Umphrey's McGee Crushed Their Recent Stint of Red Rocks Shows on 'It's You' Tour

By: Will Baumgartner

When you hear the phrase “rock music,” what do you think of? Not one specific thing, probably, unless you’ve only listened to a handful of “rock” bands who all sound the same. There’s a reason for this, and it’s simple: Of all the musical genres, rock is the only one broad enough to incorporate elements of many of the others. If you say “jazz” or “hip-hop "grindcore,” and I’d argue you’re more likely to hear a more blueprinted sound in your head. Rock, however, conjures a field as wide as the sky above at, oh, say, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Morrison CO, on a beautiful clear night in early July.

Umphrey's McGee at the Rocks. Photo Credit:   Cy Fontenot

Umphrey's McGee at the Rocks. Photo Credit: Cy Fontenot

Recently, I attended a concert by masters of cross-wired rock Umphrey’s McGee during their three-night residency at Red Rocks last weekend. While I was admittedly not steeped in their music, I’d heard enough UM that I was sure I’d like to see them live and I’d heard their shows were electrifying examples of tightness, groove, and onstage inventiveness. And also, there was nowhere else I could imagine being happier on my birthday than at Red Rocks absorbing a legendary live band for the first time.

I had not been misinformed on the rumors of UM live, and my intuition was also spot on: Umphrey’s McGee transported me along with thousands of other blissed-out music lovers, to a kind of rock heaven. I just couldn’t believe how good they were. Sure, people can tell you about a band and their shows ad infinitum; you can even watch full-concert videos. But none of that fully prepared me for the actual experience.

Photo Credit:   Cy Fontenot

Photo Credit: Cy Fontenot

When attempting to describe the show to friends and fellow musicians, I found myself grasping for words beyond ones like “tight” and “inventive,” because they just didn’t seem emphatic or expansive enough. Live, Umphrey’s are tighter than the gear works of a Swiss watch. Their group improvisations are as seamless, creative, and mind-blowing as an MC Escher print. And often, they went even further to where, in keeping with their cross-genre style, it was like being in a sonic world co-created by Escher and cosmic visionary artist Alex Grey, with a score co-composed by the love children of Miles DavisJerry GarciaBootsy Collins, and… uh, I guess a bunch of prog rockers from bands like Yes, and… oh, I give up! Frank Zappa once said something like writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Of course he was right in this observation, and in no case more aptly so than here.

If you haven’t seen UM live yet, you should, and if it’s been a while since your last time, you should go again. If these words are unworthy of their subject in any other respect, if they can get more people to share the Umphrey’s experience, I’ll feel that I’ve done the world some good. Though I can’t count myself as an old fan who knows all their songs, a lot of the material in their two-set show the night I saw them wasn’t stuff I could sing along with, with the exception of their cover of DJ Zebra’s Beatles/Nine Inch Nails mashup “Come Closer.” I didn’t sing along, but that was only because I was too busy digging how they did it.

Another notable aspect of this night’s many-faceted performance was the way these guys could layer and build, and then strip down and rebuild to yet another and even higher climax, to the point where it was hard to tell if they’d gone into a new song, or just taken the one they were doing to some dizzying new height. At one point, I realized that everyone but the two guitarists had stopped, and that was it: no bass, no drums, no percussionist or keys, just these two guitars dancing on a beautiful bridge of sonic sculpture. It was so dense and at the same time, so pointedly connected like a constellation viewed in striking detail. I just kept slowly shaking my head, trying to wrap around the fact that all this was coming from just two guitars. So I thought, “Oh yeah, effects. Effects, pedals.” But when once again, I looked closely, I saw that most of what was going on was coming from just those four hands, sixteen spidery fingers weaving their web.

While a large chunk of the concert not surprisingly came from their January 2018 release It’s Not Us (though the tour is named after the just-released companion It’s You), the band drew widely from their entire 21-year history and, in classic genre-hopping style, kept it all well mixed. They moved from their crunchiest prog-rock burners into the occasional bits of country-folkish type material, and some of their simpler funk-driven dance numbers, which gave guitarist/vocalist Brendan Bayliss ample opportunity to employ his rather cutely effective falsetto. And for sing-along songs, I’d be hard pressed to find one more irresistible than their cover of George Michael’s “Freedom.” The members of Umphrey’s may not spend a lot of time and effort on showmanship- they barely said anything at all between songs, preferring to let the music speak for itself- but there was much more going on at Red Rocks than just dazzling musical wizardry. This is clearly a feel-good band, just one that doesn’t encourage shutting down your brain while your feet are moving.

