)

11/11 - San Diego, CA @ Winstons Beach Club (Non-UM: Stickum feat. Kris)

11/12 - Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge (Non-UM: Kweko feat. Kris)

12/01 - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic @ Dominican Holidaze

12/02 - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic @ Dominican Holidaze

12/03 - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic @ Dominican Holidaze

12/04 - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic @ Dominican Holidaze

12/05 - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic @ Dominican Holidaze

12/15 - Chicago, IL @ Park West (Non-UM: 15th Annual Brendan & Jake Holiday Show)

12/29 - Denver, CO @ Fillmore Auditorium 

12/30 - Denver, CO @ Fillmore Auditorium 

12/31 - Denver, CO @ Fillmore Auditorium 

01/11 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE

01/12 - Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre

01/13 - Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre

01/19 - New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre

01/20 - New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre

01/21 - New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre

01/25 - New Haven, CT @ College Street Music Hall

01/26 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore

01/27 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore

01/28 - Jim Thorpe, PA @ Penn's Peak

02/01 - Columbus, OH @ Express Live!

02/02 - Kalamazoo, MI @ Wings Event Center

02/03 - Kalamazoo, MI @ Wings Event Center

02/15 - Washington, DC @ The Anthem

02/16 - Asheville, NC @ Arena

02/17 - Asheville, NC @ Arena

02/18 - Tampa, FL @ WhigFest