UME Interview with Lauren Larson & Album Review by Kira
Power trios are a lot of fun to watch, but it seems like a tough gig. It takes a certain type of musical chemistry between members to pull off a successful 3-piece act, one that requires instrumental proficiency, intrigue, and sonic complexity. But it never hurts having a very attractive guitar player in the band, either.
Austin, Texas indie rockers UME are working hard to push the envelope of experimental post-rock to new heights. Currently providing support for The Toadies and Helmet, one of the best concert tickets of the summer, UME will definitely give the audience a swift kick in the pants if they aren’t paying attention. Guitar/Vocalist Lauren Larson’s innate ability to shred out powerful, rocking riffs and unique tones alongside a rock solid drum and bass rhythm section give the listener plenty to hear and see when they hit the stage.
Make no mistake… UME is a band to arrive early for, so make sure not to miss it! I got a chance to speak with singer/guitarist Lauren Larson prior to their performance at Lollapalooza opening for Jane’s Addiction, the band’s influences and heroes, and the “Live Music Capital of the World,” their hometown of Austin, Texas. Check out the press release and upcoming tour dates below.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for speaking with Live High Five today! How long has UME been a band, and how did everybody meet? When did you first get started?
L- “I met Eric when I was 15 playing guitar with my first band at a skate park. We started playing music together in high school and formed Ume with our original drummer, Jeff, a few years later. We then moved away for school.”
“When we got Rachel on drums in 2011, it was like a new start for the band. We first saw her on drums when her old band Many Birthdays opened for us. We were blown away by her playing and when it was time to get a new drummer, she was the first person we asked.”
G- Nice! So, you guys are from Austin, Texas, and there is definitely no shortage of musicians trying to foster their careers in that town. Tell me a bit about in post-rock scene down there… How is the scene and how are the responses at your shows?
L- “There are a lot of bands, but it’s a very supportive laid-back community. If anything, playing around so many talented musicians forces you to work harder and keep up your chops.”
G- No questions about that! Now, I see that you have a few releases out at this time… Can you tell us about your current catalogue? Are you currently working on any new material, or are you primarily focused on the touring aspect right now?
L- “We self-released an EP called Sunshower in 2009 and have a full-length called Phantoms released last year. We are currently road-testing lots of new material and will be going into the studio to record in October with Adam Kasper (Queens of the Stone Age, Cat Power, Foo Fighters).”
G- Wow cool! That will be worth a listen for sure! What is your style when it comes to writing UME tracks, and who in the band typically comes up new music? Do you have a primary songwriter, or do you mostly write new material through jamming during rehearsals?
L- “It’s a collaborative process – sometimes starting with a guitar riff, sometimes with a drum beat or bass line. At times, the songs unfurl intuitively and instinctually. Other times, it’s a tangle of parts that takes weeks to unravel.”
G- Life of a creator, I guess. Can you tell us some of the bands in particular that have influenced UME’s style of music? Who do you look up to for musical inspiration, and are there any artists or groups that you are currently listening to that we should know about?
L- “Eric and I started playing in punk bands in high school in the DIY music scene around Houston. We fell in love with live music by seeing bands like At The Drive-In play to 2 people and still completely go ballistic, as well by watching bands like Fugazi and Unwound. Unconscious influences probably stretch from Black Sabbath to Blonde Redhead. Lately, I’ve been listening to Mt. Moriah from NC and local pals Ringo Deathstarr.”
G- Ringo Deathstarr?! A+ for the name… I’ll have to check them out, too! To wrap up, what is the craziest or most memorable show that UME has played to date? Can you tell us where was took place and what was it like?
L- “We got a phone call last week from Perry Farrell asking us to open for Jane’s Addiction at their Lollapalooza after-show next Saturday. I’ve been dreaming of playing Lollapalooza since I was a young girl wearing my brother’s oversized Lollapalooza shirt. Being asked to play by the artist who started it all is probably the craziest thing that has happened thus far!
G- And with that, you have a win! Best of luck in Chi-Town and hit it hard! Everyone go check out UME at their website and Facebook!
Ume – Phantoms (2011) by Kira
This was written by Kira. Kira rules! You can follow her on Twitter @shadowmelody1.
The very first thought that came up after starting this record with “Rubicon” was of Tegan and Sara‘s 2009 release, “Sainthood.” The hook that begins “Rubicon,” with hastened, standout guitar, echoed, airy vocals and the entire feel of the how Ume drives forward from one song to the next, immediately had led to library digging to make the first of a few comparisons. It’s not the usual course of action one would think to take when reviewing but it’s done here for positive reflection rather than disassembling criticism.
“Phantoms” resonates appeal in various areas, if you are a fan of any of the following: lead guitars, upbeat tempos (good for working out,) Paramore, (particularly “All We Know is Falling” and “Riot”) or wispy distortion –both vocally and instrumentally– (dashes of Florence + the Machine) which only furthers the natural flow of front woman Lauren Larson’s articulately loose vocal delivery.
Some tracks simply fit their musical motif together with their titles, in an almost “I’m judging a book by its cover” way. Mid-record track “Run Wild” is a perfect example, favoring a structure alternating between anxious build up and calming down. Many longer notes and “Ahhs” sung by Larson, trade off between an almost etude-like hook line by the rough lead guitar. This follows the rather boomy track, “Destroyer,” where Larson takes more of a prominent position over the instrumentals, which are in a much more support purposed role, barely with lines of their own –the guitar mostly just accentuating the harmonic changes of whatever Larson sings. (with the exception of about the last 30 seconds, which just descend into an aural chaos until a single piano note at the end.) Finishing the track in this way and then going straight into “Run Wild….” There appears to be some play on words and style placement.
Early track “Burst” brings to mind the scene of a crowded concert venue, perhaps like New York City’s Terminal 5, where a sizable, diverse crowd could easily switch between the more frenzied tracks to “Burst’s” contrary. There would be instant focus on Larson’s presence –musical and visually performing– as the track not only puts vocals at the forefront but is more ‘traditionally’ melodic and cohesive. The fact that such a scene even comes to mind speaks to how quickly a listener could find themselves searching the band’s tour page for new shows.
By the time the album is winding down with the last three slower songs, there isn’t much shock left, as listeners have been given the ‘what’s what’ of the band’s sound a few times in succession now. Finishing track, “The Task” definitely turns down the intensity dial almost as much as it will go; a lone, acoustic guitar steering the song for well over a full minute until Larson comes in and the intensity never spiking up thereafter. None of this is a bad thing though, because if one has reached the last track, something has kept them listening and even if other artists come to mind throughout, a good sound is a good sound. It means “Phantoms” can easily be added to any mp3 player’s style-founded play list.
Standing adeptly between rapidly relatable and singularly identifiable, “Phantoms” is an all around solid work. Ume could be just the new artist you didn’t know you were looking for.