From a collector’s perspective, this was quite a haul and frankly quickly solidified them as a band I wanted to follow.
So, this week’s announcement, while unexpected, is in line with the innovation they started with Mantis. The are going to release a collection of songs “in bite size pieces,” per their website. The songs will be new unheard songs (not performed live, yet) and some live favorites.
The upcoming releases will be available as series of digital EPs. You will have a few options to acquire them: buy the EPs separately or as a bundle; or splurge for the holidays on the box set which will include music and video for the discerning UMphreak, including a wealth of bonus tracks, previously unreleased rarities, and hand-picked, band curated material from studio and live work. The tracks will be available in multiple formats: MP3, FLAC, and 24-Bit Hi Res FLACs for select titles. Details will be released shortly.
Mantis was the first time the band had worked on an album in the studio that was largely not drawn from live performances. I say largely because at least one song had an early genesis in an improvisational jam that is known as a “Jimmy Stewart.” In the live shows leading up to that album’s release Umphrey’s was still debuting and playing songs that hadn’t made it to an album– tracks with working titles like “Search 4,” “Wappy Sprayberry,” “Gulf Stream,” and “Wizard Burial Ground.” I hope that these are the songs that will make it to this collection.
To kick things off, UM has provided a free download (with optional upgrades to FLAC and Hi Res FLAC) of a new song “Wellwishers.” It’s a laid back jam with a pumping electric piano part that reminds me of Gerry Rafferty. The song wouldn’t sound out-of-place on Mantis, in my opinion. It’s a free download, so check it out!
Umphrey’s McGee’s current list of fall tour dates is as follows:
Wednesday, October 6 Arcata Theatre Arcata CA
Thursday, October 7 McDonald Theatre Eugene OR
Friday, October 8 The Showbox Seattle WA with S2 EVENT
Saturday, October 9 The Wilma Theatre Missoula MT
Thursday, October 21 Mr. Smalls Theatre Millvale PA
Friday, October 22 Kalamazoo State Theatre Kalamazoo MI
Saturday, October 23 House of Blues – Cleveland Cleveland OH
Sunday, October 24 Bluebird Nightclub Bloomington IN
Wednesday, October 27 People’s Court Des Moines IA
Thursday, October 28 – Friday, October 29 Canopy Club Urbana IL
Saturday, October 30 – Sunday, October 31 The Pageant St. Louis MO
Wednesday, November 3 – Thursday, November 4 Higher Ground Ballroom South Burlington VT
Friday, November 5 – Saturday, November 6 9:30 Club Washington D.C.
Tuesday, November 9 Jefferson Theater Charlottesville VA
Wednesday, November 10 Legends at Appalachian State University Boone NC
Thursday, November 11 – Friday, November 12 Bear Creek Music & Art Fest Live Oak, FL
Wednesday, December 29, Thursday, December 30, and Friday, December 31 Riviera Theatre Chicago IL
Thursday, January 20 – Monday, January 24 Mayan Holidaze Puerto Morelos MEX
Umphrey’s McGee is a band that embraces technology. This is one of the things that really impresses me about the band. You can download every show within days of the performance at umlive.com in mp3 and FLAC formats with cover art, you can purchase a CD of the show at the show if you prefer. They have done subscription simulcast video over the internet, they twitter, they Facebook, they MySpace, they blog. They support taping and they have a very extensive archive of live shows on archive.org. Not to mention the bonus material afforded to the purchasers of Mantis via Push!
As a result there is a lot of content readily available from the band. Even before a potential new fan would need to purchase anything they can get a pretty good sampling.
MP3HD is an attempt to provide a compressed, yet lossless file format (think a .WAV file) while maintaining the ubiquitous compatibility with mp3-capable software and mp3 players. This is achieved by providing mp3 compressed data along with the lossless data inside the file. This makes the mp3 player think it is playing a regular mp3 file, but devices and software that is mp3HD-compatible will be able to play the higher-fidelity lossless content. Even with the stacking of the file content they are able to achieve on average 4X compression over the uncompressed .WAV version. This is primarily because the mp3 portion tends to be very compressed. The Umphrey’s show has 128Kbps mp3’s, which by most people’s standards is pretty lossy bitrate. Amazon.com provides mostly 256Kbps or in some cases 192Kbps mp3 from their store for example.
