BT: Joel, thanks for your time today. We're looking forward to having Umphrey's McGee back in Birmingham.
JC: We can't wait to come back. Workplay is such a great example of a venue where you have people who love music running the place. Every time we come back, it feels great to be working with such nice people.
BT: The new album, Mantis, is an ambitious project for the band. If you will, talk about the disc and the evolution of its material.
JC: A couple of the pieces were very constructed songs. Kris [Myers] and I had gotten together and worked out a couple of forms - they were for "Mantis" and "Cemetery Walk." "Made To Measure" was a combined effort where Jake had most of the music and Brendan [Bayliss] put the lyrics on top of it. On "1348," Brendan had some good sections and we refined it. We took all of these things - some more completed than others - and we tried to piece things together that could be songs or part of a cohesive album. We're born and bred die-hard '70s fans - we love Genesis, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and all of these bands that were putting out great albums. Not only was it about putting out a good song, it was about putting out a group of songs that worked together. It's great to see other bands doing that, too - I feel like the latest Radiohead album is a shining example of that. There's nothing wrong with putting out good singles, but this was our way of battling against our own ADD (laughs).
BT: Your band has really embraced technology as exemplified by the bonus online content available to those who purchase Mantis. If you will, talk about the band's use of technology.
JC: I think that you have no choice but to look at it as an opportunity. If you don't look at it as an opportunity, you're going to lose out from the get-go. What we've been doing recently is looking for every opportunity to try to reach out to our most hardcore fan base with technology. There are interactive things that can happen now where you can really engage and find out what they want and how we can deliver that to them. I can see how it can be challenging to get that traction right away, but we're very fortunate that we have fans out there and we can ask them what it is they want.
BT: At this point, you've literally played some of the songs in the Umphrey's catalog thousands of times. How do those songs remain fresh for you to this day?
JC: If I ever hit a point where something isn't as fresh as I want it to be, I think about something I heard Michael Jordan say once. He said, "I'm going to play thousands of games, but there may be somebody out there that only sees me play once." So it's unfair for me to make it like it's not my first time as well.
Tickets to the 9 p.m. all-ages shows are $25 and can be purchased at www.workplay.com or by calling 380-4082.
photo credit: Mark Blanchette