Not until I conversed with UME front woman Lauren Larson did I realize that 2009's Summer Fest was the band's first real festival, and afterwards they would find themselves on even bigger stages than the one at Eleanor Tinsley Park. The Austin-based band plays this year's fest at 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.
Two thousand twelve will be a gigantic year for the band, with an appearance on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations coming in the fall, a feat that will no doubt ratchet up the trio's visibility even further.
Rocks Off: You've played Summer Fest before. What has been the coolest thing about watching it grow?
Lauren Larson: I started playing music in the Houston DIY punk scene in the mid-'90s, and then UME started in Houston years later. While I'll forever be nostalgic about attending $5 shows in Houston with 15 kids in attendance, and seeing At The Drive-In play in Houston to just two people!
I'm excited to see the magnitude of the Houston music community now. Houston and the surrounding area is where I fell in love with seeing and making live music, and I've always defended and believed Houston to be a great music city. I think this festival is helping to show this to the rest of the world.
RO: What are some of the band's favorite fests to play? Which ones were the most fun?
LL: Summer Fest was our first major festival, so will always be special to us. Valley of the Vapors in Hot Springs is smaller, but we've never seen a bigger appreciation for bands or seen so many awesome ladies stage-dive and thrash to our songs.
LouFest in St. Louis was also amazing. We drove 15 hours overnight to play in the afternoon alongside TV on the Radio and Cat Power. We were unheard of to 90% of the crowd, but ended up setting the sales record for the entire festival. The support was overwhelming.
Kanrocksas -- a festival where Muse, Flaming Lips and Eminem also played -- was also a lot of fun, and even if we were the only band that actually drove ourselves there in a van, we really felt like we hit the "big time" when we found a trailer with the name "UME" on the door!
RO: What bands and artists are you excited about seeing this year at FPSF?
LL: The Flaming Lips doing one of our favorite albums, Dark Side of the Moon, and Willie Nelson. Eric just finished Willie's book and we can't wait to see the legend.
RO: What is on the horizon for UME this year?
LL: We are about to embark on a West Coast tour with The Life and Times, and then will be opening for Helmet and The Toadies on a national tour. (That show hits Houston July 20 at House of Blues -- ed.)
We've also just worked out European and Taiwanese record deals and are preparing to go into the studio this fall for a new record. This past SXSW, Anthony Bourdain checked out our band and went to dinner with us. We'll be appearing on his show No Reservations this September.
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UME plays Free Press Summer Fest 6 p.m. Sunday, June 3, on Stage 6.