Certainly one might question the need for MP3HD. Anyone who has been dealing with lossless music files over the years have been using FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Compression) to do their bidding, and FLAC is free– that is no one is paying to provide that support– all software and hardware that is able to play mp3’s today should be paying licenses to Thomson. Both Microsoft and Apple provide their own version of lossless compressed files, too– Apple’s ALAC, and Microsoft’s WMA Lossless. But, as you might imagine, neither of those formats are supported directly on the other’s media players, and neither player supports FLAC.
As a result, if I want to have the lossless versions of Umphrey’s McGee shows, for example, I would download the FLAC files, and either burn them to a CD if that was my medium of choice (my CD burning software support FLAC) or I would have to convert them to mp3 using a utility or extract to WAV and convert with iTunes or Windows Media Player. (Note: There are other ways to achieve this but I’m not interested in providing a primer on making mp3 files here) I can then put these on my media player of choice. This is a lot of messing around to get to the final result and most people aren’t interested in doing all of that work so they will just stick to mp3’s. The other issue here is that I end up having to manage two or more copies of the music. The lossless version in addition to the one that is the copy of the mp3’s for my media player.
I don’t mind juggling the files around as I’m pretty used to it by now, but the ability to only have one file that has both compressed and lossless is very appealing to me. I don’t like 128Kbps mp3’s, however, and I don’t have any devices that can play mp3HD so I have to convert them anyway to get a higher bitrate. I looked at the tools provided by all4mp3 and it appears that one can choose a higher bitrate for the mp3 data– of course this would be at a sacrifice of the 4X compression.
So, we’ll see if this takes off I guess. I think ultimately this is the right idea, but there is a lot of consternation surrounding the licensing. I would rather that Apple just added FLAC support to the iPod/iPhone/iTunes, really. (Another solution would be the open source project Rockbox can be installed on an iPod providing FLAC support which isn’t a solution for most iPod owners).
Getting back to the Umphrey’s show, it is a pretty good performance. The Murat is a very friendly location for the band to play– and they say so during this show. It also explains why they chose The Murat for their live album. The songs shared make up most of the second set and the encore from the 3/13 show. Looking at the setlist database at umphreys.com it looks like they edited out the “Another Brick in the Wall”/”Thriller” mashup second set closer, which is probably due to licensing the song. The Jimmy Stewart from this set is a vocal Jimmy that is pretty good, too. (A “Jimmy Stewart” in the band parlance is an improvisational performance).
Click Here to download the Umphrey’s McGee 3/13/09 Murat Show in mp3HD at all4mp3.com
As the rest of the world anxiously counts down to the swearing in of a new President and the promise that brings, a small percentage of the world is also watching the countdown clock to Midnight tonight for the release of Umphrey’s McGee’s new album Mantis— at least the digital version available for download to everyone who pre-ordered it. The download was offered to all who pre-ordered so that even if the US Mail failed to deliver the physical orders, everyone could listen to it tomorrow in some fashion.
The pre-order came in two flavors– a Deluxe Boxset and a regular CD order. Both flavors would have access to the pre-order bonus material, but the Deluxe Boxset– which was limited to 500 initially, and expanded to 1000 when the first 500 sold out quickly– was going to include an audiophile 180g pressing of Mantis and a DVD of video content including the 10-year documentary “UM10” the band put together for their NYE 2008 shows, plus some other goodies from their online store and some other things they picked all housed in a box the band signed. The CD was $20, but the Deluxe Box was $50. Frankly, the box is the better deal if only because of the vinyl and the DVD, but the “personal” stuff the band threw in would really make this a collector’s dream. Of course, there were people bemoaning the “devaluation” of their copies with the additional 500. It’s still very rare, so it will be valuable either way, if that is the concern. Whatever, I’m opening mine and playing the record.
From a logistics standpoint getting these packages to everyone who ordered was a feat in itself. The band and their assistance would have had to work backwards from the release date (tomorrow) and take in to consideration where in the world these packages had to go. Adding to that was the fact that today is a government holiday in the US, so no deliveries would happen today.
