Theo Wargo, Getty Images Black Sabbath are riding high on the fact that their new…
- Posted on Mar 4th 2010 12:00AM by Tim K Harlow
Ume [pronounced ooo-may] is an up and coming indie trio from Austin, Texas, that first met during high school in Houston. Lead guitarist Lauren Larson, bass player and husband Eric Larson along with drummer Jeff Barrera were all involved in the local punk scene before forming Ume. In 2005, the band released a set of raw recordings called 'Urgent Sea.' Ume has been receiving rave reviews over the past few years thanks to their extraordinary live performances along with their 2009 EP 'Sunshower.' The band is set for a busy year in 2010, which includes touring and the recording of their next record. They have yet to decide upon a label for the record. Spinner spoke with Lauren Larson about the band's upcoming performance at the SXSW music festival.
Let's start at the beginning. How did the band form?
We all met back in high school. We were all in DIY punk bands in Houston. I first met Eric when I was 15, and in my first band, 12 Blades, which was a kind of thrash-metal band. Ume formed several years later in Houston when we ran into Jeff. Right after we formed I moved away to graduate school -- in Pennsylvania. We finally got back together in Austin during 2007.
So with the band so far apart, how did the 2005 record 'Urgent Sea' come about?
Yes, that was a pretty rough record for us. We were living 1600 miles apart [Jeff and Lauren were in Pennsylvania] and I don't think we had found our identity yet. The record started as a series of demos -- which a label in NY wanted us to put out. It's raw, but it's genuine and represents who we were at the time.
Ume is an Asian Flower or plum blossom. How did you decide on that name?
A good friend named the band after his favorite fruit. Umeboshi pickled dried Ume] is found in most restaurants in Japan. He also hooked up with his wife at an Ume show so it all kind of worked out. We also liked the aesthetic look of the word.
How would you describe the sound of your band?
We try to combine catchy melodies and intensity, in new ways. I think our sound might appeal to the old metal heads, and the kid into indie pop.
What about the comparisons to Sonic Youth?
I don't think that is what we intentionally set out to do. The comparisons to Kim Gordon are funny, because we don't even play the same instrument. It's just, they see this woman musician rocking out with blonde hair -- and make the comparison.
What are some of your musical influences?
We all come from a DIY punk rock background. That kind of rawness and passion is something we want to preserve in our music. But we also like a lot of older music. I have a wide range of influences -- Fugazi, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, Bat for Lashes, Nina Simone.
I read somewhere that you were a big fan of Prince.
I'm a HUGE fan of Prince. When I was younger there are videos of me doing routines to Prince songs. There was an article in the Chicago Tribune recently about Ume, and they compared me to Prince. The article took on writers who commented on my size. The writer said that Prince -- was small, but no one was ever surprised that he could play guitar. I tend to experience that a lot. When I am leaving the merchandise booth before the show, people seem surprised that I'm in the band. They think I'm the girlfriend and not actually in the band. My dream is for that not to be an issue anymore, for anybody that gets on stage.
Living in Austin is there any particular SXSW festival moment that sticks out?
The first year we played SXSW I was really sick and had a fever. We had played one show and I had completely lost my voice. We had some friends in from New York that we suggested could take our spot -- for the next show. They called later to say that it was their best show ever, and that Thurston Moore [Sonic Youth] had come out for the show. It turns out he had come to see us play and it was the only show we had ever canceled. On his blog Thurston wrote about "Ume, who I never got to see." I guess it was kind of unlucky.
Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
I don't feel guilty about it, but I'm a big fan of Barbara Streisand's 'Woman In Love,' and Herb Albert's 'This Guys in Love With You.' Recently our friend's daughter was watching the Grammys and Lady GaGa was performing. The little girl turned and said, "Daddy, is that Lauren from Ume?" so I had to look her up because I was being compared to her, and now I guess I'm a fan of [My Po Po] 'Poker Face.'
Tim K Harlow is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.