Photo Credit:   Cy Fontenot

Photo Credit: Cy Fontenot

Still, while acknowledging the good-time aspect of their shows, I don’t want to underemphasize this band’s outrageous skill on their instruments. Wikipedia’s UM page makes an important point about the group, and it was what I felt most defined the concert I experienced it. While Umphrey’s may be commonly grouped in with “jam bands” because of their varying setlists, improvisation, and encouraging taping of their shows, their overall sound owes much more to progressive rock artists like King Crimson, early Genesis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the aforementioned Yes and Frank Zappa. I was also reminded of one of the first bands to advance the “jam band” prototype, The Allman Brothers, in the sheer and near-delirious power they cooked up as they brought their jams to full boil. And you just can’t do this without being overtly adept, not only at your own individual instruments, but also at the skillful interweaving of those talents combined with a highly developed sense of composition and dynamics. Guitarists Bayliss and Jake Cinninger, bassist Ryan Stasik, keyboardist/vocalist Joel Cummins, drummer/vocalist Kris Myers, and percussionist Andy Farag all displayed these musical attributes in spades.

I could go on but, okay, I think I’ve done enough dancing about Umphrey’s McGee’s splendid architecture for one article. Let’s just finish by repeating an earlier sentiment: whether you’re looking for virtuosity or just a very good time, get yourself to one of the shows on this tour, get on down to your local record store and pick up It’s Not Us and It’s You and then… well, just relax and enjoy. Umphrey’s will do the heavy lifting from there.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

We's Us' Newest EP Was Recorded at Jake Cinninger of Umphrey's McGee's Studio

By: Will Baumgartner

Denver has always been a great town for rock, and the powerhouse quartet known as We’s Us are busy proving that tradition is still alive and well. Their recent EP Zeus is the latest in a handful of strong releases the band has put out since their formation in 2012 – and guitarist/frontman Michael “Weeze” Dawald has a lot more time and focus to devote to the group since leaving the bacchanalian funk band Rowdy Shadehouse last year.

We's Us.

We's Us.

Zeus is a three-song document which showcases the power of the band and also their diversity. While the band’s musical personality falls squarely in the rock genre, their self-proclaimed influences include bands like Soundgarden and Led Zeppelin, but also range as wide as James Brown, George Clinton, and Bob Marley

Zeus was recorded in October 2017 at Umphrey’s McGee guitarist Jake Cinninger’s Boondocks Studio in Niles, Michigan. The engineer on the record was Jim Leep, who has recorded Umphrey’s and Yonder Mountain String Band, among others. It was co-produced by Cinninger, Dawald, and Willie Waldman. Waldman also played trumpet on the third track, an ethereal instrumental called “Passing of a Soul” which was written for Dawald’s grandmother (and played at her funeral). Cinninger also guests on the recording, adding a second guitar to the title track. Keyboardist Stephen Howell, bassist Chris Crantz, and drummer Blake Manion lay down a solid foundation throughout the EP, and Dawald proves himself not only a ridiculously fierce guitarist, but also a strong vocalist. I’ve personally known Weeze for awhile and always been a fan of his playing, but I never knew he could sing like that.

After listening to this and other recordings by We’s Us, you’ll be eager to see the band bring all the fury and passion of their music to the stage! Lucky for you We’s Us play in Denver this Friday the 13th at Your Mom’s House. Get yourself there and in the meantime, give Zeus a listen.

Keep up with We’s Us on Facebook.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.   

Umphrey’s McGee Lit Up Aspen's Belly Up For Three-Night Colorado Run

By: Cy Fontenot

After a two week break, the six-piece power band Umphrey’s McGee took a crowd of a few hundred people in Aspen CO, on an epic musical journey. They had the Belly Up, a notoriously intimate venue, dripping from the ceiling in good times at their Wednesday night show.  

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They started out the night by jamming their way into fan-favorite, “Resolution.” They then made their way into Umphrey’s classic, “In the Kitchen,” and left the crowd steaming with excitement as they closed out their first set with “Bridgeless.”