Of course, this caused some folks to get their orders early– which was a source of much consternation on the umphreaks board, but allowed us to hear what goodies were in the boxes! Based on the “I JUST GOT MY MANTIS IN THE MAIL!!!!!” thread on the board (aka “The Bort”) people are getting
guitar picks from the band
a guitar string that was used at a show from last year that has a tag with the date played.
a recipe from a member of the band: so far we’ve seen a Ryan Stasik baked brie, and a smoked rib from Andy Farag. Both sound fantastic, frankly.
a “Mantis” poster (folded, sadly– I’ll have to see if I can order a rolled one)
A letter signed by the band.
A photocopy of a set list construction “worksheet.” This is generally handwritten and shows how the band goes through working on their setlists complete with crossing out songs.
The 180g vinyl version of Mantis.
Two “Mantis” postcards.
One set of “Mantis” iPod skins for Nano or Classic (no iPhone or Touch, unfortunately).
Talk about a labor of love! Keep in mind there is also all of the pre-order bonus material and whatever they unlock beyond that!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gesture this big from a band to its fans. I’ve only been a fan of UM in the last year, and there are a lot of reasons that I like what this band is up to– a lot of it has to do with their approach to their music and the fact that they are as much fans of music as they are musicians. The fact that they have a very good grip on using their fanbase and the Internet as a way to promote what they’re doing and making the extra effort to make something like an album release special, is pretty great, too. Many bands could take a page from this band’s playbook. Of course it helps to have a rabid fanbase that would support this kind of effort.
Bort member Tim Hara had provided some great pictures of the band signing the Deluxe Boxes to the board. He very graciously allowed me to re-post the pictures here.
The band also is doing an eBay auction to benefit their favorite charity UStorm. The cover art was designed by Mark Blanchette who surprisingly creates his montage photographs the old school dodge and burn method. There is a very informative posting on the band’s blog here. As a result he is able to control the serialization of his work to ten copies. The eBay auction is for one of those 10 prints framed along with a sheet with the band’s autographs.
I was one of the lucky few who got in on the second 500 Deluxe sets, so I’m anxiously awaiting the deliver of it– to eat the spoils of victory (the Tootsie Rolls) while dropping the needle on the vinyl version of Mantis!
Click Here to view other pictures Tim Hara took of the signing. Thanks Tim!
Stay tuned for “Sexy Unboxing Pictures” of my boxset to come.
Hot off the heels of the Umphrey’s Holidaze Cruise to Jamaica and all rested up for the upcoming NYE run, the boys of Umphrey’s McGee were feeling generous in the spirit of the season and have decided to give away a free holiday 3-song EP of never-before released material spanning the holiday shows from the past few years.
Downloading the EP requires that you have a UMLive account– which you would have if you are participating in the Mantis pre-orders or have ever ordered any shows from the band. Either way, if you don’t have one it is pretty painless and worth it.
1. Greensleeves > Carol of the Bells (4:18)
2. Christmas Time is Here (2:44)
3. Christmas Medley (1:51) (Jingle Bells > Deck the Halls > Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer (Dub Style) > Menard’s Theme)
They don’t tell you which years these tracks are from, unfortunately. Maybe it will be more clear when we get the Acoustic Christmas tracks in the Mantis bonuses. I about fell out of my chair when they broke into the Menard’s commercial. Clearly they are from the Midwest, where the Menard’s commerials are part of the advertising din!
Click on the banner above to sign up and download your free Christmas mp3’s from Umphrey’s McGee!
The UM camp released some more information about Mantis recently including a large version of the album artwork, the track listing, another track from the radio promo and some nifty wallpapers. From The Floor blog, we get the radio edit of “Spires” as well. Notably, the “Made to Measure” that the band made available to everyone who signed up for a UMLive account is the full version of the track at 3:12. If you want to hear “Preamble” it is the first song played in the player on the Mantis mini-site.
