The best kind of pop music is pop music that knows it's pop music, and isn't afraid to tell everyone just how pop it is. Gavin Miller explains...
Umlaut are a pop band, but a pop band that play guitars, which sadly, is a bit of a novelty nowadays. Upbeat, cheeky and just a little punky, Umlaut make some blistering tunes that will make even the most hardened cynic just a little moist.
"Unsurprisingly we all have been influenced by different bands," they tell me, and then reel off a very impressive list that ranges from Mogwai, to Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies via Death Cab For Cutie and Sonic Youth. "As a band we like to make nice pop songs, so we sometimes turn our ears to Outkast, Lemar, the Beatles that kind of thing - for inspiration" they continue. That's more like it.
From early 2004, Umlaut have been together in some form or other, knocking out their perky indie rock, "We formed as a three piece in early 2004 [Matt - drums, Tom - guitar and vocals, Steph - bass] but it was only when Dan [guitar and backing vocals] joined us in the latter part of 2004 that we actually got any good."
Their three track demo CD caught my attention earlier on this year, and made such an impression that I took it on holiday with me, and was seen rocking out in various parts of Iceland with my earphones on, and Umlaut turned up loud.
Fast, bright and catchy, the band have a blistering demo, and one that most indie kids will no doubt be wetting themselves over in the weeks and months to come in the band's future. But for a band so happy, is there a hideous dark side, lurking like Mr. Hyde just under the surface? "We sometimes turn the volume up to eleven and deafen the audience with some post-rock noodling, however this is done with a smile, no anger," they tell me. Nice.
Highlights in the band's short but sweet inception included a support stint in their native Sheffield with a certain American band, famed for one song, and one song only; "This June we played with Phantom Planet" the band tells me, and then goes on to describe them as "the O.C. California band" which is a fair enough description as far as I'm concerned.
"That was great. It was nice to have loads of 13-year-old emo kids enjoying us - and their parents!"
Another obvious highlight has to be their debut single, 'Winter Coat' being released by über indie label Fantastic Plastic, to which they comment, "the interest from them has been nice" with a heavy dose of understatement.
As a relatively young band, treading the boards in and around Sheffield must've been fun, right? "Playing live can be good, however it's something that definitely takes a lot of time as early gigs were more pain than pleasure." Seems like a familiar story, and one that the city knows as well as any other.
However, with all this time and effort behind them, they're finding it much easier it would seem, "now we've started to get more confident and comfortable on stage and are thus enjoying gigs much more."
One thing of note about Umlaut is the beautifully English accent from lead singer Tom, "one of my favourite bands is Pavement, and I've always liked that you can hear what Steve Malkmus is saying almost as if he's speaking it" he tells me, "and from a practical point of view I also find it much more enjoyable being able to relax and sing in my own voice rather than forcing some kind of Kurt Cobain drawl or something" he explains.
With their new single out now, and a string of dates booked in the north, the future looks very bright for Umlaut, a very fitting adjective for a band so unrepentantly ace.