Austin, Texas’ rock outfit UME spent several years as the indie scene’s darling band of rising stars not so long ago, but a few years back they disappeared from the public eye. Now, they have returned to the rock circuit with a renewed zeal and an even more optimistic stance. I had the chance to sit down with the wife and husband duo of guitarist and vocalist Lauren and bassist Eric Larson along with their band members drummer Aaron Perez and guitarist Don Cento before their performance at Mercury Lounge to talk about their musical rebirth, the challenges of the road, and the things we’ve all lost along the way.


Pancakes And Whiskey: “Let me start by saying congratulations, your daughter is ridiculously cute. I saw you had a beautiful baby girl a bit back.”

Lauren: “Awww, thanks. Yeah, she is in Kansas City right now. I just video chatted with her and it’s tough to be away from her, but obviously I wouldn’t want to bring her on the road. The touring life in a van can be super rough even as an adult.”


P&W: “I got into your band by way of seeing you on stage many times many years back, and you guys were some of the most relentlessly hard-touring bands out there for several years, both headlining gigs as well as opening for some really big bands, but then you suddenly stopped a few years back. Why?”

Lauren: “Well yeah, in 2015, Eric and I welcomed our daughter Domino into the world. Then, about 5 weeks after she was born, we were gonna’ play a show, and we were supposed to be opening for Metallica at the X Games, and I thought, ‘oh, I can do this,’ thinking that nothing’s gonna change after having just had a kid, and, well, I ended up having to have surgery soon after having a condition where I couldn’t literally even pick up the guitar anymore and I sadly couldn’t play anymore with my muscles burning. That was a wakeup call that I had to take a little break and focus on the moment right now. So yeah, we took a break from touring, and I didn’t get to play with Metallica. Man, what could have been! (laughs)”



P&W: “Well, you guys are back out now. Has the time off, or going from touring band to family life, changed you or your music at all?”

Lauren: “Well, of course it did a bit, I began writing a lot, often for like 10 or 15 minutes at a time, because you usually don’t have that much time to write or pick up a guitar, but in the end, I think I was almost playing more than before in all, but kinda’ with a much more positive attitude, with not feeling stressed over like ‘This needs to be the next UME album,’ or ‘this one’s gotta be the next big hit.’ Instead, I was writing ‘cause I wanted to, and that was a little different. I wasn’t sure what I was gonna’ do with all these songs early on, but then we had to figure out how to do all the practices and such work, you know, with a baby, and we didn’t have any family in town. So, we were practicing when she was napping, and sometimes that didn’t work, and, honestly, I didn’t know how I was gonna’ make it work, um, but then you kinda let go and everything comes together, and then we ended up getting this record that’s coming out and this upcoming tour with Sword, so sometimes it all just works out.”


P&W: “Do you think the time away has changed your music any?”

Lauren: “Well, I don’t think home life necessarily changed my style that much, I do think my attitude is healthier. I think I used to be anxious about a lot of stuff, and I think all musicians are at least a little cynical as well, but, instead of think about what I didn’t have and what was I NOT doing, I was suddenly much happier with what I did have. Now, I’m Just grateful for getting to play so much, and being a lot less stressed, we’re just havin’ fun and it feels great!”


P&W: “Well, the new song I heard off the new album does sound a bit more hopeful, and I can’t wait to hear more, what’s the details on the new disc?”

Lauren: “The new album is called Other Nature, and it is out next Friday, July 20th, and it’s produced by Stuart Sikes, the Grammy winning guy known for workin’ with Cat Power and White Stripes and bunches of others. He’s done so much good work, and we were super happy to get him. He’s a local Austin guy, too, which made it much easier, and he was the one that hooked us up with Don, who did some synth work on the album, and he’s now playing guitar with us on the tour.”

P&W: “YES! I noticed you are a quartet now!”

Lauren: “Yeah, spending so much time writing alone, it seems I wrote a lot more guitar parts than I could handle, so thank God for Don!”

P&W: “So, how does it feel to be the new guy on the block?”

Don: “Well, once the hazing has stopped… (laughs)”

Aaron: “Well, we like to call him Nasty Don, at least for the last couple hours, before that we called him the Don Father.”

Don: “Naw, it’s been an amazing experience. I’ve been playing with them since SXSW in March, and it’s been a real challenge, but it has been a lot of fun, but mostly a challenge (laughs), but it’s just been a lot of material to learn of course. Lauren’s playing is very wild and idiosyncratic, so it has been a lot of work for me to keep up and to get it all under my fingers while she’s burning up the stage.”

Eric: “We also obviously have Aaron Perez, who’s had our back for a long time now, and is amazing at both bullying and drumming. (laughs)”


P&W: “Has the gear changed since the last time you guys were out on the road?”

Lauren: “Why, yes it has! I think the last time you saw us (back when they opened for Circa Survive at Bowery Ballroom in 2014) I was still playing my original amp I got when I was 14 years old, a Marshall JCM-900, but with this record I was gonna’ introduce a few more dynamics, so ended up getting a bunch of new pedals, and I especially love my new Earthquakers, but they didn’t work on the Marshall, so we went and got some Fenders, and that all gives it a lot more steps in the sound. I do a lot of arpeggiated and single-note type riffs, so that adds a lot of thickness to it especially as I don’t do a lot of traditional chords, so delay pedals help that as well. My sound changes up a lot, so I still switch up guitars a bunch, and I still have my 60s Fender Duo Sonic II with the super custom emerald green color and my heavy ‘70s Telecaster Deluxe, and those are what I play most on most live.”

Aaron: “All my pedals broke, so that’s why I got new ones (laughs), but yeah, all the new gear makes all of us happy and lends to a lot more of a dense sound.”


P&W: “Incidentally, are you still working with the Girls Rock Camp Austin?”

Lauren: “Oh, yes! I’ve been volunteering with them for several years, but I wasn’t able to attend this year as I’m obviously touring this Summer. I love to inspire the new generations of female musicians.”



P&W: “Speaking of, years back you did some work with Anthony Bourdain, and he certainly seemed to get you guys a lot of exposure at a very important time for your career, was there anything with the timing of this album that coincided with his recent sad passing?”

Lauren: “Well, I do think it was a really sad coincidence, but it was a testament to the type of person he was, because he wasn’t a snob and he was so giving, that he gave a band like ours an opportunity to be on his show. He came out to see us at SXSW, and his producer told us he never saw him smile so much while watching a band, and he took us out to dinner and talked to us for like 3 hours, and it was all really amazing. It was a real testament to what kind of guy he was and how he gave everyone a chance, and he certainly really helped us a lot. He was a really cool man, and he will be missed.”


The new UME album Other Nature is out next Friday, July 20th, and after picking up my advance copy, I can now say it is yet another classic by this amazingly talented band.  It is a love letter to their daughter and to the fleetingness of youth in general and they show off a whole new level of maturity that still rocks relentlessly from beginning to end. They have also lost none of their fire on stage, and Lauren continues to be the powerful ignition of a massive sound. I can’t wait for them to come back around, but then again, their music was always addictive and left you wanting more.



Article: Dean Keim



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