Here is the tracklisting for Mantis:
1. Made to Measure 3:12
2. Preamble 0:36
3. Mantis 11:49
4. Cemetery Walk 7:30
5. Cemetery Walk II 2:19
6. Turn & Run 7:25
7. Spires 7:41
8. Prophecy Now 2:47
9. Red Tape 5:43
10. 1348 4:49
Total Running Time : 54:04
In case anyone was worried that Mantis was going to be some exploration in radio-friendly pop music based on “Made to Measure,” check out the track times. There are four songs over seven minutes, and one song clocks in at 11:49! So, while this may be an album representing a change in the band, they aren’t eschewing extended workouts from their catalog.
Developments in the Umphrey’s McGee camp as it applies to the release of Mantis are keeping me pretty busy here. Mostly this is because I’m one of the folks who has invested in the pre-order of the album, so I’m eagerly awaiting any surprise freebies, downloads, etc. While the pre-order crowd waits for the stalled progress bar on the Mantis page to move to unlocking Level 7 and exposing the promise of Level 8 with baited breath, other events have transpired this week.
It seems that promos have been sent to radio stations who are “crunchy friendly” or would play Umphrey’s McGee in their rotation. This promo CD has radio edits of three songs apparently– the already-shared “Made to Measure” which is now freely available to anyone who clicks on the link on the page and signs up for a UMLive account, “Cemetery Walk” which is currently on the band blog complete with a posting talking about the development of the song which started back in 2007, and another track called “Spires” which was apparently aired on a couple of radio stations already.
Click Here to download “Cemetery Walk” (This is the obscured link on the blog page player– so if they take this down, this link won’t work).
In addition to all of this, Thursday this week (12/4) is when the pre-order folks will be able to download “Level 1” of the pre-order bonus material, which has some really cool stuff in it including four tracks of their 2005 Acoustic Christmas Benefit Show. More on that when I get to download that on Thursday.
Since I’m watching the developments on the new Umphrey’s McGee album closely, ya’ll get to benefit by getting updates. It seems that January 20th is a long way off, so the UM camp has figured out that they are going to need to keep the fire going by throwing out little tastes of the album and bonus goodies to the fans.
Yesterday it was announced that the monster Chicago FM station XRT would be playing the first track from Mantis— “Made to Measure” as part of their new music Thursday today.
Additionally, a one-minute audio “teaser” was posted to The Floor today (the band’s blog). It has snippets of a couple of songs in it. Click Here to listen.
And, if that wasn’t enough– everyone who has pre-ordered Mantis will be given instructions on Friday on how to download an mp3 of “Made to Measure” for free!
I have been watching the Umphrey’s McGee Mantis page for updates on newly unlocked Levels and as a result I’m signed into the Meebo chat (as “playbsides” if anyone wants to talk). Other than the grand debate about whether 1000 copies of the Deluxe Package depreciates the “value” or rarity of it versus the fact that some fans are bummed they didn’t get in on it– there hasn’t been a lot of useful chatter. I’ve helped some folks understand what the deal is with the pre-order mostly.
But, today I happened to catch someone mentioning the free downloads in the UMLive accounts and sure enough– I signed into “My Stash” and in addition to the pre-order for Mantis, there was another item ready for download called “Mantis Pre-Order: Early Bird Bonus” which showed available for download! I didn’t get an e-mail about it, but my e-mail gateway does whitelisting so it bounces the mails for resend and that adds some time to e-mail receipt for me.
At any rate– very cool deal! I got two tracks: both from the amazing 10-31-2008 Halloween show at the Warfield in San Francisco. This show was pretty cool in that they decided to do live performed “mash-ups.”
The two tracks we got were “Women, Wine and Song” (a 128Kbps rip) from the show and a Backstage Vocal Rehearsal of the band working out the vocals to “Thriller” which was mashed with “Another Brick in the Wall” (a 192Kbps rip).
In other cool news, the Umphrey’s Camp has noticed my Mantis Bonus Watch article and linked to it from The Floor, which is their blog. It’s driven my page views to the highest they’ve ever been! Hello to new visitors, I hope your stay is pleasant.
On January 20th, 2009– Inauguration Day– Umphrey’s McGee will be releasing their next studio album, Mantis. According to their press release, Mantis is different from their last studio albums in that it is entirely new music written in the studio as opposed to songs that had been given workouts on the road. The band considers this the “centerpiece of a new era” and extending the notion of innovation, they have set up a unique pre-order for Mantis.
