The Hoosier Roots of Umphrey's McGee 

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Two great acts are joining together for a collaborative tour that will be stopping at Indy's Lawn at White River State Park on August 16. South Bend native band Umphrey's McGee will be co-billing with electronic pioneers STS9 for an end of summer tour. Their Indy tour-stop will be extra special for Umphrey's McGee because they will have lots of family in the crowd since many of the band members originated from Indiana. NUVO talked with Umphrey's guitarist and vocalist Jake Cinninger about the upcoming tour, all their success over the last 15 years and a new project they have designed for "audio geeks."

NUVO: How are you doing today?

Jake Cinninger: Good, I am just at my studio in Michigan working on a few mixes. At the moment, it is a little rainy up here but I'm trying to stay inside.

NUVO: Are you working on some mixes with Umphrey's?

Cinninger: It's actually a band out of Chicago called Brother's Rage. They recorded here at my studio called Boondocks Studio probably a couple months ago and I'm just getting to mixing the record for them right now. They did about seven tunes. It's nice to kind of break away for a second and do something a little different, you know.

NUVO: So you guys have a collaborated tour with STS9. What brought on the idea of this?

Cinninger: Well we have known Soundtribe for probably over ten years and when we get together we always hangout and have a good ole time. So when it came to like picking who would be good to picking who would be good to co-bill with they were just kind of like first on the list. Our crew gets along with their crew and it should be a fun time for everyone. And then the obvious collaborations on stage and what not, the fans should be able to reak the benefits of having both of us there.

NUVO: How does it effect your set lists?

Cinninger: What we do is whatever we played in Indianapolis last time around we will stay away from those songs. We have about 150 original songs so the idea is to not play any of those that we played last time. So if there is someone searching for a particular song they might be able to see it.

NUVO: What can you tell me about your headphones and snowcones project?

Cinninger: Yeah, what is cool about that is fans basically a stereo front of house mix from our front of house engineer so it's basically like listening to a CD. So you can walk around with this radio pack and it's sending you top quality radio signal of the actual performance. So you can go grab a drink or even use the restroom and not miss a litch. It's a cool way for fans to interact more in the audio sense and get a little bit deeper into the quality experience of the audio side because some rooms are a little washy. So this is a good idea for an audio geek and you want to kind of geek out on super clean version of what you're seeing.

NUVO: Is it what you guys are hearing your headphones too?

Cinninger: Yeah, basically but it is like the perfect stereo mix. Each one of us on stage has our own mix so I have my guitar a little louder so I can pay attention to detail and certain things. So basically what goes down to the CD eventually or what we sell on iTunes or whatever from that show is basically what you are hearing.

NUVO: What can you tell me about the "Hoosier Family of Readers" project that your guys are participating in for the Indiana Department of Education?

Cinninger: Whenever we get a chance to reach out in that sort of realm it comes back triple full and makes us feel like we doing something more than just playing music.

NUVO: How did you guys get involved with it?

Cinninger: Sometimes we will reach out or people will reach out to us and our management sort of gets all that traffic and we sort of pull through a few things and decides what seems to be the best things to be involved with and that's where we go.

NUVO:So I know you guys began back in '97 at Notre Dame. Can you tell me a little about how it all started and how you got involved with the band?

Cinninger: Well in South Bend, Indiana there wasn't a whole lot going on in the music scene so we just kind of just created our own music scene between a couple bands. I was in a band called Ali Baba's Tahini and we would play all the time with Umphrey's. Umphrey's had just started and you know we would play parties, pubs and all the old places and kept pretty busy. We got sort of a repertoire going and then a fan base. So that was sort of the beginning origins of the fan base idea of Umphrey's McGee. All of the sudden it went from 25 people to 50 to 150 people, you know it was just baby steps. And that old South Bend city scene is where it kicked off.

NUVO: How do you think your music has evolved since then until now?

Cinninger: I think the elements of the band are definitely the same, like the chemistry and the sound of the individual players. The idea now when we are writing music is that we are really trying to get to a mature level of writing and really trying to simplify to make a bigger sound and you know less is more. We're starting to get a little older so we don't have to like always blazing saddles all the time, it's nice to write a nice song occasionally, you know?

NUVO: You guys are coming up on 15 years as a band; did you think this was going to take off as much as it did when you first began?

Cinninger: Well I tell you, time has gone so quick because we have been so busy. When I look back at all the years that have gone by it is just sort of baffling. I guess the fact that we have been so busy is a good thing because we have just had extreme creative output and that's what has kept us going that and the fans' interest. So much time has passed by and we're not even thinking about when it's going to end.

NUVO: What future plans do you guys have for your music?

Cinninger: Right now we are doing about 16 or 17 studio cuts so we will basically put all the sweetening into those songs and then see where we're at. Then we will trim it down to about ten songs. Certain songs are like the top creaming and then we will scoop the cream off the top and those are the tunes.

NUVO: Do you guys have anything special planned for Indy at all?

Cinninger: You know, it is great because it is so close to home for a lot of us so a lot of our family is going to come out. So we will probably ask some of our relatives what do they want to hear.

Speaking of Umphrey's McGee, STS9

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