Joel Cummins Of Umphrey’s McGee & Brian Moss Of Spafford Interview Each Other Ahead Of Tour

first_imgUmphrey’s McGee and Spafford will be touring together for a few months starting on January 20, 2017 with two nights at The National in Richmond, VA, then through the Midwest, and again on the West Coast. Tickets for those shows can be purchased on Umphrey’s website. When Spafford isn’t on the road with Umphrey’s McGee, they will be doing their own winter/spring headlining tour dates that are on sale and can be purchased on their website as well.We touched base with Joel Cummins (keyboardist) of Umphrey’s McGee and Brian Moss (guitarist) of Spafford, who got to know each other with this interview conversation ahead of the upcoming tour. Read the fun conversation below!Brian Interviews JoelBrian: If you could play any other instrument in UM, which would be the most fun to play?Joel: I think the most fun instrument for me to play in UM outside of keys would be bass. There are a few reasons for this, #1 being that bass is definitely the easiest instrument to play in the band. I mean, how hard can one note at a time be? The other reason why that would be a nice lateral move for me is that I already know the chords to the UM songs (mostly) and I could add some harmonic flair to UM songs that have been the same forever. I can’t be the only one bored with our bass lines. So all of this would actually be great for the band. There are drawbacks though, I would have to stand for the entire show which could get to be a drag. It’s nice to be able to sit during the show but also to be able to stand when I want to. It’s still America, and I am free to sit or stand for the music of Umphrey’s McGee.My 2nd choice of a new instrument in UM would be percussion because then I wouldn’t have to worry about being the timekeeper, memorizing any lyrics or memorizing any notes I have to play. I could pretty much just do whatever I wanted back there the whole time. So that sounds pretty fun to me. That’s what Andy does for us, right? He’s behind me so I can’t see him.The other instruments sound like way too much work in UM. Not my bag.Brian: What show(s) are you most excited about on the up coming tour?Joel: As of today, we just announced that Umphrey’s will play a set of improvisation in Portland with Joshua Redman. So that show now rises to the top as far as anticipation for me. There’s also some pretty awesome food in town, which also gets me excited about Portland. The other weekend on the upcoming run that has me most excited is all of Michigan. Those shows are selling very well and will likely be some of the most energetic crowds we play for. Michigan rules. I’m also pretty pumped about Asheville. 3 nights in one of my favorite cities in the country at an arena. I think Spafford is doing late nights there? On the west coast, I’m pretty excited about finishing the tour with LA & San Diego- a hometown show at a great theater in the Wiltern + a new room we’ve never played before in a great area of San Diego, the North Park Observatory.Brian: Can we jam with you?Joel: This is up to you guys. We’re a 3 strikes and you’re out policy type band with our support, so if you haven’t used your 3 strikes by the 3rd weekend in the tour….. we’ll see, Brian. These strikes can be things like going over your set time, not being on time for load in, not being kind & gracious to our crew, us catching your friends trying to take beer from us backstage, one of your band members eating the crew’s post show food, etc…. these things have all actually happened. And with Dan Rucinski & Kunj in the mix we already know there are some serious character issues over in your camp. Keep it clean, guys.Brian: Will you jam with us?Joel: I’d love to. I’m very good at laying out for minutes at a time, which really opens things up. Also I’m a pretty good listener off stage.Brian: If you had an alter ego, what would be your name? Or do you have one and wish people would start calling you by that name already?Yes I do have a name that people call me already but I occasionally use that name for under-the-radar dinner reservations, hotel bookings and so forth. I will have to tell you that one in person. However, a different alter ego I created that I can share with you is the commissioner of the UM fantasy football league. He writes incendiary posts destroying all members’ of the league’s moves weekly. He’s also a very loathsome music critic. His name is Gunther Slamzinsky. That’s an alter ego I’m willing to share with the public, but I am really the opposite of that person in real life. So it’s more of a bizarro alter ego, or is that a double negative?Brian: Did you aspire to be in a successfully touring rock band as a kid?Joel: I aspired to be a successful major league baseball player for the Chicago Cubs as a kid. For many years, that seemed like a realistic goal considering how bad the teamsusually were. Not anymore. Happy to be a fan of the Cubs now. In fact, I’ve seen the 1st pitch and the last pitch of the year for the past 2 years in person. Winning the worlds series was pretty awesome. But if I wasn’t a musician, I’d also like to chase tornados for a living. I hear that’s fairly lucrative.Brian: Is Brendan’s amps really loud on your side of the stage?Joel: Brendan’s amps are actually not very loud, Jake owns the volume conversation. Jake is also a master at most things guitar, including how to achieve incredible clean & dirty tones. Yeah, his shit sounds good. Brendan’s tone is usually a nice, muddled tone dump that’s very difficult to make out for most of the night. We all really appreciate that about him when we’re trying to improvise and figure out what the hell he’s doing. I am the quietest band member of Umphrey’s McGee because I