So, hang tight– this gets a bit complicated. I have done my pre-order already, and recommend that if you’re interested you do, too. Here is the shizzle:
First, there are three versions of Mantis. In addition to the CD and mp3 versions you’d expect, the band is pressing a very limited number of 180g LP’s! That’s right! VINYL! The vinyl is included in the Deluxe Package which includes a CD and mp3 download plus other goodies.
The CD version of the album is will be the “key” to unlocking exclusive bonus content that the band will be providing throughout the year through Push Entertainmentincluding live versions of the Mantis songs, rehearsals and impromptu “bus jams” and more. This content– referred to as “Bonus Part II” will be available to anyone who buys the album either as a pre-order or after the release date.
As if that isn’t cool enough, anyone who pre-orders the album in either CD format (for $19.99) or as part of the Deluxe Package ($49.99) will have access to “Bonus Part I.” This is where it gets interesting. If you pre-order the album, you will get a free download of the album in mp3 format to make sure everyone who pre-orders can listen to the album on its release date in case there are unpredictable mailing delays. In addition to that, the band will be making available up to 8 Levels of bonus material encoded as 160Kbps mp3’s that will be available on January 20th as well. The number of levels made available will be based on how many pre-orders are placed of either of the versions. Pre-orders were taken starting October 27th, and as of 11/5, five of the eight levels are unlocked. The special Mantis page has a progress bar at the top of the page that shows how many levels are unlocked and floats a box with what is included in each level. On December 4th Level 1 will be available for download to all who pre-order.
Anyone who pre-orders will also receive a lifetime subscription to the digital edition of Relix Magazine, and be entered in a drawing for a “RelixBand” which is a bracelet made from guitar strings from Jake and Brendan used in a live performance.
When the pre-order opened, there was initially only going to be 500 of the Deluxe Package, but they sold out in TWO DAYS! So, the band increased the number to 1000. At this moment, there appear to still be some available for order. The Deluxe Package has a bunch of great content, and totally worth $50. You get the CD of Mantis, the mp3 download, the 180g vinyl, a special DVD of the 10th Anniversary Retrospective that was shown at last years’ New Year’s Eve shows plus some other video content, a Mantis poster plus other goodies from UMHQ all in a box signed by the band! Apparently, every box will have slightly different extra goodies added by the band themselves.
Here are the levels for the pre-order Bonus. The band scoured the Internet boards to see what rare content was most in demand, so that determined what they’ve included. As cool as the pop-up boxes on the website are, I’ve decided to type it up here, and I will be updating this as the new levels are added, so check back or subscribe to updates on this article to stay up-to-date.
Level 1(8 tracks total, and available in December to pre-orders) unlocked
1 track from Greatest Hits Vol. III – The long out-of-print first record selected via a fan poll.
4 tracks from annual Acoustic Christmas Show 2005
2 tracks from Jake Cinniger’s home studio 4-track archives -One track you’re likely to recognize and one you’re not.
1 track from inside the studio control room during an album tracking session – Fly on the wall perspective.
Level 2 (8 tracks total) unlocked
1 track from ‘beat guru’ Andy Farag -Andy often spends his spare time cooking up a variety of hip-hop and r&b beats that are rarely released for public consumption.
Jake’s original demo version of feature track ‘Made to Measure’ with different lyrics. Long before this song evolved into its current state, Jake sang about the joys of man’s best friend.
‘Made to Measure’ alternate take with scratch vocals.
2 acoustic tracks from the soundtrack The Trip There written and performed by Brendan Bayliss.
2 ‘Solo’ audio stems from the title track “Mantis” – Hear instruments and vocal arrangements of this track with everything else stripped away, a microscopic view inside a dense Umphrey’s composition.
1 potential album cut that was ultimately left unfinished.
Level 3 (7 tracks total) unlocked
2 control room montage tracks – Experience what it’s like to be a fly on the wall inside the control room of our studio. Hear songs come to life (or be put to death) as the recording process unfolds.
3 tracks from UM sound checks – “What songs are we going to screw up if we don’t practice them?”
Early sketch version of album track #4.