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Giving the room some time to breathe with intermission, Umphrey’s came out for their second set with guns blazin’ for “Phil’s Farm.” Just as things started to get really frothy, they hit us with “Booth Love, and then an OG Umphrey’s jam, “Nothing Too Fancy,” which left the crowd picking their faces up off the floor from the sweet jams.

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Taking it one step further, they played their brand new, ultra-heavy song, “Remind Me,” which did remind me that this is a band with a fire burning deep inside, a fire that will continue to produce the gnarliest of jams for decades to come.

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If you haven’t had the pleasure of catching Umphrey’s McGee live, check out their tour dates and new album, Its Not Us, here. They’ve got a three-night run of Red Rocks show coming up this July too, which you should grab your tickets for now.

-Cy

All photos per the author. All videos and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Every 2018 Red Rocks Show Announced So Far

If you've ever been to Red Rocks, you know there's nothing like it. From the natural beauty of the amphitheater, to the friendly crowd vibes, to the dancing security guards, a Red Rocks show is like its own mini-festival atmosphere. We spend a good part of our spring and summer at the Rocks, and below you'll see why. We've compiled every Red Rocks 2018 show announced so far this year, and we'll update this post every Friday. Start planning your season now and keep checking back for more new shows- 2018 is gonna be a good one. See you on the Rocks!

January

January 12- Red Rocks Local Set with Dynamic Distractions, Venture Still

January 26- Winter On the Rocks with Rick Ross, Jauz, Brother Ali

February

February 16- Red Rocks Local Set with Sugar Ridge Band

March

March 10- Red Rocks Local Set with Many Mountains, Miguel Dakota and The Differents

April

April 18- Camila Cabello

April 19- 311, Method Man, Redman, Collie Buddz, PROF, Long Beach Dub Allstars, Chali 2na

April 20- Flosstradamus, Kayzo, Famous Dex, Melvv, DUCKY

April 21- Opiuo, Sunsquabi

April 25- Kygo, Alan Walker

April 27- Vulfpeck, Kamasi Washington, KNOWER

May

May 2- Post Malone, 21 Savage, SOB x RBE

May 3- X Ambassadors, Misterwives, Allan Rayman

May 4- Twiddle and Stick Figure with The Hip Abduction

May 5- Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band with Leftover Salmon

May 6- Primus, Mastodon, All The Witches

May 10- The Purple Xperience

May 11- Tchami, Malaa

May 12- Global Dub Festival with Ganja White Night, Zomboy, Boogie T. b2b SQUNTO, EPTIC, AFK, Spock

May 13- Modest Mouse

May 14- Khalid

May 19- Above & Beyond

May 20- Elephant Revival with Blind Pilot

May 21- Phantogram, Tycho, Poolside

May 22- The Decemberists, Whitney

May 24- Louis the Child, Big Wild, Quinn XCII, Phantoms

May 25- Devil Makes Three with The Wood Brothers, Murder By Death

May 26- Emancipator Ensemble with Manic Focus, Wax Tailor, Kalya Scintilla & Eve Olution, Tor

May 27- The Disco Biscuits, Spafford, Organ Freeman

May 28- HAIM, Maggie Rogers, Lizzo

May 29- Five Finger Death Punch, Of Mice and Men

May 30- Vance Joy

May 31- Colorado Symphony: Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, Brett Mitchell, Natasha Paremski

June

June 1- Michael Franti & Spearhead, Xavier Rudd, Victoria Canal

June 2- The Motet, Boombox, The New Mastersounds

June 3- Marshmello

June 5- Ween

June 6- Ween

June 7- Brit Floyd

June 8- Lettuce, The Floozies, The Funk Hunters, Jaw Gems

June 9- Big Head Todd and the Monsters

June 10- John Butler Trio, Tash Sultana, Mama Kin Spender

June 12- Bryan Adams

June 13- Turnpike Troubadours with Randy Rogers Band, Old 97’s, Charley Crockett

June 14- Ryan Adams, First Aid Kit

June 15- Odesza -SOLD OUT-

June 16- Odesza -SOLD OUT-

June 17- Dispatch, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Raye Zaragoza

