Ume -- pronounced ooo-may -- is an Austin-based power trio recently named one of the nation's top unsigned bands by Rolling Stone Magazine. Praised for their passionate mash-up of melodic hooks and raw, unadulterated power, Ume -- who recently gained the endorsement of Fender guitars -- was one of 16 bands picked to compete in the magazine's contest (www.rollingstone.com/choosethecover) that puts the cover decision in readers' hands for the first time ever.
In between working hard on a full-length album to follow up their Sunshower EP, Ume has been busy touring, delivering a CMJ performance touted as "molten as hell" by Pop Times. A recent performance in San Francisco caught the eye of Noise Pop blog writers, who described Ume guitarist's "maniacal guitar work, blistering chops and arresting charisma" as poised to "give every leading lady from Joan Jett to Karen O a run for their money, while resuscitating an arguably hibernating genre within the indie music circuit: pure rock and roll" (mySpoonful.com). Ume is returning to San Francisco to play the Noise Pop Festival on Feb. 23 and then heading back to Austin for SXSW, where they will perform March 17 at the Village Voice Day Party and on March 19 at Skinny's Ballroom as part of the Modern Outsider Showcase.
This whirlwind of activity has all served as one hell of a trial-by-fire for Ume's new powerhouse drummer, Rachel Fuhrer, who recently joined Ume founders Lauren Langner Larson (guitar, vocals) and Eric Larson (bass). "We're super excited to have Rachel Fuhrer, who is a Berklee College of Music grad, on drums," says Lauren. "Rachel played with us at a recent Daytrotter performance with only one day of practice. With the album finished and a new drummer it really feels like a new beginning for the band."
As if the Daytrotter session weren't challenging enough with a brand new drummer, Lauren faced an additional challenge at that gig: playing with her arm in a sling, due to a recent tumble on the ice! "It was painful having to record the day after my fall," she says, "but I was really lucky that my arm was stuck in the bent guitar strumming position. I just have to wear the guitar extremely high. I also have an unconventional string picking style (the result of another weird injury from dental floss) that made it a bit easier to play with an immobile elbow."
Ume's time certainly seems to have arrived. The band came together when the Larsons, who are now married, were still in high school and Eric witnessed then-15-year-old Lauren's first punk band at a skate park -- at that time she'd already been playing guitar for three years! Years later the duo hooked up with original drummer Jeff Barrera to form an explosive three-piece indebted to the DIY punk scene that had brought them together. That same month Lauren was accepted to grad school and soon moved away to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy. In 2008, she traded in the Ph.D. to follow her guitar heroine dreams. She now also helps young girls do the same through her work with Girls Rock Camp Austin.
Self-releasing their Sunshower EP in 2009, Ume became one of only unsigned bands to land on the late Woxy.com's year-end "Best Of" list. Said Austin Sound, "Sunshower is at once beautiful, brutal, flawlessly executed, and completely unpretentious. It's the type of record that grabs the listener immediately and demands repeated listens," while the Austin Chronicle called the EP "a forcefully lusty, rich sonic mosaic" and awarded it four stars.
With a full-length complete and a heavy touring schedule ahead, we are guaranteed that this is just the beginning for this Fender wielding axe woman and hard-working, still independent, noise pop trio. In the words of early Ume fan Dave Allen of Gang of Four, "File under -- Do Not Overlook and Go Tell Your Friends." In the fall of 2012, they will tour as opening support for the Toadies and Helmet.