4-track studio version of the song EAT, recorded in Jake’s home studio.
Level 4 (7 tracks total) unlocked
‘Dance Remix’ of album track 5 from Andy Farag
‘Work in Progress’ track – Listen to the conception of album track number 7 from an improvisation during a live show. Follow it through adolescence and beyond!
4 tracks from Acoustic Christmas 2006.
‘Birth of a Song’ – Listen as an album cut is constructed, deconstructed, written, rewritten, tweaked, and birthed from recordings taken from basement tapes, pre-production writing sessions and ‘Grammy take’ sessions.
Level 5 (8 tracks total) unlocked (as of 11/5)
2 live tracks from the mythic ‘Taper Appreciation Nights’ at Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
2 tracks from Jake Cinninger’s home studio 4-track archives.
Early demo version of album track #6
Mistake Montage – Listen to the less glamorous side of being in the studio with UM.
2 ‘Solo’ audio stems from album track #4 – Hear various instruments and vocal arrangements of this track with everything else stripped away.
Level 6 (8 Tracks total) unlocked (as of 11/16)
“Radio” edit of an album track
“Work in Progress” – Listen to the conception of album track #9 from an improvisation during a live show. Follow it through adolescence and beyond!
Early 4-track versions of track #7 including Jake’s first scratch version from 1994. Yes kids, 1994.
3 tracks from the Acoustic Christmas Show 2005.
Time Relevant Track – The original solo guitar audio that became “Wizard Burial Ground” recorded during album brainstorming sessions.
Level 7 (7 Tracks Total) unlocked (as of 12/11)
‘Birth of a Song’ – Listen as an album cut is constructed, deconstructed, written, rewritten, tweaked, and birthed from recordings taken from basement tapes, pre-production writing sessions, and ‘Grammy take’ sessions.
2 alternate versions of Jake’s guitar solo from album track #6. Listen to the options we sorted through before deciding on this monstrosity.
Umphrey’s Round Table Pt. 1 – A discussion of all things Mantis.
2 tracks of solo grand piano from Joel’s Holiday show in 2006
Early rough version of the title track ‘Mantis’ recorded in Joel’s attic in early 2007.
‘Puncle Wally’ – Video the lone performance at historic CBGB’s in NYC.
1 track of solo grand piano from Joel’s Holiday show in 2005
2 tracks from Joel, Jake & Andy from Joel’s Holiday show in 2006
Mantis Ghetts – Just wait and see. Guaranteed to please!
1 track from the mythic ‘Taper Appreciation Nights’ at Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
Unreleased track from the Acoustic Planet Tour ’06 featuring Bela Fleck
2 tracks from Acoustic Christmas 2008
Level 9 (1 Track + Video + 1 Live Set) Unocked (as of 1/7/09) A new level added after 8 unlocked to drive more presales!
FOH Jam – Video from the soundboard jam on 12/31/07
Early scratch version of album track 1348
Entire set from the 1/19/09 CD Release show at the Vic Theatre
I have to say that in the last year since I became aware of Umphrey’s McGee, one thing I have been really impressed with is how they’ve embraced new avenues for keeping the fans up-to-date and providing content as well. They have had regular podcasts with interesting songs from shows, their site provides RSS feeds, the band as well as their soundman regularly blog with photos, you can purchase every show, they allow taping and trading as well. They have also implemented an interesting TXT service via kadoink that sends updates to your cell phone and provides the ability for the band to send recorded messages and music to your phone. This new approach to releasing an album is just another step. It’s clear that Umphrey’s McGee understands their fanbase and seems to cater to them. The Mantis website has an embedded player that is getting updated daily with recent live tracks and has an embedded chat tool as well that the band seems to check.
Click Here to visit the Mantis Website and pre-order Mantis. While you’re there sign up for updates from UM, and be entered into a contest for the “Ultimate Umphrey’s Package.” The grand prize is tickets to any and all 2009 UM shows, a signed copy of Mantis and a signed lithograph of the Mantis artwork, ten first prizes are tickets to three shows and the signed album and litho, and ten second prizes are a signed Mantis and litho.
Click Here to subscribe to an RSS feed of this article to watch for updates.