In 2012, after two years of road work supporting their debut album, Phantoms, the Austin, Texas-based power trio Ume took to Kickstarter to raise funds to record their follow-up. Their target goal was modest – just $7,500 – a mark they met in one day.
"That kind of thing wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago, maybe not even 10 years ago," says guitarist-vocalist Lauren Larson. "We tripled our goal, which enabled us to work with Adam Kasper [Grammy-winning producer of Foo Fighters and Queens Of The Stone Age], and that led to us being with Dangerbird Records. The way the internet has allowed fans to get involved has really changed everything."
Larson, husband-bassist Eric and drummer Rachel Fuhrer took full advantage of their bulging coffers and spent two weeks at Seattle's Robert Lang Studios with Kasper crafting the just-released Monuments, which frames Larson's perky pop melodies inside a robust guitar roar that is neither stylized nor austere. Larson talked to MusicRadar about recording the new set, female guitarists and power trios.
Was heading into Monuments any more intimidating then Phantoms? There's that old saying: "You have your whole life to write your first album and two weeks to write your second."
“That wasn’t our experience, really. This was our first time being in a studio with a producer who has an amazing track record. Adam had seen us live, and he’s worked with some of our favorite bands, so we were psyched about the opportunity. We didn't have long in the studio, but we made the most of it.
“Writing for this record started before the previous one was even out. Some of these songs I’ve been working on or had started years ago. Black Stone is a riff I’ve been playing around with, and when we got Rachel in the band, it had a something of a new beginning. Some of the songs were worked up right in the studio. There were a few five a.m. insomniac sessions.” [Laughs]
Rachel joined the band just as you were starting to tour for Phantoms. How was it cutting this record with her – was there a big difference?
“Yeah, I’d say so. She’s a heavy player and really puts a lot of power into our sound. She’s got the classic rock influence, so she really helps fill out the sound. We’re a power trio, so everybody has to contribute, you know? She’s a fantastic live and studio drummer.”
Power trios are interesting. Some bands really stretch things far and wide – take The Police, for example – and some groups keep things very basic and tight.
“Power trios can be tricky because there’s nothing to hide behind; when it’s just three people, it’s really gotta be about the songs. That’s one reason why the live sound has been tough for us when we’re opening for somebody else. The sound man will want a kick-drum-and-vocal mix, and I’m like, ‘No, we have to have all the instruments right up there.’ If the guitar riffs aren’t in the mix, it affects things. Sometimes the hook of the song is in that riff. We really try to make sure that all the elements are intertwined and working together – and audible. It’s a challenge sometimes, but it matters.”