Talking about UME (Ooh-May) is a study of two bands. The first, the band whose EP Sunshower and recently released full-length album Phantoms garnered stratospherically high-acclaim and put them on numerous music magazine “Top” lists, including Rolling Stone’s “Bands to Watch,” is an Austin-based by way of Houston indie-rock trio blending beautiful, sweet, vocal harmonies with hard-charging, high-intensity, full, layered, anthemic rock orchestral arrangements, like giving a tank the handling of a Porsche.
The second, the band who played at the Satellite in Silverlake on Tuesday, is that same Austin-based by way of Houston trio playing balls-out, pedal through the metal, leave-it-all-on-the-stage, blistering rock, and with just a guitar, bass, and drums, achieving eargasmic levels of sound so loud, it makes you check your phone repeatedly, thinking it’s vibrating, before realizing that it’s actually the entire venue that’s shaking.
Being a woman-fronted rock band, it is easy to quickly assume the comparisons to other strong bands with similar lineups, Garbage, The Breeders, Sonic Youth, but there’s more going on with UME than just being an awesome rock band with one hell of a live show.
The band’s name comes from a friend’s favorite food, Umeboshi, pickled fruits from an ume tree, commonly called a plum blossom, found in Japan. The recipe for UME’s live shows calls for a solid punk-rock foundation, layered with a healthy filling of indie/alternative rock, a hint of shoegaze for color and generous sprinklings of gotta-love-it-because-it’s-always-badass heavy metal.
Lead singer and guitarist Lauren Larson was already imitating Axl Rose and Prince’s moves before she even picked up a guitar and taught herself to play at 14. She met future bandmate and husband, bassist Eric Larson when he asked for her number at a skate park during a show with her first punk band, Twelve Blades, while they were both in high school (read about that and more in her interview here). Drummer Rachel Fuhrer joined recently, replacing former drummer Jeff Barrera, and Lauren credits her with pushing their music forward to new and different levels. That’s easy to believe at their live shows, Fuhrer is ridiculous on the skins. She attacks them with a controlled ferocity, each expert hit an explosion propelling songs further into the atmosphere.
All of the guitar adjectives are appropriate regarding Lauren Larson. She shreds, she wails, she melts, she destroys. Herself, a study of two personas. Larson, a PhD holder in philosophy, is a very pretty, petite, blonde-haired, blue-eyed epitome of a Southern belle. She politely and sweetly, repeatedly thanked “y’all for coming to see us on a Tuesday night,” at the show between songs. During the songs, however, with guitar in hand, she is a ten-foot tall, fire-breathing rock goddess, wearing golden armor and riding a two-headed mastodon with lasers for eyes. With Fuhrer’s drums, Eric Larson’s deft, steady, controlled chaos on the bass (he’s the most reserved on stage, which is to say that he would be the most insane person for any other band), they belted out riffs reminiscent of rock royalty like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath with Lauren strutting on stage playing sick guitar licks like it was 1989 on the Sunset Strip.