Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:35:13
If you want to hear a guitar roar like never before, pick up Ume's Monuments. Led by axe-slinger and singer Lauren Larson, the Texas trio stir up a fuzzed out bliss on par with Smashing Pumpkins' classics Gish and Siamese Dream and Queens of the Stone Age's lauded eponymous debut. They're that brash, badass, and brilliant. You'll find heaven inside Ume's distortion at the heart of Monuments.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Lauren Larson of Ume talks Monuments and so much more.
There's cohesion to Monuments that stands out.
I'm glad that you said that about the cohesiveness. For us, each song is a real expression of honesty and an emotional rawness in different ways. Some songs are the heaviest things we've ever captured in a recording and others are some of the most stripped-down material. Throughout the whole record, we tried to hold nothing back and really expose who we are as a band.
Do you feel like this is something of an introduction to Ume?
Yeah, I think we found our voice with this one. This is the first record we made with our new drummer Rachel Fuhrer. It's the first time we got to spend more than a few days in the studio. We still did this record pretty quickly. We did it in about two-and-a-half weeks. We got to work with Adam Kasper. He's a producer who's worked with Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana, and Foo Fighters. He had just wrapped up that new Soundgarden record while we were up there. I think he really helped us capture the essence of what the band is. Instead of doing a lot of studio trickery, we just plugged in, played the songs, and captured the sounds.
Did you have a lot of material written before you got into the studio or did you write there?
It was both. It was the first time we had actually written in the studio as well. Like I said, we didn't have a ton of time. I'm a bit of an insomniac. Being in the studio and sort of living there, I'd go down to the basement. I'd take a few of the songs I wrote in one night. Then, we'd show each other ideas and craft them together in the studio. Others we had been hashing out and road-testing for over a year.
What's the story behind "Too Big World"?
That started off with a working title "Eric's Bass Riff". We built it around that. "Too Big World" is actually inspired by a quote from Jack Kerouac about this feeling you get when there's something you so desire, but it's out of your reach. It's like the world is too big to really accomplish your dream or your goal or to achieve this love you seek. I think this feeling of devotion, perseverance, and sticking through stuff permeates the whole record. We're a band that's been working hard for a while. That song is about chasing your dream.
Where did "Reason" come from?
That's a bit of a unique song on the album. A lot of times we do things collaboratively, but I wrote that one in my room one day. It's just built around guitar. Again, it's a song about sticking through things and what drives you and what motivates you—whatever the reason is remains up for interpretation.
Is it important for you to conjure visuals with the music?
I think it's rad you asked that. Thanks! For me, music and the experience of making this album is very visual and emotional. If someone has more of a visual and cinematic experience with it, that's really cool. It's a different expression of our voice so if it brings out visuals for people, that's cool.
What influences you outside of music?
We're big fans of visual arts for sure like film. I'm definitely not a visual or graphic artist by any means though. Music is where I really have found my voice. We love immersing ourselves in different art forms and culture. With this album, we got the artwork from a really badass collage artist out of Baltimore. She does cool collages a lot of times with women or girls in different shocking or strange scenarios. They're also very empowering images. We're drawing more visual elements from the artwork this time than anything we've ever done.
If you were to compare Monuments to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's a good question and a hard question! How about Kill Bill meets Amadeus? [Laughs] Those are two of my favorite movies. One is a favorite about music, and Kill Bill is a woman slaying and fighting for justice.
What artists shaped you?
Pink Floyd is a band we love. I inherited my parents' record collection from the seventies. Listening to the original Black Sabbath on the seventies record system we have now is super inspiring. Then, there's Led Zeppelin. Also, it's a lot of the newer bands like Kylesa, Queens of the Stone Age, and Arctic Monkeys. I just read Patti Smith's book, and she's been a big inspiration to me.
How do riffs come about?
I've always thought of myself as a very instinctual or intuitive guitar player. I've never taken lessons. I really play by ear and the feeling of the song. On this album, the goal was to capture the hook and make it sound like three-piece here. There was a lot of emphasis on finding a killer riff that could drive the song. We tried to open the record like that. It's a riff I've had for a long time. I also brought in some new elements like the e-bow on guitar. I've always had these fantasies of doing huge, elaborate arrangements with strings, but we don't have the budget or resources for that so I decided to do more of a string sound on guitar with the e-bow. That was new for us.
Do you have a favorite guitar part on the record?
That's always changing. "Chase It Down" is a lot of fun to play. There's this whole instrumental break. I don't have to sing. I just get to sit there and play guitar [Laughs].
What was your first guitar?
The first guitar that was my own was a Fender American Stratocaster. It's a sea green guitar with a matching headstock. I got that when I was in my first band at 15. I still use the exact same amp setup I used way back when. I still have it. It's tuned differently. I have it tuned to Drop-C. There are a few songs that I only do on that guitar.
Have you heard Ume?