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Kevin Browning on Nothing Too Fancy Music, Similar Skin and The Internet

by Rob Slater on May 01, 2014

And it’s got to be nice to not just have band members who are internet friendly but also a fan base who is very accustomed to getting all of the Umphrey’s music

Well our fans are definitely tech savvy and technology has allowed us to do so many great things on so many levels, whether it’s music distribution or just connecting with the fans and engaging with the fans, that people know if they want to engage with Umphrey’s McGee, there are dozens of ways to do it and the web is the place to do it. We also do meet and greets, vip events and what not but if you tweeted to Joel right now there’s a 75 percent chance that he’d respond to you today if you asked him anything. So it’s all part of it, all of these pieces sort of fit together to have us where we are—you know our fan base is right in line with the way that we sort of like to operate. We’re not a legacy act here. [Laughter]. We came of age in the Internet age.

I feel like it’s going to be business as usually really as far as the band and releasing content and all of that is concerned, right?

It won’t outwardly feel like there is some seismic shift going on. Honestly, all this does is give us a better means to put quality content in the fans hands. We’re about to announce the preorder sooner than later and part of it is going to be a bunch of sort of behind the scenes and exclusive content that you’re only going to be able to get if you preorder the record through us and we’ve cut everybody else out of it. We design our own site that’s password protected so you know you preorder the record, you’re going to get access to it, you’re going to get all kinds of cool shit that we can do because we can do without having to…we’re making our own rules.

So let’s talk about Similar Skin. I listened to it the other day and it’s really heavy. I imagine that was fun to mix on your end.

That’s funny because I didn’t mix it actually. So after Death by Stereo and when I got off the road full time from doing front of house as part of my shift to management to with Vince, I’ve sort of I’ve backed myself out of the day to day of the minutia of the recording and mixing. My partner, Manny Sanchez, who I’ve done all the other records with still did it and we brought another guy on board by the name of Greg Majors and the two of them really spearheaded the engineering and mixing.

And I’ve spent more time working on the 30,000-foot view, the big picture, the branding, the marketing, the design, sort of packaging and selling the whole thing. Now given where I’ve come from that’s not to say that I didn’t have any involvement in the recording piece because I can’t resist that. But stylistically it was a pretty conscious choice to make a rock record—to try to put something together for the most part is pretty cohesive in terms of style and the reality is that sort of that big rock sound with lots of hooks and melodies and that kind of thing is sort of the signature Umphrey’s sound these days. It kind of felt like the right place to go particularly in a time where there are so many people veering toward electronic and EDM. There are not that many people making rock records, which it almost sounds weird to say but a lot of the tunes that the guys have been writing sort of fit in that vein. So the thought was hey let’s try to really narrow it down a little bit and put out something that speaks to that. But yes, you’re right, it’s head banging.

Definitely head banging. Some of those tunes border on metal.

Yeah there’s a couple you know…“Hindsight” is all about the metal.

I listen to that one to wake me up in the mornings. [Laughs]

[Laughs] Excellent.

If you had to guess, how do you think it’s going to be perceived? How are the hardcore fans going to take it?

I’m confident that overall people are going to dig it. One of the great things about our fans is they both give everything a shot and they’re also super critical. So I think you’re going to have a lot of people who are like, “Wow, it’s great. I love it. I wished they would have done x, y and z. I wish this track was on there. I wish they would have changed the arrangement for this,” but you can’t and we don’t concern ourselves with trying to please everybody. We got to make the record that the band feels is the right record to make and whatever peoples feelings are on it are entirely separate. We’re not bothered by people having an opinion. That’s for sure. So I think it is going to be well received.

I think the front half of the record is a little more immediately accessible and a little less dense such as tunes like “Linear,” “Hourglass” and “No Diablo,” I think those are pretty user friendly but I think they are also complex enough to where it sure as hell isn’t top 40. So there is a broadening, you know hopefully a broadening of the base a little bit. I played “No Diablo” for my grandma and she’s like, “Oh I like this,” you know? Let’s not pretend we’re not in the business of trying to make fans. Then the back half of it is a little bit more like that classic Umphrey’s like “Puppet String” and “Similar Skin,” the title track—those are like big kind of rock with a little bit of proggy kind of things. So I think there is something for everybody in here. It runs the gamut in typical UM fashion.

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