Track By Track: Umphrey’s McGee Similar Skin
“Little Gift” is one of Jake’s new ones that was originally a larger song. I think it had a section before it and a section after it, and when we were listening to everything with Manny, he was like, “You gotta trust me on this.” Then he chopped a little bit of it to make a really close and concise rock song. I think it’s great; I think it’s super catchy. Manny was all about the fist- pumping chorus, which I think that song definitely has.
Jake wrote the music to two different versions of that. There are two completely different songs. I put the words over it around the time we were putting out Mantis [in 2009]. It was just really complicated, and we tried learning it on the road, and after about three rehearsals, we gave up because it was a little too difficult and sometimes, when you’re on the road, you gotta worry about the show you’re playing that night. It’s kind of about Ambien and people sleepwalking and what happens if you take an Ambien and you’re hanging out and you didn’t go to bed.
“Loose Ends” is a song that I originally did in my apartment and it wasn’t that heavy. Manny really liked it and he thought we could make it a really concise pop-rock song. It’s a moody song, so we don’t play it live a lot because when you want to go out to a rock show on a weekend, you want to have a good time. You don’t want to be like: “Whoa, life is difficult.” I think it fits in the album spacing because you can’t have just 100 percent, down-your-throat aggression at all times, so I think it’s the nice little breather.
That is another one of Jake’s new ones. It was interesting because it was one where he had a demo for it and, in the demo, there’s a lot of open spaces and the way he described it when we were recording it was, “OK, there’s gonna be this here, this here—I can’t really explain it.” So when we were recording it, we really didn’t know what it was going to sound like. Then when he and Manny got together to finish it and brought it back, it was like, “Holy shit, it’s heavy—it’s big, like Soundgarden.”
We tried to do “Bridgeless” for a studio session probably five or six years ago because it’s one of our more popular live songs. We tried it for two days and we just couldn’t get it right and it was ruining the session, so we just bagged it. Then, when we got to this idea of a rock album and everything being in the same vein, we wanted to try it one more time.
It was cool because we figured out a different way to do it. We did the song in five sections because we realized that the way we play it live is we kind of ebb and flow with the tempos, so it’s not rigid. We were trying to do it with a fixed tempo and it just wasn’t working. So we had to record the intro five times until we got it, then we did the verse five times until we got it, and then we did the middle part five times until we got it. The ending was pretty difficult because Jake was in an isolation booth across the room and we realized that we completely improvise it every time, and there’s always eye contact. We had never talked about it before, even though we’d been playing it for 10 years.
We felt like it’s a good representation of us live, and we wanted to end the album with it because what do you do after that? You’ve said everything you’re gonna say.