June 19- Barenaked Ladies, Better Than Ezra, KT Tunstall

June 20- Kaleo, Anderson East

June 22- Widespread Panic

June 23- Widespread Panic

June 24- Widespread Panic

June 27- Dirty Heads, Iration, The Movement, Pacific Dub

June 27- Third Day

June 28- Funk on the Rocks with Chromeo, The Glitch Mob, Elohim, KITTENS

June 29- Avett Brothers with David Crosby & Friends -SOLD OUT-

June 30- Avett Brothers with Mandolin Orange -SOLD OUT-

July

July 1- Avett Brothers with Special Guest

July 2- Zeds Dead, Ekali

July 3- Zeds Dead, Ekali

July 4- Blues Traveler, G. Love & Special Sauce, The Wailers

July 5- Umphrey’s McGee, Lotus

July 6- Umphrey’s McGee

July 7- Umphrey’s McGee

July 8- Dark Star Orchestra with Keller Williams

July 10- Ray LaMontagne, Neko Case

July 12- moe.

July 13- GRiZ (live band)

July 14- GRiZ

July 15- Seal with the Colorado Symphony, Corinne Bailey Rae

July 16- Imagine Dragons, Grace VanderWaal

July 17- Jackson Browne

July 18- Sylvan Esso

July 19- Trampled By Turtles, The Oh Hellos, Dead Horses

July 20- The String Cheese Incident with JJ Grey and Mofro

July 21- The String Cheese Incident with The Main Squeeze

July 22- The String Cheese Incident with Rising Appalachia

July 24- Paramore

July 25- Killer Queen

July 26- Sarah McLachlin with The Colorado Symphony

July 27- Beats Antique, CloZee, Polish Ambassador, The Diplomatic Scandal

July 28- Tedeschi Trucks Band with Drive-By Truckers, Marcus King Band

July 29- Tedeschi Trucks Band, Drive-By Truckers, Marcus King Band

July 30- Halsey

July 31- Nas, Black Star, Push T, Brother Ali, The Reminders

August

August 2- HARD Red Rocks with DJ Snake, Virtual Self, Mija, GG Magree, Hekler

August 3- Lucero, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

August 4- Yonder Mountain String Band, The Infamous Stringdusters

August 5- Joe Bonamassa

August 6- Steve Martin, Martin Short, The Steep Canyon Rangers, Jeff Babko

August 8- Portugal. the Man, Thee Oh Sees

August 9- Leon Bridges

August 10- Pretty Lights

August 11- Pretty Lights

August 12- Brandi Carlile with Shovels & Rope

August 14- LSD TOUR: Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam

August 15- Father John Misty, TV On the Radio

August 16- Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

August 17- Old Crow Medicine Show, I’m With Her, Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Aiofe O’Donovan

August 18- Railroad Earth, Fruition

August 19- THE CULT, Stone Temple Pilots, Bush

August 20- Niall Horan, Maren Morris

August 22- Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Tank and the Bangas -SOLD OUT-

August 23- Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club

August 24- 1964 The Tribute

August 27- David Byrne -SOLD OUT-

August 28- David Byrne -SOLD OUT-

August 29- Illenium -ALMOST SOLD OUT-

August 30- Shakey Graves, Jose Gonzalez & The Brite Lites, Twin Peaks

August 31- Atmosphere

September

September 1- Gramatik

September 2- Jason Mraz, Brett Dennen

September 3- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit with Aimee Mann and Amanda Shires

September 4- Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, Margo Price

September 5- Gary Clark Jr.

September 6- Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter

September 7- STS9, What So Not, DJ Z-Trip

September 8- STS9, TAUK, Cut Chemist

September 9- O.A.R., Matt Nathanson

September 10- Mac DeMarco

September 11-  Rascal Flatts, Trent Harmon

September 12- NEEDTOBREATHE, JOHNNYSWIM, Forest Blakk

September 13- The Revivalists, Houndmouth, J. Roddy Walston and The Business

September 14- Gov’t Mule, Dark Side of the Mule, Warren Haynes Acoustic

September 16- NGHTMRE with Slander and JOYRYDE

September 17- Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch

September 18- Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Tobacco

September 19- Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Tobacco

September 20- Little Big Town

September 21- Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Galactic, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, New Breed Brass Band, Cyril Neville, Walter Wolfman Washington, Kermit Ruffins

