An Umphrey’s McGee show is like a poker game. ‘The reward is great but the risk is also great.’

Umphrey’s McGee will bring its tour to Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC, to promote “It’s You” and “It’s Not Us.”
Umphrey’s McGee will bring its tour to Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC, to promote “It’s You” and “It’s Not Us.”

Ryan Stasik is known for taking risks, so when an interview is delayed because of an afternoon poker game, it somehow seems apt.

The Umphrey’s McGee’s bassist took a risk 20 years ago when the jam band formed in South Bend. The band, stylistically impossible to pigeonhole, is comprised of former Notre Dame students who decided to try their luck in the music industry.

Umphrey’s McGee, who will perform Oct. 12 at Red Hat Amphitheater — the last major Red Hat show of the season — has been successful, despite defying convention. The band delivers a sonic potpourri of prog-rock, metal, funk, bluegrass, reggae and folk. Umphrey’s McGee is touring behind two albums.

“Putting out music today is not very lucrative,” Stasik says while calling from Kansas City. “But it’s fun and we’re creative. We keep coming up with material. We have so many songs.”

That’s why Umphrey’s McGee, which also includes guitarist-vocalist Brendan Bayliss, keyboardist-vocalist Joel Cummins, guitarist Jake Cinninger, percussionist Andy Ferag and drummer Kris Myers, released a surprise album, “It’s You,” in May. The band’s 12th studio album follows “It’s Not Us,” which dropped in January.

“That was cool for a couple of reasons,” Stasik says. “The fans didn’t expect it and it made us happy that the songs saw the light of day. We couldn’t hold back since we’re writing new songs. Songs just keep coming to us.”

That’s a stark contrast to UM’s early days. “We had five songs for the longest time,” Stasik says. “But it helped us evolve as a band.”

Since the sextet had a handful of tunes, the group started jamming out.

“We had no choice but to jam or we would be playing a very short set,” Stasik says. “We had to do something or we would disappoint the seven or so friends who would show up at our shows back in those days.”

Within five years, the band had a deep canon of tunes to draw from. However, Umphrey’s McGee never stopped jamming. As a result, every show is different; each night the band walks a high wire without a net.

“We love that because of the risk,” Stasik says. “It’s like sitting at a poker table like I am now. The reward is great but the risk is also great.”

Stasik and his bandmates are big comedy fans, which isn’t surprising considering humor is infused in the band’s lyrics, album titles and album covers. Eight months after forming, the wise guys released their debut album, “Greatest Hits: Volume 3.”

“It was a joke but we like jokes,” Stasik says.

Stasik loves Frank Zappa, and it’s clear to see Zappa’s influence when the band plays prog-rock.

“I’ve been a huge fan of Frank Zappa for a long, long time,” Stasik says. “Humor and rock is a great combination. He was hilarious. Laughing is a great way to get through life. I love comedians like George Carlin and Sam Kinison, who was a comedy rock star. There isn’t enough humor in music today. We just don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Umphrey’s McGee has watched a number of its peers dissolve but the band is going strong 20 years after forming thanks to the band’s communication skills.

“Letting everyone know what is going on is huge,” Stasik says. “That’s what we’ve managed to do in this band. The other thing is not to be ‘Tom Petty’ about things.”

Stasik isn’t insulting the late and legendary Petty. “I love Tom Petty,” Stasik says. “When we say ‘petty,’ we say it as in Tom Petty. What I mean is that if you’re not petty and you’re cool with everyone, a band can last a long time. We’re living proof of that.”


Who: Umphrey’s McGee with Zach Deputy

Who: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 12

Where: Red Hat Amphitheater, 500 S. McDowell St., Raleigh

Tickets: $25

Info: 919-996-8800 or redhatamphitheater.com

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