Umphrey’s McGee is one of the most versatile bands out on the scene. Their ability to shape-shift and improvise effortlessly has made them rising heroes in the jam band world. Umphrey’s is comprised of Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), Jake Cinninger (guitar, synthesizers, vocals), Joel Cummins (keyboards, vocals), Andy Farag (percussion), Kris Myers (drums, vocals), and Ryan Stasik (bass).
These days, Umphrey’s spends half the year on the road habitually flooring audiences. Their anything-goes musicianship, humor, and good-nature all make remarkable entertainment. The band shuffles between styles with precision, from straight-up pop and rock to jazz, prog-metal, and classical. If you can name it, chances are Umphrey’s can play it.
We sat with Brendan Bayliss to discuss his thoughts on his go-to amp, the VOX AC50CP2 Classic Plus combo.
VOX: So tell us about why you chose the VOX AC50CP2.
Brendan Bayliss: VOX has that tradition that goes back to John Lennon who’s like, the Bible. I was looking for a good solid ‘clean’ to start because that’s your foundation…starting from there gives you a lot more confidence and you’re going to play better if you sound better. I got that in my AC50CP2. I now find myself popping out my ear monitors and getting caught up in the moment because it sounds so round. You can get really expressive with it and the dynamics really come out…and it’s got balls. It’s got clean balls (laughing). I can’t say it enough.
V: When did you begin you whole journey of being a musician?
BB: My older brother brought a guitar back from college when I was a freshman in high school and he told me that I could get girls with it, and that never worked! It really didn’t. My older brother was a big influence and that’s when I started…I bought a Washburn for like 200 bucks and I still have it. I was playing and then all of a sudden, I realized I was in a band that was doing this for real and it kind of dawned on me that this is what I do. I never really planned on it. I don’t think you can because if you do, you’re probably going to blow it.
V: Umphrey’s kind of just popped up out of nowhere as this local Chicago band and the next thing you know, you guys are all over the place. When did it dawn on you when you were like ‘Wow, we really got this thing going for real now!’
BB: I think the first time we played Bonnaroo and there was like 20,000 people and they kept on applauding after the third song and they didn’t leave. I think that’s when it kind of hit…it was like ‘Wow, people are starting to pay attention.’ I then started to have conversations with musicians that I used to pay money to see, and then they started playing with us. That’s when it like ‘oh, ok.’
V: Who’s your favorite artist that you got to play with? Or the most jaw dropping for you?
BB: That’s tuff…probably Béla Fleck. Having him- or Victor Wooten, probably… any of the Flecktones! And then to have them ask me to sit in with them again the next day…I was like ‘oh, ok…that’s cool because they were probably being nice the first time and they didn’t have to invite me back.’ So yeah, that’s probably it…does it get better than that??
V: So what can we talk about that’s going on for you guys right now?
BB: We just released our live album (Live at the Murat) on Tuesday and it got great reviews in Rolling Stone, which we were happy about. We are in the studio working on a new album with all new stuff that we’re going to put out next summer if it’s done by then. Were just doing what we do…touring, writing, playing and hopefully touring less and playing more.
V: Do you guys write a lot on the road?
BB: We try to but we get caught up in things to do…like friends and family and distractions like the city… people waking in with amps and cameras…you try to write but for the most part, you just do what you can to get through the day and not kill everybody. And then when you go home, at least for me when I go home and I get away from everything, I have nothing to do so then there’s nothing but time to write.
“My name is Brendan Bayliss and I play guitar with Umphrey’s McGee. We’re here in New York City playing with the sexy VOX AC50CP2 and like I said before, I’ll say it again…this guy’s got balls. Big, shiny, low-end balls and I love VOX for it. I’d make out with this amp but I’m not sure you can put that out for the public!”
For more information on Brendan Bayliss and Umphrey’s McGee visit them on the web: www.umphreysmcgee.com/ or www.myspace.com/umphreysmcgee
Be sure to check out Umphrey’s McGee’s latest release, Live at the Murat!