September 22- Greenky Bluegrass with California Honeydrops

September 23- Greenky Bluegrass with Turkuaz

September 24- Beck, Jenny Lewis

September 25- Beck, Jenny Lewis

September 26- Ms. Lauryn Hill

September 27- Get The Led Out

September 28- Big Gigantic

September 29- Big Gigantic

September 29- 3LAU, Louis Futon, Party Pupils

September 30- Gregory Alan Isakov, Patty Griffin

October

October 1- Ben Howard

October 5- Snails

October 9- The National, Sharon Van Etten

October 11- Seven Lions

October 13- Rezz

October 20- Excision, SKisM b2b Trampa, Barely Alive b2b PhaseOne b2b Virtual Roit, Dion Timmer, Subtronics, Wooli

October 22- A Perfect Circle

October 28- ZHU

*All available tickets here.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Catch Funk Quintet Tula's Album Release Show at Globe Hall This Friday (07/28)

By: Jura Daubenspeck

As the end of July approaches and energies are high, you may be wondering, “Where oh where will I get my funk fix tonight?!” Fear not though, as Colorado’s funky quintet Tula has just what you need. The band will be set up at Globe Hall this Friday, July 28th, to celebrate their album release titled, Follow The Beast Inside.

Follow The Beast Inside is the band’s first ever full-length studio album and was recorded at Scanhope Sound with producer/engineer Joshua Fairman, who is known for his work with Analog Son, Sunsquabi, The Motet, and The New Mastersounds.

Fronted by the talented Brian Duggan (guitar/vocals), Tula is comprised of Josh Gendal (guitar), Jon Ham (bass), Jeremy Smith (saxophone), and Logan Firth (drums). Pulling together influences such as Umphrey’s McGee, Phish, Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Metallica, their music stays exciting, ever-changing, and oh so groovy.

Tula.

Tula.

Friday’s release show will also feature opening act KingFriday the 13th, as well as DJ Hug and Frank Asaurus. Tula will perform the entirety of the album Follow The Beast Inside from beginning to end, for a performance that will be nothing less than dazzling.

Tickets for Tula’s Follow The Beast Inside album release show are $5 and can be purchased here. The show starts at 9PM (doors 8PM) and is open to music-lovers 21+.

Listen to Tula's latest tracks:

Check out more details for the event here, and connect with Tula on Facebook and Twitter. Upon release, Follow The Beast Inside will be available on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and everywhere that music is sold or streamed.

-Jura

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Forward Funk: The Runnikine Release Debut Single + Hit Cervantes' with Joey Porter’s Shady Business

By: Will Baumgartner

Denver pop/funk/hip-hop fusion trio The Runnikine are something of a local “supergroup.” Keyboardist/vocalist Eric Luba plays with local funk/soul stars Analog Son, drummer Will Trask is in Great American Taxi, and bassist Jon McCartan is with rising Americana rock stars The Drunken Hearts. All of these bands are making a name for themselves nationally, and if there’s any justice in the music world, The Runnikine will soon follow in their footsteps.

The Runnikine. 

The Runnikine. 

For now though, the group is focusing on building a strong local following- and they’re doing that quite nicely, thank you. It doesn’t hurt that the members are gregarious fellows who, beyond their main gigs, play with anyone and everyone they can on the side: most music fans in the Denver/Boulder area know of these guys having seen them play at some of the area’s biggest all-star jam nights. The word is spreading among the musical and fan community that The Runnikine are a group to watch, and for good reason: Their music is powerful, innovative, and driven by solid grooves.

Laying the foundation for a move beyond local popularity requires coming out with a great recording, and The Runnikine are doing just that. “They Walk Among Us,” the first single from their upcoming debut EP (which is slated for a May release) is a gem. The song starts with block chords on the keyboard and kicks in with a solid hip-hop feeling backbeat; then Luba’s laid-back, pensive vocals reel out a picture of fearful mistrust and jingoism that, while it’s not overtly political, certainly speaks to the current political climate in Trump’s America. When I spoke with Luba about the song, he said it was actually written before the election and the anti-Muslim travel ban, making it an eerily prescient bit of songwriting.  

