Up-and-coming band The UMA is one you should look out for. From their upbeat pop-rock sound to their meaningful lyrics, the three-piece is already proving they’re a force to be reckoned with.
The group just released the new music video for their single “Fire” — the follow-up to their previous uplifting track “Wake Up.” We got the chance to chat with guitarist Dan Jones about the band’s musical process, how they’re coping creatively during the pandemic, what’s to come in the future, and much more.
We’ll start with the basics, especially for new fans just discovering you and your music. How did you guys first get together? What pushed you to become a band and get into music?
It’s definitely not something that happened overnight! We’ve all known each other since I was about 15/16ish. I met Ben through mutual friends in our hometown and both quickly realised that we shared a love for music and being in a band. We didn’t really know what we were doing at the time and it was way more of a social thing than it was anything serious… but we just enjoyed doing it. From there onwards we’ve never really stopped writing.
As we got a little bit older, that band died out because we knew that it wasn’t in a position to ever really do anything. I left our hometown and moved to Uni in Liverpool, which was closer to Phil at the time so naturally, we started doing more stuff together because we were able to! Phil had always been in bands as well and I eventually became the guitarist of his band at the time. We were lucky enough to do some really cool stuff together as part of that band and, in a weird roundabout way, it kind of helped set us up for The UMA.
Phil and I always felt like we wanted to do more and it got to a point where the band we were in just wasn’t moving. I think it got to this because the other members had been doing it for quite a while and their love for it had just slowed down. It was at this point where we had the opportunity to take full control of things and just write the music we wanted to write and to take the vibe of the band down a completely different route.
We started writing for the new project and things just came together so nicely! We were sat on a nice amount of material and had fully planned what we wanted to do. We didn’t have a full band though! So that was a bit little bit of a setback. Ben was the first person we thought of and he jumped at it.
So everything we have been working on individually or collectively for the past ten years has kind of gone full circle and led to this — which is pretty cool!
Who were your major musical influences growing up? Who inspires you now individually and as a group?
I was brought up on a lot of different stuff and music, in general, was a pretty big thing in our household. The first song I can ever remember loving from my childhood is “U sure do” by Strike, which is like a 90’s dance anthem haha but I also remember being surrounded by The Who, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Jamiroquai. I guess in a nutshell that kind of explains the reason why I write the way I do – I’ve never really thought it of it until now! You can kind of hear the influence come through with The UMA stuff, the stuff we write kind of ends up as a pop, rock, and dance hybrid.
More recently I’m still influenced by a lot of different genres. I’ll never not listen to something just because of the “category” it falls under and that kind of keeps it interesting for me! I often find myself getting inspired by something that catches me completely off guard and then my brain just starts ticking haha. To be specific I guess The 1975 has influenced me a lot the last few years but then so has MK and Bring me the Horizon. So I guess just a little bit of everything!
Phil’s really influenced by his old school rock music and is massively into the likes of Motley Crue and Aerosmith. That definitely keeps things interesting because he has such a classic vocal style. Ben’s really into his modern American rock music and loves the likes of I Prevail — who doesn’t, to be fair. I think he’s also been influenced a lot by the production of 5SOS, especially the more recent music they’ve released.
You’re starting to gain some real traction with your latest singles. How does that feel? How are you handling all the attention and increase of listeners?
Thanks! Yeah considering we’re a new, independent band things are going better than we could have hoped to be honest and it’s so nice to see people take an interest in what we’re doing. From my point of view, it feels really crazy to actually have everything live and to have our music out there. I mentioned before but this isn’t something that’s happened overnight — we’ve been working towards The UMA for about three years now and there were definitely points where, in my mind, I questioned whether we’d ever actually get to the point of releasing anything. We just hit a lot of curveballs that combined with the responsibilities of being an adult and, in reflection, tried to do everything too perfectly. I think this has taught us a lesson that sometimes you just need to go with things, there’s no point trying to meticulously craft everything — sometimes you have to go with your gut.
It feels so good that people are actually taking an interest in us and taking an interest to the point that they’re sharing our music with other people. That’s pretty invaluable to us! I don’t think it’s changed anything for us though other than highlighting the appreciation we have for everyone who’s supported us. We love speaking to the people who listen to our music and, irrespective of whether we had 2 or 200,000,000 followers, we wouldn’t want that to change.
You’ve released a few singles — most notably “Wake Up” and recently, “Fire.” Both tackle life and how tumultuous it can be. What do you hope these songs inspire in your fans and casual listeners?
Yeah, 100% they do! We simply hope that people find a point of resonance with the songs and inspire them to become reenergised. Life can be pretty tough (we all know that) and sometimes music is the only thing that can give you that hypothetical kick up the backside to get going again. The meaning sat under each of those songs are really quite deep – we try and craft them in a way where the messages aren’t explicitly obvious but still have the same vibe of that original message. For me personally, I just want people to feel although they have a much more positive attitude towards the ins and outs of their lives after listening to our music. If we can do that, then I can sleep well at night.
