Umphrey's McGee has always been a band that prides itself on giving fans what they want, whether it be through their relentless dedication to their live show or through innovative opportunities to interact with the group. That was on display a few months ago, when fan Nick Morales played "Bill Graham for a Day” and organized a private show for 200 diehard Umphrey's fans in Chicago.
"[Morales] was able to shepherd together 200 people who paid $250 each to have a private show with an open bar," said keyboardist Joel Cummins in the band's trailer at last weekend's Catalpa Festival in New York City. "We did it at Martyr's, a little 300-person club that we hadn't played at since 2001. It was us and the fans putting something together, and I think they were happy."
The intimate get-together was part of the roll-out from the band's latest album, Death By Stereo, which dropped in September of last year, for which the sextet created a Kickstarter-type pre-sale promotion through their website. Fans were able to pre-order the album – with each sale building to unlock one of five levels of special incentives for a live webcast the band played for their fans – or purchase a deeper package, which involved a wide range of benefits, from naming a song to playing a round of golf with the band to having a classy dinner and getting to keep the band's tour van at the evening's conclusion.
That album, the band's seventh studio effort, includes both new songs and studio versions of older live tracks from across their 10-plus-year career, a trend which Cummins said the band hopes to continue when they convene in October to discuss their next project.
"When you're recording an album, you're trying to find songs that will work together as a group, and then find some things you haven't recorded yet," said Cummins. "We probably have 15-20 tunes that we haven't put on an album yet, because we're always trying to continue to expand and grow. I think that's the big thing – to not get stuck doing one thing for too long, to try and explore these different avenues of what our collective voice might be."
While Catalpa was a one-off show for the group, they'll be hitting the road this fall, with just-announced dates around the country beginning in September and stretching into the beginning of November. Though a new album is "still 18-24 months away," Cummins hinted what the band has been writing lately.
"We've got about 10-12 really strong songs, both newer and older, that we're checking out," he said. "It's that progressive, but a little bit funkier, dancier stuff. We're still in that vein of original material."