The verse moves through a couple of key modulations and more potent imagery before hitting the stark, simple chorus of the song’s title. I place a lot of stock in well-written lyrics, and have to say that the words to this song are very impressive with lines like, “They can’t see where they’re going/When their eyes are closed,” “It’s too late to run/They’re already here,” and “You tell me where we’re going/Just don’t say the war.” These words are carefully-chosen, chilling, and affecting. Musically, the song also bears the hallmarks of craftsmanship and thoughtful use of harmonics, dynamics, and melody. And the production, which was done by Josh Fairman of the local treasure of a recording studio known as Scanhope Sound in Littleton, is superb.

A song as well-crafted as this has me eagerly anticipating the release of the band’s full three-song EP, and fortunately I won’t have to wait long: May is just around the corner! In the meantime, we all have the opportunity to see The Runnikine live when they open for Joey Porter’s Shady Business this Friday, April 7 at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver. And speaking of supergroups, Shady Business features Porter, Garrett Sayers, Lyle Divinsky and Drew Sayers of The Motet, Kris Myers of Umphrey’s McGee, Jennifer Hartswick of Trey Anastasio Band, and Adam Smirnoff of Lettuce.

Aside from their hook-driven songs, The Runnikine are also highly adept at exciting live improvisation. That, after all, is how the band started- as a no-pressure side project for Luba and Trask when they were both in the Jaden Carlson Band. That was just a couple of years ago, and look how far they’ve come in such a short time. How far will they go? Hop on board with me, and let’s find out. Tickets to their Cervantes’ show are right here.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Envy Alo: A Danceable Fusion

By: Will Baumgartner

"It never ceases to amaze me what three people can do with a guitar, drums and a Hammond organ. I recently got the opportunity to master Envy Alo's new EP and I was excited to hear so many great rock, funk, and hip hop influences, all wrapped up into their own unique sound. I can't wait to see what these cats come up with next and really hope I can be a part of it!"

-Alan Evans, Soulive

There you have it from the mouth of Alan Evans, the drummer of Soulive, one of the most popular jazz/funk fusion bands on the planet: Envy Alo, a trio of young Front Range musicians, are already well on their way to a bright future after only eight months of existence as a group. While their instrumentation is the same as Soulive, and they obviously share a lot of the same influences and tastes, these boys definitely have their own distinctive thing going on: a stew of jazz, funk, rock that is not only technically impressive, but tremendously exciting and infectious, and definitely dance-friendly. I couldn’t stop moving the last time I saw them live!

In anticipation for Envy Alo’s upcoming performance in The Pamlico Sound’s latest Funkstravaganza (five funk bands in one night at Cervantes’ Other Side this Saturday, June 18th), I recently spoke with keyboardist Aaron Pettine and guitarist/vocalist Kevin Hinder to get some insights into their process, progress, and plans. Check it out:

You guys have been around for less than a year and are already making pretty big noise on the local scene. How did your group come together, and what do you think were the key elements in your rapid rise?

Aaron: Kevin and I knew each other from attending James Madison University in Virginia for our undergrad studies. After we both relocated to Boulder, we met Tyler Gwynn (drummer) through mutual friends. After a few jam sessions with him, we knew we had a unique sound and chemistry and decided to move forward as a band.

Tyler and I both had been playing in other Front Range bands for a while now (Booster and Tenth Mountain Division respectively), so that helped us attract some of the fans from those bands to see this new project. We had developed great relationships with many of the local venues too, who were gracious enough to offer Envy Alo opening slots and gigs within our first few months of being a band.

Kevin: Another key element was just the initial drive that we wanted to do something different. A lot of bands in the area have that typical “jam band” sound, and we really wanted to create something unique. We had the tools already in place individually to do something new, and so far it seems like people enjoy it!

Kevin Hinder.

Kevin Hinder.

With your unusual and rather sparse lineup- keyboards, guitar and, drums- you create a very full, rich sound. How do you accomplish this?

Aaron: It’s simple really: add a synth bass line, swirling organ chords, furiously fast, yet tasteful jazz-rock guitar licks, and a danceable funky drum groove, and boom, that’s our sound!

Speaking of sound, I hear echoes of a lot of familiar sounds and styles within Envy Alo. The obvious comparison would be to the great funk-jazz trio Soulive, but not all your influences seem to be so contemporary. Some of the “organ trio” groups of the 60’s come to mind, as well as the solid classic groove of Booker T. & the MG’s. Who have some of your main influences been, both compositionally and in your individual styles as players?