When you guys sit down and write these songs, is there a set routine? How does it all go down?
Normally we’ll already have an idea or a concept in the pipeline that we’ve pulled together separately. We don’t live close to each other so we’ve kind of had to adjust to a new way of writing, but it feels like it’s working. We try to get together at least one weekend a month to fully flesh out our ideas and bring them to life a bit more. We haven’t been able to do this for the past few months though, so we’ve just had to find ways around it! We tend to focus on the music and rhythms of the song before we do anything else. Once we have a skeleton of something we’re happy with, we start toying with the concepts for the actual song. Usually, this starts with a single lyric, song title concept, or an effort to write about something that’s happened. It’s never really stressful, we just have a few drinks and let it flow.
What’s the story behind your most recent track “Fire?” Do you use personal experiences as a group to create songs like this one?
“Fire” is such an important song for us. It was the first song that we wrote as The UMA and it was a moment where the penny finally dropped for the both of us. Phil and I were in another band together for a number of years before The UMA came to life and it got to the point where we were writing music for the sake of keeping other members happy. We both knew that we wanted to challenge the music, the brand, and every other element that comes with being in a band but were limited by the position we were in.
Phil and I were n London for the weekend writing and were just toying around with melody ideas on a really crowded and sweaty tube. We sparked the main melody for the chorus on an escalator in Camden and, from there on, started building the concept to the song. We wanted to create something that explained the journey that we’d been on together but, equally, was applicable to various other situations that people could relate to. Thus, “Fire” was born and so was The UMA.
We 100% try and use personal experiences to create some of our songs but in a way where it’s applicable to each of us. I think we normally write like that because when you craft a song three ways, it usually makes it more adaptable and applicable to more situations — it doesn’t limit it to one singular meaning. At least we hope it does that. And it’s kind of a cool idea to think that one song could mean 1000 different things dependant on who you ask. I really like that idea.
Your new video for “Fire” is much different than “Wake Up.” It may be seen as a bit more serious. Although, we adore the “Wake Up” vid and its upbeat look — also, who doesn’t love cake? But ultimately, what determines your ideas for music videos and the message you’re trying to get across to viewers?
Yeah, absolutely! “Wake Up” was always supposed to be a bit ridiculous because it talks to a song that is about a completely ridiculous situation. The whole reference to the cake was just messaging the fact that you can’t have your cake and eat it but in a way that felt lifeless and chaotic at the same time — that’s the fundamental reasoning behind the song. It kind of flickers between lifelessness, stupidity, and happiness with a vibrant backdrop that lives throughout. That just fully explains the nature of the situation the song was shaped around.
“Fire” is 100% different and it’s a bit more of an “oh sh**” moment these guys are actually a band (at least I look at it like that haha). “Wake Up” was a perfect video for that song because we wanted it to look like a low budget pop video, that was the point. With “Fire,” we wanted to do something that would just catch people off guard completely, and the video kind of creates a completely new mood for this band.
When we come to creating the ideas, we’ll usually just start by depicting the meanings to our songs and understanding which of the messages we want to play on. But in a way that isn’t entirely obvious. We kind of like things not making sense until there’s context given because then it’s like ah, the penny’s dropped. We then use those messages to create imagery and bada bing bada boom, you got yourself a video. We’re actually working on another concept at the moment for another release which is about mental health – that’s going to be a great video.
This year has been crazy for everyone, especially the music industry. How have you guys been coping? What’s keeping you motivated to stay creative?
Isn’t it just! What a year to launch a band, eh? I think the ability to maintain contact with each other daily has kept us going. Without the internet, I think we’d have been pretty lost because there’s no way we could’ve spoken every day. I don’t really like the internet but I’m so thankful for the ways it helped us during this time. We all have our down days, though. Some days I’ll wake up wanting to write an album and others I just want to lie in bed and eat ice cream. I think the whole world is feeling the same though and that’s okay! We just have to be patient with ourselves.
Anything else we can expect from you this year or sometime in the future?
We have a lot more music coming out, which is exciting for us! Hopefully, we can continue to grow and reach people with our music. All of our shows and tours have obviously been cancelled but thankfully we’re sat on a bit of a backlog content-wise — that’s definitely helped us throughout COVID. Without that, I think we’d have sunk into the distance. We’re also in the process of collaborating with other musicians for one of our releases so that’s also cool!
We’re hoping that 2021 will bring us lots of luck, success, and happiness and allow us to play some shows. Fingers crossed the world gets back to normal pretty soon! But obviously not at the expense of people’s health. We’ll just have to wait and see!
Stream The UMA’s new single “Fire” here.