Saltines & Peanut Butter: Life On The Road With Ume
When not taking phone calls from Perry Ferrell, Ume has spent the past few weeks tearing up the road with the Toadies and Helmet in support of their 2011 release Phantoms. Hailing from Austin Texas, this power trio has found a way to mix thrash metal riffs with 90’s shoegaze sensibilities. We recently caught up with lead guitarist/front woman Lauren Larson to talk about life on the road for the up and coming band.
You were recently hand-picked by Jane’s Addiction to open their Lollapalooza post show at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. I heard he personally called you and invited you down to play.
Yeah, literally two weeks ago we were sitting outside a venue in Jacksonville Florida next to the dumpsters eating saltines and peanut butter living the dream and my cell phone rang and it was Perry Ferrell and he invited us to open for them. He found our band through a website called Red Bull Soundstage which is a site that features a few hundred bands that Red Bull likes and helps promote. He went to the site and was supposed to pick a band and he picked us based off our music on there.
You mentioned eating saltines and peanut butter. Having seen (Ume’s bassist) Eric’s Tumblr page, it does appear that you do sometimes get to eat well on the road. I saw that you will also be on an episode of No Reservations coming up.
Eric and I are the real foodies. Rachel (drummer) likes the peanut butter and saltines. Sometimes you get fed by the venue and other times there is nothing but beer and crackers. But yes we are going to be on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and it’s going to air September 3rd. No Reservations picked a couple of bands to cover at SXSW and we were one of them. They came to our show and filmed it and we got to take Anthony to dinner which was really amazing.
As far as your tour with the Toadies and Helmet goes, what is the best place you have had the pleasure of eating?
That’s tough; we have had some good food. Eric and I and a buddy went to Momofuku which was really good Japanese cuisine in New York City. It was delicious. We always like to try to find a local place to eat after we get to town so it’s not sandwiches and fast food all the time.
You mean it’s not Taco Bell every day?
So knowing you are at a gas station, I assume you have not made it to Pop’s, where you are scheduled to perform tonight.
We’re the openers so we have the last load in. The other guys they are on a bus or an RV so they have a driver and right now it is just the three of us so we try to sleep in when we can and get there by 5pm.
I’ve never been, but we have numerous writers in the St. Louis area they speak very highly of Pop’s as a venue. Apparently, it’s the lone music club amongst a sea of strip clubs.
That’s what I have heard.
I hear it gets pretty crazy in Sauget, one of our gals got to see Sebastian Bach just from being out there in the debauchery.
I know it’s a 24 hour roadhouse in the middle of nowhere with a strip club on either side so we shall see.
You mentioned the van. I saw on your Facebook that the van is apparently cursed. Is that because it breaks down or is it one of those things where, when you get in, the radio is always on the Spanish station?
We break down constantly. We’d probably have a lot more music out and a lot more money to record if it wasn’t breaking down all the time. Our last time on the west coast it broke down five times. It finally died in a 32 lane intersection in the middle of Los Angeles.
Yeah we stopped dead on the freeway so when we got back from that last tour we took it in and had it in the shop for three weeks. We got it out and the day before the Toadies/Helmet tour we’re driving to go pick up our merch for the road and it dies on the freeway again after having spent thousands of dollars on it. We took it to another mechanic and I think we figured out the problem but we will see.
Hopefully it will be cursed no more.
Yeah we have replaced everything in it.
So you have a new van then.
Haha kind of. New with 200,000 miles.
Granted you are touring in a van, but are you able to write on the road or is that something you do back home?
It’s tough when we have all our gear in the van and there is just not a lot of room. We do write sometimes on the road. Primarily when we are at home that’s all we’ve been doing and we have enough material now for a new record and we are going to go in and record probably starting in late September.
As far as music venues and touring goes, America has some incredible venues from Madison Square Garden and Hollywood Bowl to the Gorge in Washington. Is there any one venue in particular that you have your eyes on and you have to perform at?
Oh man let me see. Just playing the Aragon Ballroom is kind of mind blowing. That’s almost a 5000 seat venue and that’s probably the biggest show we’ve ever played. What’s so funny about that is that we were opening for Franz Ferdinand and Jane’s Addiction and it’s this huge stage yet we had one of the smallest areas to put our gear. We had to set up where I was in the middle and Rachel our drummer was to the side and I probably had three feet in front of me before I was falling off the stage.
As far as just other venues I’d love to play, the El Rey Theatre I would love to play there again. We got to play there with the Meat Puppets once but to be a headliner would be nice. That’s a really cool venue.
On the heels of opening for Jane’s, are there any other heroes you would like to open for?
As far as bands that are still playing, Queens of the Stone Age would be a band we would be stoked to play with.
I noticed on your website that you are about to play a festival in Paris. Is that the first international gig for Ume?
We’ve played Canada but this will be the first time overseas.
Is it just the one show over there or are there plans to go back at a later point?
Our record is going to get released over there in a couple of months. When we played SXSW this past March, we found out that a European magazine told their writer to check out three bands. Those bands were Fiona Apple, The Cult and a little band from Texas called Ume. So he came out and ended up seeing us three times and really liked our band and offered to help us out over there in Europe. He has a label and he will be putting it out over there and that is how we got put on the Rock en Seine Festival. We will probably be going back over there for a full tour in December or January.
What has it been like going out with the Toadies and Helmet? Any memorable moments you would like to share from the current tour?
It’s been amazing. These are two of the nicest bands we have had the pleasure of working with. They have been so supportive whenever our van has broken down or we had to borrow gear they have helped us out. I got to play Page Hamilton’s guitar the other day as mine was en route to Chicago for the Lollapalooza gig. I got to use one of the Toadies amps the other night. They are great guys; we have been hanging out every night and just real gentlemen and talented musicians.
The tones and melody in your music are amazing. Is there a core piece to your pedal board that you couldn’t live without?
It’s interesting because I am just using the distortion built into my amp. I use a couple of delay pedals and I use a HOG pedal which kind of thickens the tone of the lowest octave or highest octave cause I play a lot of single notes riffs. The main thing is my guitar I use a lot of alternate tunings so it was really cool to see that Page tuned down to a drop C tuning so it was really easy to use his guitars. But yeah, probably the HOG pedal.
Before we wrap this up, I know you went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few days ago. I know they have a lot of stuff, but what was the coolest thing you saw?
Oh man there was so much. Everything from Muddy Water’s guitar to John Lennon’s guitar. Ian Curtis’ hand written lyrics to Love Will Tear Us Apart. That was pretty emotional to see because you could see where he marked out certain words and changed it. That was something that was a real emotional connection to me. Some of the best lyrics just a beautiful piece.
I saw Jim Morrison’s High School Diploma, that was pretty funny.
Did you see the Phish Hot Dog?
Oh I didn’t see that, that’s funny. The Rolling Stones rider was pretty funny.
What was the best thing on their rider?
Oh they had a list of about 30 different bottles of alcohol including what each individual wants. Then written to the side is all champagne. Then there was another note Mick Likes Scotch…so yeah there was probably about 40 bottles on there.
Ume are scheduled to wrap leg one with the Toadies and Helmet tonight in Denver Colorado. The band will be back out on the road for leg two with the Toadies and Helmet starting October 18th in Tucson. To check out our recent confession of Ume in New York City, click here. Keep up with all things Ume by visiting their official website.
Photo Credits: Jay Porks and Ume