Ume is an Austin-based band. They played Buzz Beach Ball 2014.
Guitarist Lauren Larson recently discussed her favorite guitarists,
her earliest musical memory and approach to songwriting. For more info
on Ume, check out http://monuments.umemusic.com/
Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
My family always had music blasting through the speakers, and they
loved vinyl records and going to concerts (they saw all the great
artists of the 60’s and 70’s). But my parents were not musicians, and
there are definitely no singers in my family. We were the type of
family who would make the howling dog sound anytime someone attempted
to sing. I became a guitarist because I picked up my brother’s guitar
and started playing Nirvana songs, but nobody else played music.
What was your earliest musical memory?
My earliest musical memory might be hiding in the closet playing
hide-n-seek with my brother, all the lights being turned off, and my
brother blasting Deep Purple’s “Child In Time” on the record player.
The song used to terrify me as a little girl, but I also loved it.
What was the first album you bought?
The Cure “Friday I’m in Love” single cassette is the first one I
bought myself, but I think I first asked for Dj Jazzy Jeff & The
Fresh Prince’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”
Who are some of your favorite guitarists and why?
My favorite guitarists include Nancy Wilson because she can slay (and
taught me to rethink what it means to play acoustic) and was one of
the leading women in rock. David Gilmour because there is an
experimentation yet purity to his playing that is unmatched. Ian
McKaye and Guy Piccioto because seeing them play live as a young
teenager inspired me to strive for a style of playing that was elegant
and aggressive. Prince because he has the most amazing moves and
How did Ume get started?
3 friends got together in a garage to make some noisy rocks songs and
try things they’d never done before – like me attempting to sing
(well, early on scream) for the first time.
How does your creative process work when writing songs?
Some songs emerge at once intuitively or instinctually, others emerge
through a tortuous battle. Some tracks on Monuments were written
collaboratively, while others were written by me alone in the studio
in one late night. I play by ear, so I’m driven by what feels right
to my heart at the moment.
What inspires you lyrically?
The music always comes first for us, but I’m inspired a lot by pulling
myself outside of myself and trying to see the world with other eyes.
Some elements of songs are inspired by literature or philosophy, like
“Too Big World” is taken from a Kerouac quote. Others emerge as my own
attempt to deal with ineffable emotions I can’t express any other way,
like “Gleam” was a way to honor the light of a lost friend.
Your latest release is the album Monuments. What was the first song
written for Monuments?
“Black Stone” – the first song on the album – was written first,
though it changed a little bit in the studio. I had been playing with
that lead Drop D riff for a long time, and it helped drive a heavier
direction with this new record.
Do you have a favorite song off the new album?
It always changes. “Chase It Down” is a lot of fun to play live
because I get to go crazy on the solo. “Barophobia” is also a daring
song for me, and strikes a special chord.
You put on a ferocious live show. How do you go about creating
setlists? Do you try and change up the setlist every night?
Thanks! Our set-lists are determined by guitar changes and tunings.
If I ever get lucky enough to have a guitar tech who can hand me a
guitar on stage, I will definitely change up the set every night. But
as of now, I have to play certain songs in certain orders because of
tunings. I use up to 5 different tunings in a show.
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Broken vans and debt, tearing a ligament in my guitar-picking finger
and tendonitis in my arm that made it difficult to even hold the
guitar, learning to believe in myself and learning that nobody will
make it happen for you. Also, not fitting the mold of others’
expectations or the typical “rock” paradigm has been both an obstacle
and blessing… but I can’t be anything other than who I am. That might
sound obvious, but self-acceptance is an important lesson that I think
everyone is always learning.
What advice would you give to artists just starting out?
Gather strength from your fears and don’t give up too soon. In this
internet age a lot of people believe it just takes one blog post and
their career is made, but the truth is you’ll go a lot further by
making fans the old fashioned way – drawing people to your band
through making sincere impassioned music and delivering a killer live
show that makes people notice. And appreciate every opportunity you
get to play live and all the people that make up the communities of
live music – the other bands, the bartenders, stagehands, soundperson,
fans. Even if there are 5 people there, give every single show
everything you have. Don’t be cynical. Be grateful and worry, not
about what everyone else is doing, but worry about making the best
music you can. And have fun. Rock n roll is not about perfection or
success; it’s about freedom.