So much amazing music comes out of Austin, TX and it looks like the city’s next up-and-comers are the shoegazing trio Ume. Led by the talented singer/guitarist Lauren Larson, the band named after a Japanese plum blossom has made a name for itself after releasing its debut album, Phantoms, last year to much success. The band is currently touring North America with Life + Times and is gearing up to support heavy hitters The Toadies and Helmet this summer. Amidst the chaos of life on the road, Larson was nice enough to chat with me about van troubles, the Austin music scene, and her most memorable concert.
Katrina Nattress: You released your debut album, Phantoms, to much success last year. When can we expect a follow-up release?
Lauren Larson: We are demoing new songs now and will be recording a full-length this fall. This will be the first record with our new drummer Rachel. We're stoked.
KN: You have a busy summer! You’re currently on tour with Life + Times and will be supporting Helmet and The Toadies in July and August. Are you excited to be playing with such big names?
LL: Definitely, it's a honor to be touring with these bands. We met The Life and Times at SXSW this year and The Toadies have been huge advocates for us and other local Texas bands. It's exciting to be touring with bands that also like to turn up their amps and who still appreciate rocking out.
KN: What’s been the highlight of your tour with Life + Times?
LL: The cursed van has already died 5 times this trip. Today we broke down in a 12 lane intersection in Encino, CA and it took an hour for the tow truck to come to our rescue. The Life and Times are sadly having van problems too. "Broken Band Vans" might sound cliche, but I think it's a testament to how both us and The Life and Times are working bands that are driven by a passion for playing live music. Even when unfortunate forces of the universe might be trying to work against us, we'll do everything possible to make it to the next show.
KN: You live in Austin, which has a killer music scene. How do you feel living their has affected your music?
LL: We love Austin! I'm not quite sure how Lone Star and migas have affected our music, but I guess it has, just like the heat and bbq. It's amazing getting to play with such a diverse range of bands - from psych bands like The Black Angels, to metal bands like The Sword, to our shoe-gazing friends Ringo Deathstarr. It's a supportive and diverse scene that inspires creation, but it also forces a band to work hard.
KN: Do you ever feel like there is too much competition living in a city that is so music centric?
LL: No, Austin is laid-back. I've always felt the vibe is more cooperative than competitive. If anything, having so many talented musicians around motivates you to keep up your chops and inspires.
KN: Lauren, you have compared to greats like PJ Harvey. Who do you feel are your largest musical inspirations/influences?
LL: I find inspiration from the bands I coach at Girls Rock Camp (like The Velvet Pretzels) to the old legends like David Gilmour and Tony Iommi. I started playing guitar in a band at age 14 in the DIY punk scene around Houston. This youth-run activist music scene at the time had a big influence on appreciating music as a community. I also love impassioned singers - Nina Simone, PJ Harvey, Kazu Makino, Stevie Nicks - but I've always had a hard time feeling like a "singer" myself. With a guitar I feel empowered, but in my own voice I still sometimes feel insecure - these divergent feelings inspire me and lead me to a place in my songs that is sometimes visceral and brutal, sometimes delicate and intimate.
KN: Ume is known for putting on a killer live show. What do you think are the most important factors to make your performance memorable?
LL: We just hold nothing back on stage. We let ourselves be passionate about making music and immerse our hearts completely into it - whether there's 10 or 1000 people there. It's been a trend in the indie scene for some bands to stand on stage like they don't even want to be there. We're the antithesis of that. There's no place we'd rather be, and we just try to communicate that appreciation to the audience.
KN: What is the most memorable show you have ever attended?
LL: Roger Waters, "The Wall" was epic on every scale and the best sounding concert I've ever attended. Front row for Fugazi for $6 in the late nineties was also one of the best concerts I've been to. Two very different experiences, but equally memorable.
KN: Where do you see the band in a year from now?
LL: We'll have a new record out, will have visited Europe for the first time, touring like crazy and in a van that doesn't break down.