July 13, 2012
Ume, pronounced “Ooo-may” is a Japanese plum blossom. It’s also the name of an indie rock band based out of Austin who will be performing on Sunday at the Bunbury Festival. While Bunbury is proud to have headliners such as Weezer, Jane’s Addiction, and Death Cab for Cutie fronting the inaugural festival, I bet people will be most excited to come away with the chance to experience new bands, Ume, of course, being one of them.
I only learned of Ume this past week, and it was after reading a quote from lead guitarist and singer Lauren Larson that a symbolic chord was struck. “When I take the stage, people have wondered why I was leaving the merch table, or asked if I was the girlfriend of the band or even the dancer,” Lauren says. “People have even told me that they assumed we’d be an acoustic folk band just by looking at us. But I like to surprise them.”
It was that sense of surprise and what it could mean that I was intrigued to listen a few songs off of their latest album, Phantoms. What I feared might be too much dissonance and hard-hitting alternative rock, was actually just the right amount of chaos laced with catchy, head bopping harmony. And I was digging it.
At every point I thought Lauren’s ferocious guitar playing might take me over the edge, the lyrics and melody would soulfully bring me back. As Lauren described, “There’s brutality and aggression to our music but it’s also an expression of passion, elegance and even some moments of beauty that we try to incorporate—melody merging with madness.” It only takes one listen, and you’ll completely understand and appreciate that statement.
The rest of the three-piece band is made up of Lauren’s husband, Eric, who plays the bass and is the stable force of the group, alongside Rachel Fuhrer, the newest member, as of a year and a half ago. She plays the drums.
While each member plays a crucial role in harnessing the vibe of the band, Lauren rocking out on the guitar probably makes the most memorable moments of live performances with Ume. “I have a unique style of guitar playing where I might use four or five guitars at any moment on stage and hold nothing back,” said Lauren. Imagine your best guitar hero avatar meets Tenacious D meets Kurt Cobain and that might give you a slight (and I only mean the slightest) sense of the unbridled awesomeness that Lauren brings to the stage.
Of course the story of how they arrived at the Bunbury stage hasn’t been easy. Then again, it rarely is. In Ume’s case, the band that first performed under the name Ume in 2002 is a very different organism today. After disappearing from the music scene for a bit to pursue a graduate degree, like all born rock stars, Lauren was pulled back into the ring of fire. And since 2008 Ume has reformed itself with a newfound passion.
Beyond meaning Japanese flower, Ume is a symbol of hope and perseverance, something that typifies the band’s life story thus far. Whether the van breaks down (which has happened before) or they’re playing for an audience of 5 or 500 (also happened), Ume performs the same with each concert, which is to say they base jump over the Hoover Dam like it’s their job. And although it’s hard to pinpoint what the moment looks like that will truly define and embody their success, Lauren will be satisfied, at least for starters, when everyone knows how to pronounce their name.
Cincinnati practice it with me: Ooo-may. They are playing on Sunday at 4:30 on the AliveOne stage.
For a list of all the bands and set times for Bunbury please click HERE.to top ↑