Austin rock band Ume recently unleashed their much-anticipated new album, ‘Monuments,’ on March 4th via Dangerbird Records. ‘Monuments’ is the follow-up to the trio’s heralded debut full-length album ‘Phantoms,’ which was released in 2011. The new album was recorded in Seattle, WA at Robert Lang Studios and produced by Grammy® Award winning producer Adam Kasper (Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Cat Power).
Ume is comprised of Lauren Larson (Vocals, Guitar), Eric Larson (Bass), and Rachel Fuhrer (Drums) and rarely is the platform for women in rock updated as authoritatively as its been done with this band. The trio’s music is one of beautiful juxtapositions: the loud and soft, the aggressive and eerie, buoyant melodies bursting through wall-of-noise dissonance. Ume explores the artier, heavier side of indie rock, post-punk, and alternative rock and have already garnered the attention of Nylon, who declared, “This band is ready to break out in a whole new way… A little like fuzzy shoegaze, raw garage rock and irresistible pop all rolled into one fiery package,” while Village Voice proclaimed “Ume immediately won me over with their raucous bursts of guitar-driven art rock, with front woman Lauren Larson threatening to take the whole thing off the rails with the abuse of her guitar strings. Still, underneath this Ume possesses an air of intelligence and depth rare in a genre known primarily for its copious drug use. When it comes to art, psychedelia, and rock and roll, it doesn’t get much better.” Rolling Stone said “Distortion-heavy jams (and the whole marriage thing) invite comparisons to Sonic Youth, but Ume do more headbanging and wailing.”
Ume have won over audiences across the country as a result of their momentous live show and toured over 150 dates in support of their prior release. They’ve supported …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Warpaint, The Smashing Pumpkins, Franz Ferdinand, Helmet, and Cursive, and were personally invited to open for Jane’s Addiction at a Lollapalooza afterparty by Perry Ferrell last year. The band also appeared on the 2012 Season Premiere of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, sharing their insight on local Austin food during Bourdain’s visit to SXSW. ‘Monuments’ showcases the bands talents and has already begun to turn the heads of fans and critics alike. The future is certainly bright for this band on the rise! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Lauren Larson, while the band was playing SXSW, to discuss her musical roots, the making of the new album, the challenges involved and more!
I wanted to back to your early years to hear a little bit about your first memories of music.
I picked up a guitar when I was twelve years old and I learned “Come As You Are,” probably like a lot of other kids. That is what sort of got me into music initially. Then I joined a punk rock/hardcore band when I was fourteen. Before that, I was the kid with the tennis racket for a guitar pretending I was in Guns N’ Roses! [laughs] My parent’s record collection had a big influence on me with everything ranging from Deep Purple to Jefferson Airplane.
Who were some of the performers that influenced you when it comes to your live performance?
Seeing Ozzy [Osbourne] live as a young teenager was a very heavy influence. Seeing the bands Blonde Redhead and They Will Know Us By The Trail of Our Dead, which is one of the most inspiring performances I have ever seen, had a big effect on me. I guess when I was still in the womb, I saw Bruce Springsteen! My Mom says I was kicking to the beat the whole time! [laughs]
What was it about music that made you pursue your passion as a career?
When we started, we came from a real DIY/punk background and the goal was just to do a show outside of the garage. Even our early shows, fans saw we were doing something really passionate and different and supported us from those really early days. I was driven by the support from people saying “Hey, I saw your performance and it really inspired me.” That is really what kept us going through the years.
For people just discovering the band with the release of ‘Monuments,’ what can you tell us about the band in a nutshell from the first record until now?
Eric [Larson], the bass player, and I have been playing in different bands together since high school. Th current lineup, where we got with Rachel Fuhrer, started about two and a half years ago. Since then, e have been preparing for this new record. We started off in Austin, TX and then we got together with Adam Kasper to record, which was a dream come true. Adam has a fantastic ear and is a master at capturing sounds right off the bat. It was really about capturing the essence of the guitar, drums and bass. He also really helped me let go. I would have in my head that I had to do thirty takes and I would hear, “Ok! We’ve got it!” I would say, “But I only did three takes!” [laughs] He was really about capturing the essence of the performance at the time. If we had to
How would you describe ‘Monuments’ sonically, as compared to your first album?
It is a guitar driven, emotional rock record but it shows a lot of variety. While it contains some of the heaviest stuff we have ever done, there are also some very vulnerable moments where it is myself and an acoustic guitar. As I mentioned, we worked with Adam Kasper, who has worked with Queens of The Stone Age, Cat Power, Foo Fighters and so on, and he was able to capture the essence of our live show and the goal was to communicate that intensity to this record. I feel like we took some risks with this record.
How did the title ‘Monuments’ come about and what does it mean to you personally?
The title came about after the record was already written but I feel like each song sort of commemorates or celebrates a different person or emotion. There is a lot of variety on this record from aggression to sorrow. Each song is kind of a monument on its own in that way.
What can you tell us about your songwriting process and how you go about bringing a song to life?
Some of these songs we have tortured over for years! [laughs] We road tested them and then they would change in the studio but there were a few songs on the record that I sat down and wrote in one night. They kind of emerged intuitively and instinctually. Overall, I think this record is a lot more focused on songwriting and is a record where we put ourselves in the position to think more outside of the box. We also ended up with some unreleased material that will be released at a later date.
Looking back on the process of putting this album together, what do you consider the biggest challenges you encountered along the way?
Initially, it was financial. We didn’t have a huge budget going on and our fans got behind this and funded this recording. It was funded in less than twenty four hours. That was an amazing DIY way to make this happen. Since then we joined forces with Dangerbird Records, out of LA, who will be putting out the record. In this day and age, there isn’t a lot of money up front for artists, so we made it happen with our fans.
Is that a route you would consider taking again in the future?
If we had to, we definitely would. The fans have truly been amazing and supportive. It is definitely a cool new paradigm that artists can explore.
You have had the opportunity to play these songs live at this point. Have you noticed the songs evolving in the live setting?
Definitely. The songs are always evolving live. Last night, we had a keyboardist join us for the first time, which was really cool. We played with Blondie last night, which was really cool! Still recovering from that one! [laughs] I saw Debbie Harry backstage right before they went on and while you don’t want to necessarily bug artists right before they go on, I did just have to tell her it was an honor to play with her and I hoped she had a great show. It was a lot of fun. I think when we play live there is a visual and raw element to the songs and I think that is always evident.
We are looking forward to the video aspects of this album as well. What do you have in store for us in that realm?
We just finished shooting a video outside of Austin and we plan on unveiling it in a couple of weeks!
Looking back on your career so far, what do you consider your biggest milestones?
I definitely think this record is something to be proud of. We are the kind of band that has down over a few hundred shows on the road and have never given up. I think perseverance is something which is our biggest milestone. Perry Farrell called me once and asked us to open up for Jane’s Addiction, so that was a milestone! [laughs]
How do you feel you have evolved as a musician since you first started out?
When I first started out, I was terrified to even sing! I think I have gained more confidence as a singer and as a guitar player. I think with this record, we learned so much in the process. For a while, I thought you needed more and more elements and layers but with this record, we just stripped it all down to a voice, guitar, drums and bass.
Are you the type of artist who is always writing and thinking ahead to the next thing?
Yeah, when I can. I am definitely always writing. The focus right now is promoting this record. We are about to hit the road, which is exciting. Even then, I will be with a guitar and the rest of the band, so we will be writing.
As a band, do you have any musical bucket list items you hope to accomplish in the short term?
We really want to get over to Europe. We played Paris about a year and a half ago but we want to tour the UK for the first time. There are a ton of venues I would love to play. We saw Queens of The Stone Age at Red Rocks in Denver and that is a venue I would love to play. We really just want to keep working!
You have done some great work with the Girls Rock Camp (www.girlsrockaustin.org). What has the experience been like for you?
It is one of the most inspiring things I have ever done. I have been working with them now for about five or six years. When I started playing in a band at the age of fourteen, I didn’t have many female guitarists as role models. I just didn’t know about them. With this group, we try to empower young girls through music. The form a band in one week, write a song and perform the song in front of people. I think once they see themselves up on stage performing, even if they never do music again, they know they can do anything.
What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to those looking to make music their career in the current climate?
The best advice I can give is — Don’t give up and believe in yourself. It is not always going to be a glamorous lifestyle being a musician. You have to be willing to hit the road and pour yourself into it. Don’t do this for money, do it because you love making music.
Thanks for your time today, Lauren. ‘Monuments’ is a terrific record and we look forward to spreading the word!
I really appreciate it! Thank you so much for your support!
For all the latest news and updates from Ume, visit the band’s official website at www.umemusic.com. Like the band on Facebook at facebook.com/umemusic and interact with them on Twitter at twitter.com/umemusic.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.