SB: I know the last time you guys played at a White Sox game, you guys got to meet Ozzie Guillen. How did that happen?
AF: He was just walking around as we were moving all our gear off of the field, as we had done a little acoustic thing before the game. I had some percussion stuff jacked up against the wall and he comes over to talk to us. He’s like “Percussion? I like percussion.” He knows Marc Quinones from the Allman Brothers. Yeah, it was amazing because he knew specifics about Marc’s setup. Ozzie was like “He used to be with LP and now he’s with Pearl.” I was shocked he knew so much [about percussion]. He was very nice, and we got to take a picture with him.
SB: How closely are you able to follow the White Sox when you are on the road?
AF: Very close. Even if we don’t get the game on the bus, WGN is broadcast all over the country. WGN kinda splits it up between Cubs and Sox games, so we get to see a fair amount of games. If I don’t get to see [the game] on the bus I’ll go to the bar after soundcheck or I’ll follow it on my phone.
SB: So pretty much you follow along every game?
AF: Oh yeah. I know what’s going on in every game.
SB: How did you originally get into the White Sox?
AF: My uncle took me to a couple of White Sox games. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, and the Sox’s stadium was the closest stadium.
SB: What was the White Sox’s 2005 Championship run like for you as a fan?
AF: It was unreal, I still think back to that year. I got to see two playoff games. I went to the first one against the Red Sox and I went to the only loss that we had against the Angels. I remember we were in Flagstaff, Arizona when they won.
SB: Did you know that they had won the championship before you took the stage that night?
AF: Yeah, it was perfect because had we been on the East Coast or in the Midwest we would have been on stage when the World Series was going on. Since we were two hours behind in Arizona, I got to watch the game right before we went on. It was perfect. [ed. note: Check out the Baby You’re A Rich Man > a rare Andy percussion solo for Farag’s celebratory moment]
SB: What kind of rivalry do White Sox fans have with the Cubs fans? Is it intense these days?
AF: More of my friends are Cubs fans than Sox fans, so it’s really fun to be able to talk shit to each other. We rile each other up. I kinda feel sorry for those Cubs fans.
SB: What do you think about the White Sox chances this year?
AF: It’s gonna be really tough because the AL Central is the hardest division in baseball. Detroit went to the World Series, Minnesota won the division, and the Indians are gonna be really good this year. If our pitching isn’t halfway decent, we don’t stand a chance. Our lineup is great. So it’s gonna be tough, but we definitely have a chance.
SB: What did you think of the McCarthy-Danks trade?
AF: At first I was taken aback. I was like “What? This guy is finally going to get the starting job pitching here, and now we trade him?” I guess we’ll see how it pans. I wasn’t too happy about it at first, but Kenny Williams is trying to get younger pitchers and I guess I trust him.
SB: Leaving out the White Sox, who do you think will win it all?
AF: I guess I gotta say the Yankees. But this year there are so many teams that have great pitching and great lineups. It’s gonna be really interesting this year.
SB: The Bottom Half was just released — can you give us the story about the tune Atmosfarag?
AF: I went to the groove box and I was messing around with the delay effect, just trying to figure it out and I came up with a cool simple progression. I programmed it into the groove box. When I came to the table with [the groove], Joel put another section onto it, just to kind of break it up. It came out great.
SB: Where are the vocal samples on the track from?
AF: It’s from a band called the Browing Family. A guy who promotes all of our shows in Chicago, Mike LaMaistre from Jam Productions, collects a lot of vinyl. He found this record The Browning Family and gave it to [our producer] Browning, so he put it on the track.
(photo by Adam Kaufman)
SB: You guys are on the road all of the time. It seems like for years and years you guys have been going at it full blast. Do you breathe real air or what? Don’t you get tired?
AF: The thing that really helps is that we are making progress upwards. If it was going the other way, it would probably wear us out a lot easier.
SB: At this point you’ve been playing with Kris Myers for four years — was there a major adjustment in going from playing with Mike Mirro to playing with Kris?
AF: I wouldn’t say a major adjustment. There was definitely an adjustment, but it was a good adjustment to make. We just had to, or at least I had to, get familiar with his style. Different drummers are going to play different things in certain situations.
I would say within a year or so I was able to figure out his style. When I figured out what fills he was going to play I could either play those fills at the same time he does them or I could come up with a different pattern over the top of what he’s doing that fits in. It took a lot of listening back to shows. We’re at a good point right now, but we’re always trying to make it tighter.
SB: This weekend you guys have a couple of gigs in Indianapolis at the Murat. There is no taping at these shows because they going to be recorded for a live album. Have you worked stuff up in preparation for them or is it just going to be two typical Umphrey’s shows?
AF: We briefly talked about it, but we don’t want to hype it up too much for ourselves so that we aren’t trying so hard to make things sound really, really good while we’re taping, because we’ve done that and it usually doesn’t turn out good. You’re either trying too hard and nothing happens or just in terms of the crowd. We’re gonna keep it simple, but we’re gonna have a lot of fun stuff mixed in there.
Many thanks to Andy for taking the time to speak with us about the season. We hope to check in with him at the All-Star break, and at the end of the season, to discuss how the year turned out for the White Sox. Umphrey’s is always on tour, so check them out when they come to your city.