am so polite and aware of others’ sonic needs, really one of the politest musicians you’ll find.Joel Interviews BrianJoel: What’s the most important thing to keep improvisational music fresh within a band?Brian: To keep improv fresh in a band (or at least for us) is to keep studying, learning about each other on and off the stage, and to keep exploring different tonalities each instrument can provide. Open mind and open ears will allow for anything to happen. That’s the main reason why we haven’t got bored yet.Joel: Does Spafford use any visual cues to help guide improvisation as it develops?Brian: Spafford has no visual cues for the improv, only for cuing to the head or chorus of the next song. The meat and potatoes is all high risk, high reward. Sometimes it hits and sometimes it doesn’t, but in the end our lowest lows are not embarrassing and our highest highs are fantastic.Joel: What do you do when you hit a point in improvisation where all ideas have seemingly been exhausted? Or does this never happen?Biran: Sure, we definitely reach a point where we have nothing left. We call it “rage mode” and have been attempting to tame that beast for years. The hardest thing is sometimes that’s our fans’ favorite part, and mine :). But Spafford is all about being a team player and we feed off of each others energy very sensitively. If someone is not feeling it and you are, you’ll get a look and have to bail. It’s all good, so I think, “ok, wait till tomorrow night.”Joel: There aren’t many bands in the scene from Arizona. How does being from Prescott, AZ help define you as artists?Brian: There are actually a lot of bands from Arizona that are amazing. The truth is not a lot of touring bands ever visited Az over the years. So what started as music to fill a void became much more than that. We soon left to tour outside of Az and realized that we had people following us to other states. I guess that was the beginning for us. Also, Arizona is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived. It may take some time to appreciate its beauty, but lyrically and musically we have encompassed Arizona in the heart of every song we write. It’s like listening to The String Cheese Incident in Colorado, UM in Chicago or Phish in Vermont, it just makes sense.Joel: What’s been the most surprisingly positive gig Spafford has played?Brian: The most surprising show that I have encountered was a show in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Country Saloon. There was not a lot of people there and I don’t remember us playing anything life-changing, but thanks to the Las Vegas Jam Band Society we were put in front of the new talent buyer for Vinyl inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. I received an email a couple weeks later while we were recording our very first studio album and we got booked for Furthur after shows at this amazing venue. That turned into a three year stint of aftershows for Furthur and WSP which I think really helped get the band in front of a lot of people that were from all across the country. Those shows were some of the bands favorites and we still talk about them every bus ride. So yeah, a pretty shitty gig early on in our career (no offense Greg we love you) turned out to be the best show of our early career.Joel: Have there been any memorable train wrecks on stage for you guys?Brian: We’ve tripped circuits in a lot of places, set off a ton of fire alarms, missed notes, sang wrong lyrics, started songs in the wrong key, forgot to solo, had cables die, spilled beers on pedalboards, microphones smashed in mouth, blood all over the bass, said thank you to the wrong venue …but nah, none of these are train wrecks. It’s all part of the adventure.Joel: Any particular show with Umphrey’s McGee you’re most looking forward to?Brian: I’m looking forward to each and every show with UM. I can’t wait to see how the big boys do it. I’ll be taking notes.Joel: What’s the best concert or live show you’ve seen in the past year?Brian: Favorite show I’ve seen in the last year was Phish at Chula Vista. I was with my wife, my best friend and the band. Phish played great and I actually went in the pit for the first time in a while. I usually like to hang back and watch the fans, not the band.Joel: Name three bands or musicians that people probably haven’t heard of, but should know.Brian: I think everyone should know about Jeff Buckley, Josh Rouse and Don Cheek and the CheekTones. Buckley’s catalog expands well past Hallelujah, thanks Shrek, and should be consumed by everyone. He was ahead of his time both vocally and in songwriting. His story is complex and sad with all of “Grace” to thank now. Listen to it. Josh Rouse has been a huge part of my life since I went to college the second time. His song “It’s Good to Have You” was my wedding song and the entire “1972” album is one of the greatest albums front to back. Don Cheek is my Bob Dylan. His writing capability and balls on stage has revered him as the man who stole Prescott, Az from other musicians in town. That’s why I moved to Phoenix. Haha. But seriously, watch Spafford cover more from him in the future.Joel: Have you been to Havasu Falls & if so, should I go there?Brian: If you’re talking Havasupai Falls, no I have never been there. Actually I lived in Phoenix since 2004 and only visited the Grand Canyon once…in 2016…I know, shame on me. I’ve been busy playing in a band and being broken down on the side of the road. But let’s say this, if you wanna meet there let’s make a trip out of it. It’s been on my bucket list forever.Don’t miss Umphrey’s McGee and Spafford on tour together! You can see Spafford’s full tour schedule below, including all dates with both bands.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *