With powerful riffs and sweet melodies, Ume (pronounced “ooo-may”) are an indie rock band from Austin, Texas. Named after umeboshi, a Japanese sour pickled plum symbolizing perseverance and devotion, the band is comprised of guitarist and vocalist Lauren Larson and bassist husband Eric Larson, along with drummer Rachel Fuhrer.
Ume released their third album Monuments earlier this year, the follow-up to their 2011 sophomore Phantoms. Known for the merging of hard rock, punk rock and pop, Ume creates an emotionally intense experience and expresses who they really are in Monuments – a tenacious and passionate trio.
Like Ume’s Monuments album cover itself – girls in purple ballerina tutus facing a grim red lightning-filled sky – Ume’s sound is one of unique and effortless juxtaposition focusing on delicate vocals and ferocious musicianship.
“Black Stone” blasts the album into full force with head-banging and savage shredding, while “Barophobia” is a beautifully balanced ballad with airy lightness that transports listeners into a completely different world.
“Gleam,” a song dedicated to one of Lauren’s friends who was murdered during the writing of the record, combines Ume’s gleaming storytelling with polished sound. The concluding “Reason” manages to be deeply gentle yet aggressively raw.
Ume is currently touring until August, with a show in Atlanta on June 25. Lauren Larson took the time to answer some questions regarding everything from when she fell in love with music and the band’s first live show to Ume’s favorite food spots when touring.
Benazir Wehelie: What made you decide to pursue music?
Lauren Larson: I fell in love with music as a young girl listening to my parents’ record collection. I picked up a guitar around age 13 and learned Nirvana’s “Aneurysm” in one night. I was then hooked and got in my first thrashy punk rock band when I was 14. Seeing bands like Fugazi and Blonde Redhead inspired me as a young girl to want to get on stage too and hold nothing back.
BW: Which musicians or bands do you admire or have influenced your own music?
LL: Patti Smith, Nancy Wilson, Fugazi, Queens of the Stone Age, Prince, Pink Floyd, PJ Harvey …
BW: Who are some musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with in the future?
LL: Josh Homme, Bjork, Dave Grohl, Ian MacKaye and Kim Gordon.
BW: What was the first live show you played and how has the band evolved since then?
LL: At our first show ever we played to one person at an abandoned fire station in Houston. We still have the same DIY mentality and appreciate every single person at our shows, but I guess I’m not quite as terrified singing into a microphone after a few hundred shows, and I’ve learned to spin around and throw my head about a little more while still playing guitar.
BW: What is the inspiration behind your latest album, Monuments, and how does it differ from your previous creations?
LL: This record was an attempt to make a raw, honest, rock record that for the first time captures the passion and intensity of who we are as a live band. We just tried to lay it all on the line with every song.
BW: You have noted how creating Monuments was as much about self-understanding as it was about tangible creation. What have you gained a better understanding of individually and musically?
LL: I’ve learned to take risks, to gather strength from my fears, to accept what my voice sounds like, to let go of all expectations of what we “should” sound like and just have fun and cherish the opportunity to create music.
BW: The band appeared on the 2012 season premiere of “No Reservations” with Anthony Bourdain, in which you experienced some local Austin, Texas cuisine. What are some of your favorite foods when touring?
LL: We always try to find authentic delicious local spots. Some of our favorites are Poche’s Market (the best crawfish etouffee) when driving through Breaux Bridge, La., late night Tootie’s Famous Italian Beef in Pittsburgh and Raku in Vegas. It’s a fine line between eating really heavy late night food after a show, and the rest of the time trying to find healthy places where you can get a fresh veggie juice and, if you’re lucky, something green.
BW: Besides creating music, what are your hobbies or interests?
LL: I also garden, and have the best vegetable harvest ever this year. It will inevitably die in this Texas heat as soon as we leave for tour in a couple days.
BW: What is one venue or city you have always wanted to perform at?
LL: Red Rocks in Denver
BW: What have been the most rewarding experiences or memorable moments individually or as a band?
LL: Nancy Wilson – one of my favorite guitarists – from Heart recently invited me to perform a couple songs with her at a benefit concert put on by Sammy Hagar in San Francisco. This was such an honor and amazing opportunity. James Hetfield from Metallica and Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day were also on the bill.
– By Benazir Wehelie