An exhilarating head-on collision of front-woman Lauren Larson's blistering guitar shredding with impeccable pop songcraft and driving, feedback-filled jams, Austin-based power trio Ume's anticipated sophomore LP, Phantoms, will be released August 30 on Modern Outsider Records.
Recalling a time when the band and kids in the crowd weren't afraid to sweat, the album marries the heavier and more distorted side of indie rock with visceral passion and pop hooks, further proving why Rolling Stone named the female-driven trio one of the nation's best unsigned bands before Modern Outsider quickly snatched them up earlier this year.
Annihilating the stand-there-like-you-don't-care convention, Ume (pronounced ooo-may) will bring their formidable live show and new material to audiences across North America next month. Consisting of high school skate-park sweethearts Lauren and Eric Larson (bass) and new drummer, Berklee College of Music grad, Rachel Fuhrer, the trio will launch their tour in Denton, Texas supporting Kylesa on June 4 before playing New York, Toronto's NXNE Festival, and the Westword Music Showcase on June 18 -- Denver's largest one-day music festival that includes Yo La Tengo, Chromeo, and Del The Funky Homosapien. July finds the band playing Milwaukee's Summerfest (headlined by Kayne West and The Black Keys) and opening for legendary post-punkers Mission of Burma at their hometown venue The Mohawk. Ume will then join The Sword, The Black Angels and The Toadies in August for the 4th annual Dia De Los Toadies Festival in New Braunfels, TX and play St. Louis' epic Loufest alongside TV on the Radio, The Roots, Cat Power and Deerhunter.
Ume's busy touring schedule and forthcoming Phantoms builds off the momentum sparked by their Sunshower EP (self-released in 2009), and their recent CMJ and SXSW performances (the explosive trio was hand-picked by Village Voice to support Wu-Tang and Wild Flag at this year's SXSW). Self-produced by the band, the 10-track album was recorded in various Austin studios, living rooms, and closets with mixing provided by Jason Livermore at Bill Stevenson's (Black Flag, Descendents) The Blasting Room. Resuscitating the grittier and seductive sides of indie rock, the new LP, driven by Lauren's expressive, idiosyncratic axe-wielding and beguiling voice, explores the expanse between Black Sabbath's riffage and Blonde Redhead's allure. The band, described by Brooklyn Vegan as "poppy and surprisingly heavy, powerful and charming," still embraces contradiction, but Phantoms is emboldened most of all by Ume's newly honed melodic songcraft -- it's hard to get these songs out of your head. The threesome still unleashes the unbridled passion that sets them apart from the bored-slacker-bandwagon but this LP also finds them exploring new sonic territory, adding dramatic orchestral textures through synths and complex vocal harmonies, as well as intimate moments of restraint and lyrical tension.
First single "Captive" demonstrates what Ume do best - uniquely combining Lauren's own variation of the most metal of guitar tunings (drop C) with airy and impassioned vocals to produce an uptempo pop anthem. Like the record as a whole, the mesmerizing result alternates between heaviness and weightlessness, and pleads for a triumphant end to the struggles the band faced throughout the album's creation. "We booked time in the studio, the tape-machine broke," Lauren recalls. "We'd spend weeks setting-up tours and every time the van dies at the worst time. We were forced to cancel one show and Thurston Moore shows up to see us. But we won't give up, no matter what ghosts try to stop us."
A testament to perseverance, Phantoms is described by Lauren as a collection of unorthodox love songs to the band that pulled her out of a PhD program and to the first boy to hold her by the hand (now Ume's bassist). In the same way, it is also a battle-cry against the ghosts, doubts, and adulthood conventions that would drag the band away from their childhood dreams (Lauren and Eric - once the kids in the front row at the Fugazi concert - have been making music together since Lauren was 15). "Never can they catch us," she delicately sings over the searing fretwork of "Rubicon," showcasing how prog-like complexity can co-exist with a radiant chorus, while "Destroyer" hypnotizes listeners across an arpeggiated dreamscape and beautifully rallies against the destructive tendencies of grown-up pessimism. The haunting final track, "The Task" - the fastest song Lauren ever wrote at a time the band was not sure they could financially and emotionally finish the task of the album - unveils a finger-picked acoustic guitar and spaghetti-western style trumpet, proving that Ume's music is equally compelling whether behind a wall of noise or stripped down.
With more than 300 shows under their young belts, including three national tours and gigs with the likes of Arcade Fire, Marnie Stern, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Polvo, The Meat Puppets and Warpaint, Ume has developed a dynamic, awe-inducing live show and a significant fan base around the country that already has press talking -- "Ume's Lauren Langner Larson - a diminutive blonde rocking opposite her bass-playing husband, Eric- may be the most promising female voice to smack the indie rock world in years," Independent Weekly exclaimed. "She turns the pensive femme writer paradigm on its head, sporting a seriously scary welp and a deceptively sultry growl." While inevitably critics will clamour for comparisons -- "Distortion-heavy jams (and the whole marriage thing) invite comparisons to Sonic Youth, but Ume do more headbanging and wailing," Rolling Stone declared -- Ume is ultimately a beast unto itself and a band who's time has come. In the words of early fan Dave Allen (Gang of Four): "Do not overlook and go tell your friends!"