The Ums
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The Ums

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The best kept secret in music


"Give Me Pause"

Grade: A-

Although it lacks the particular beer-and-cigarettes charm of a live Ums show, the band’s new EP, Give Me Pause presents Tallahassee local favorites in a different light – in the studio, they’re tighter and more clever than ever before. Although most of the songs on Give Me Pause have become staples of live Ums shows, the versions on the EP are sufficiently different to warrant heavy listening, even when the Ums are readily accessible at live shows around town.

Give Me Pause grants the listener access to a different set of Ums than he or she might be used to: when compared to the band’s previous album, Have a Big Day, the band seems to have completely transformed. Those who have seen Um shows over the past two years have been privy to a more gradual transformation from the band, but Give Me Pause still has a number of tricks up their sleeves.

First and foremost, the Ums’ signature harmonies are unfettered by bad PAs or inadequate monitors: on songs like “Start A War,” the band are the ultimate backup harmony machine. But harmony isn’t just a trick to thicken the arrangements – the band’s innate ear for great vocal melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and tight harmonies gel better than ever before on the heart-stopping “Half Turn”. Drummer Steve Gillespie and bassist Alex Zacharais take to the microphone to surprise with one of the Ums’ best and newest songs.

If there is any aspect in which the band falters, it’s intensity. Songs like “Wear Her Out” and “Sorry, I Can’t Help You” don’t quite have the same punch as they do at a concert. But this is the major complaint against most recorded music – some songs just sound better live. Which isn’t to say that the two aforementioned tracks are bad. “Wear Her Out” is even tighter than most live versions – and if you think it doesn’t groove quite as much, stop complaining and go to a show. As with even the greatest bands, some songs just sound better live. Ask the Who.

If there’s one song that isn’t a surprise on the album, it’s “Bathroom Walls”. Fortunately, it’s a good sort of reliability. One of the band’s strongest songs, it takes the best aspects of studio recording, but never loses the song’s bittersweet feeling. Brett Vaughn’s vocal sounds better than ever, especially at the song’s climax, and the Zacharias/Gillespie harmony machine propels the end of the song exponentially. But the surprise of the song is guitarist Jesse Ricke – his introductory solo and accompaniment are nothing short of perfect; his parts are subtle, and do as much rhythmically as melodically to establish movement in the song.

Listening to Give Me Pause next to Have a Big Day shows such an advancement in performance and songwriting that it’s difficult to believe that the Ums are even the same band. Of course, all the elements are there – catchy songs, excellent vocals, and bizarre humor – but the interval between the two recordings shows what two years of hard work can do for a band.
- Tim Nordberg of FSView and Florida Flambeau


Bring in the Big demo/EP - 2003
Have a Big Day LP - 2004
Give Me Pause EP - 2006
Men of Science EP - Coming soon!


Feeling a bit camera shy


We are the Ums. All of us sing, we all write songs, we all sing the songs we write. We all play different instruments and we like to trade and share during our set. We all smile, we make jokes on stage, we make fun of you and of each other. You wanna have fun? Come watch our shows.

Brett Vaughn and Jesse Ricke met at a party in Tallahassee, Florida in November of 2002, when Brett was singing some songs with his guitar. Brett is a Brit-pop and folk-inspired troubador/songwriter from Sebring, Florida. Jesse is a jazz-trained guitarist from Miami that loves many genres of music. Together they found bass player Ashley Peeples and drummer Steven Gillespie. Steven is originally a percussionist of rudimentary teaching who took to the drum set late in high school. He likes classic R&B, Pop, and experimental electronic artists - any music that's tasty enough.

Ashley had another life and another hometown calling him, and the Ums bid him a fond farewell in or around December 2002 and, the following March, found Alex Zacharias to replace him. Alex is a classically trained cellist who picked up the bass in high school and played along with cds of 90's grunge artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, etc. With this addition, the final Ums lineup was set.

Four artists with widely different musical backgrounds working together: why don't these guys just hate each other? It is most likely because of a shared irreverence for any specific genre. If you see their shows, you can tell that they are the best of friends, and have been for three years.

Do they take themselves serioiusly? Sure. Can you tell? No. What sets The Ums apart is their attitude. They will put in a "wrong" note as a joke, they don't care if it sounds off-putting. They will stray from normal tonality. They will surprise you with sudden genre shifts in the middle of a song. The Ums are devoted to and have fun with experimentation within accessible music. The Ums strive to make every moment of being together as a group and performing for an audience enjoyable, and the result is carefree and truly different music that enslaves the ear.