It was 7 or 8 degrees around noon Monday in Chicago, but "who's counting?" asked Brendan Bayliss, one of the guitarists for prog rock band Umphrey's McGee. "It's cold."
The band's members — who met and formed Umphrey's McGee in 1997 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. — are now based around the country. Keyboard player Joel Cummins, for one, makes his home in Venice, Calif. The others — guitarists Bayliss and Jake Cinninger, bassist Ryan Stasik, drummer Kris Myers and percussionist Andy Farag are spread between Chicago, Indiana and North Carolina.
Bayliss is tight-lipped about the group's new album to be released in early June, tentatively.
Who: Umphrey's McGee
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 12
Where: Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St.
Tickets: $20 in advance; $25 at the door
"It's got five new songs and some road-tested favorites," he says. "Along with a new arrangement of an older song."
The album is yet to be titled, and Bayliss won't give away the name of the newly arranged song.
"It's the best, most coherent, album that we've recorded," he says. "It's half new stuff and half stuff we've played live for the past couple of years. 'Death By Stereo' was a hodgepodge of music, but we had a collective vision for the new one. We wanted it to me more of a straightforward rock album."
"Death By Stereo" (2011) showed the band simultaneously headed in two directions: One was a heavier progressive rock sound while the other was funky dance music.
Umphrey's McGee will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St.
"We're looking forward to getting out West," Bayliss says. "We only do it once a year, so we gotta make it count."
Shows are set for Missoula, Mont., Seattle, Las Vegas, and the warm, California climes of Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Oakland. One show is set for Saturday, March 8, at The Crystal Ballroom in Portland.
The band shows no signs of slowing down, Bayliss says.
"Once the album is out, then we're on to the next thing. I like to think what we play sounds unique. As a songwriter, it's always on your mind. Many times I find myself into something that I realize sounds just like some group I've been listening to for a couple of weeks, and I have to scrap the idea.
"Western music is made up of 12 tones, and, mathematically, there are only so many combinations before you start repeating ideas. I think it was a lot easier to write songs in the '60s or '70s because there weren't so many examples of what those tones could sound like.
" 'Werewolves of London' had an original sound, then similar chord progressions showed up in 'Sweet Home Alabama' and 'Feel Like Makin' Love.' Even though they're catchy, they can be shrugged off as unoriginal."
Tickets for the Ashland show cost $20 in advance and are available at Music Coop in Ashland, Bad Ass Coffee in Medford, Listen Here in Grants Pass, online at www.ticketswest.com or www.bendticket.strangertickets.com or by calling 800-992-8499.