Umphrey’s McGee Tap the ’90s, Funk Things Up on New Single “Suxity”

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It’s like a James Brown-style funk groove paired with a ’90s grunge chorus, says Umphrey’s McGee’s keyboardist Joel Cummins about the band’s latest single “Suxity.” Basically, it’s for people who want to dance and head bang at the same time.

That’s Umphrey’s McGee concoction in a nutshell—a mash up of everything grunge, soul, funk, country, rock, and anything they can jam in between. Recorded at Nashville’s Blackbird Studio and produced by Ryan Hewitt (The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Lumineers) and Greg Magers, who has worked with the band on their past four albums since 2014’s Similar Skin, “Suxity” is the second of multiple singles the band will release this year—first single “Ride on Pony,” tapped into more down home, rambling country.

Written by singer Brendan Bayliss and guitarist Jake Cinninger, “Suxity” has a swifter tempo with a big half-time that gives a “swampy swing feel” to it, Cinninger tells American Songwriter. “Suxity is a lesson in simple syncopated, room-to-breathe, funk-grunge,” he says. “I was looking for a drastic contrast between the verses and the choruses, like Sly Stone dating Alice In Chains. It was one of the more exciting tracks that we have ever cut live in the studio, just grinding, tight and heavy.” 

Working for the first time with Hewitt on “Suxity” helped the band pull out all of the track’s idiosyncrasies, says Cummins. “Ryan guided us toward the perfect arrangement where every note and space has a purpose and meaning,” he says. “Brendan [Bayliss’] bouncy verse melody will stick with you for days, while the chorus just seems to keep building and brooding over time. Jake’s guitar solo adds a dash of Steely Dan to the mix to round out this infectious tune.”

Bayliss says that when he first heard Cinninger’s demo for “Suxity,” he got excited and knew it would come together quickly. He started going through old voice memos for a chorus melodies and stumbled across a 10-second one he had labeled “I’m a wreck.” This ended up filling in the “Suxity” chorus, I Admit, I’m a wreck, and I’m trying to forget.

“Right away, I was getting ideas in my head for melodies and lyrics, and I always take that as a good sign after listening to something for the first time,” says Bayliss. “The verse melody was an old idea that somehow seemed to fit over this new structure, so the lyrics had to settle into that groove or they wouldn’t make the cut.”

In the end, the band literally pulled the track together in one day. “It was the first time we’d ever tried to sit down with an idea in the morning and have a brand new song finished and recorded by the end of the day,” says Bayliss. “Jake had a great demo for this song that we all were really excited about, so we just dove in and it came out great.”

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