Ume (pronounced "ooo-may") first earned raves from Rolling Stone as one of the nation's best unsigned bands. Now the Austin, Texas, trio is touring on its sophomore LP, "Phantoms," which showcases the intricate guitar chops and ethereal vocals of frontwoman Lauren Larson. The road-savvy indie band, which also includes bassist/husband Eric Larson and drummer Rachel Fuhrer, evokes comparisons to Blonde Redhead, Metric and Sonic Youth through its mesh of textural melodies and anthemic hard rock. Ume was recently featured on an episode of "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," taking the host on a tour of Austin eateries.
"We have a van curse, where literally -- I hate to say it -- we are tens of thousands of dollars in debt from the van. The first van we ever bought was $400, and we got it at a salvage auction in Pennsylvania, where I was going to school. We didn't even know if it was going to run. I don't know why we bid on it. It had a rusted-out bottom. We'd taken it all the way to the West Coast. It broke down four times -- blew a head gasket in the Mojave Desert. That was pretty bad. But then we had 20 bucks, and I ended up going to Vegas, renting a car, turning that $20 into $80 ... it was on a nickel slot called Filthy Rich.
"Then we had another van and ended up putting a new engine in it. We booked a tour. ... We've always done preventative maintenance. We didn't even get eight miles out of Austin. We broke down in the middle of the freeway after we'd already had to replace the engine.
"Then we ended up borrowing our friend's diesel, which had 450,000 miles. That could have taken him to the moon. So we said, 'Let's get a diesel van.'
"We get the diesel van, and it's broken down every single tour.
"When I broke down in Nebraska this last time (in 2011), it was like this big rodeo day. (The people at the repair shop) were going, 'Well, we're gonna close at noon. It's Rodeo Days.'
"I was like, 'I don't know what that is.'
"So I had to put on my country-girl accent, 'Could someone work a miracle for me today? We're on the road from Texas.'
"He's like, 'Alright. Let me see what I can do.'
"They ended up taking our van in. We made it to the show. We ran onstage, plugged into someone else's gear, played one song and the stage manager is like, 'You're done!'"
— Lauren Larson, Ume