Aaron: As a keyboard player, it's legends like Jimmy Smith, Booker T., Herbie Hancock, and Stevie Wonder. I also got a lot of my influences from current players like Neal Evans (Soulive/Lettuce), and Beau Sasser (Kung Fu) as well. I’d say my biggest influence is John Medeski from Medeski Martin & Wood, who I was lucky enough to study under in 2015.

Kevin: When I was a kid, I went through a heavy Hendrix phase, and was into heavier rock and the blues. But as I got a little older I started listening to bands like Phish and Widespread Panic, Derek Trucks, and Umphrey's McGee. I would say Jimmy Herring is probably my favorite guitar player out there, but when I really started studying music, my focus shifted to jazz with players like Pat Metheny and John Scofield (probably #2 to Jimmy Herring for me).

Aaron Pettine. 

Aaron Pettine. 

Your music is rewarding on both an intellectual level and a visceral one. Musicians get plenty to appreciate in terms of skill and complexity, while your average concertgoer gets a solid dose of dance music. Has this been a conscious thing? How do you approach creating music like this?

Aaron: [It has] absolutely been a conscious thing. We want to challenge ourselves in the music we write, but we also want it to be accessible and fun for the listener and concertgoer. Finding that happy medium can sometimes be the toughest part but it's one of the great joys of writing our own music.

One of the things that keeps your music interesting and exciting is while your primary focus is clearly on the funk/jazz side of the spectrum, there are also occasional flavors of rock. Where does this varietal spice come from?

Kevin: I think listening to an extremely wide range of styles helps us to draw on those influences and place some of that into our own sounds. Whether it’s conscious or not, it definitely comes through in all of our playing and writing. A Tribe Called Quest is a big influence in that regard, since they mold hip-hop with jazz, funk, rock, and more all into their sound.

Tyler Gwynn.

Tyler Gwynn.

Yet another thing that sets Envy Alo apart is the fact that not all of your stuff is strictly instrumental; you have some actual songs with well-written and interesting lyrics. What songwriters have influenced you?

Kevin: I’ve been listening to Jim Croce a good bit lately, and his lyrics are so well developed, funny, and his flow is so good. The obvious ones come to mind [too]: Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards. I also love Jerry Joseph. The imagery in his writing is so strong and deep, you can tell he has really been through some shit and has a lot of demons and skeletons in his closet, so pulling on his writing is big for me.

Do your compositions come completely realized from individual band members, or are they more often group efforts?

Aaron: It’s a little bit of everything. A lot of earlier tunes came to be through us just jamming, liking something, and putting some structure to it. Recently, Kevin and I have been doing a lot of writing on our own, either chord structures or lyrics or both, and then we get together and finish it up with Tyler.

Listen to Envy Alo's debut EP One Time

I’m very excited for your performance at The Pamlico Sound’s Funkstravaganza show this Saturday. Can the audience expect any special treats from y’all at that performance?

Aaron: Yes! We will have some special treats in store. We are very excited to play our first show as Envy Alo at Cervantes’- it’s one of our favorite Denver venues!

What the hell does “Envy Alo” mean, anyway?

Aaron: It’s a play off of the Spanish word “envialo” which means “ship it”. It’s a term we use when we need to spur one of us to really rock something.

Kevin: Basically, we just replace every verb related to doing anything with “ship it”.

Watch Envy Alo's live performance of "Manic Depression":

I never could have figure that one out on my own! So what’s on the horizon for Envy Alo? Where do you see yourselves a year from now? Anything our readers should know about in advance?

Kevin: We have a summer full of dates we’re ready to announce soon, and we will be playing some of the bigger local venues too, so we’re pretty jazzed about that. We were just booked to play at a music festival in Taos, NM in September, which will be our first festival. Sometime in the fall, we plan on recording a full length album. We’ve been talking to Al Evans from Soulive about recording in his studio out East, so we have some pretty lofty goals. We’re ready to dive in headfirst and become the best and most unique band we can be!

So make sure to “ship it” with Envy Alo and all of the great funk bands on the Funkstravaganza lineup this Saturday at Cervantes! Keep up with Envy Alo on Facebook.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.