Myspace, Chris La Putt Ume (pronounced ooo-may, def: sour Japanese plum)…
- Posted on Feb 28th 2011 10:15AM by Emily Tan
Courtesy of Rolling Stone
Spinner recently talked to Lauren about how they got their band name, why she has a Ph.D. in philosophy and what it's like touring with her husband.
How did Ume get together?
I met Eric when I was playing in punk rock bands around 15 years old out in Houston, and we've been playing together ever since. We kind of grew up together playing music. And actually our current lineup with our new drummer just started playing with us last night in Sacramento, Calif. She just got on board, but the band has been playing together of and on for several years. Then when we moved to Austin in 2008, that's when we got a little more serious.
Where did the band name come from?
It was actually our friend's favorite food, Ume. It's the Japanese word for the plum blossom or pickled plum. We picked it when we were just brainstorming, and he actually met his wife at an Ume concert.
I read that when the band was on hiatus, you went and got a Ph.D. in philosophy. Why did you go back to school?
My whole life I have been a musician but also an academic. I actually started playing music in high school, but I had gone to college and studied philosophy and English. I got published when I was an undergraduate, which helped me get into graduate school. So I started a Ph.D. program when I was pretty young. And I was kind of schizophrenic at the time because I'd writing essays and teaching then I would run down to the basement and still play my guitar. I think after being in an academic bubble for so long, I realized my passion was music. And actually, I started working in the community and did non-profit work, working with young girls in music and also with the girls in Austin. And I think all things I studied at an intellectual level, I was able to actualize in real life. It was a really powerful experience for me to work with the music community itself and the non-profit community.
What did you like listening to as a kid?
Since I was young, I always into Prince records. I was dancing around to David Bowie and Prince and imitating Axl Rose. So I always loved music.
What was the song or band that made you realize you wanted to be a musician?
It was probably Nirvana. I remember picking up my brother's guitar. He never thought I would be able to play guitar but then I started playing 'Come As You Are' really quickly. Then I stayed up all night learning from a cassette tape of Nirvana just to show him. But my hands are really small so it was hard for me to do traditional power chords. And a lot of the bands I listen to played them but my hands were too small so I just developed my own style [of playing].
When was the first time you ever performed live?
In a band, it would have been when I was 15 years old at a community center in Houston. It was a DIY show put on by kids and the punk rock scene there. And what's funny is that Eric, my bandmate and husband, was actually at the show and saw me perform. I was in a grindcore band called 12 Blades that played 30-second songs. And he said, "If I ever see that girl again and playing guitar, I'm going to ask her out." And he did -- three months later.
Speaking of your husband, what's it like to tour with your spouse?
I consider myself to be really lucky because we get to be on the road together. We get to tour together, and this both our passion. It is making music so I love being able to do that with my life partner for sure.
It's probably similar for every member of the band because right now we're actually in a Motel 6 in Sacramento, Calif., with all our equipment in the room. It's such intimate, close quarters that it's like a marriage among all the members. You do have to be with each other like yesterday our van broke down in the desert. And we had to get it fixed and drive eight hours straight to get to a show on time. It's just a matter of being open and honest with people and saying what you need at the time. We're all pretty happy-go-lucky people though. We're not a very dramatic band. There's no band drama here.
You mentioned your van breaking down and figuring out how to fix it on your own, and that's one obstacle that a lot of unsigned bands face. So what would winning the Rolling Stone contest mean for Ume?
We're definitely what you call a working band. We're driving 8 to 10 hours to a show to make not very much money at all. We've been doing this for years now because our passion is to make music and share music with people. So this is probably the eighth time the van has broken down. It broke down again in Los Angeles two nights ago, and the band had pool our money together, rent a van and drive up. We almost didn't make the show. But if we won the contest, it would open up a lot of opportunities for us definitely. And we'd get a van that could actually get us to a show would be nice. But even if we don't win, we won't stop making music. We're a real band. We're a working band, and we're just really grateful for all the new fans who have been introduced to our music.