Band Yumi Zouma make mu­sic with­out be­ing in the same coun­try

Emirates Man - - CONTENTS -

It’s 3am, and Emi­rates Man is talk­ing to the three mem­bers of Yumi Zouma, a new band whose de­but EP of ef­fort­lessly dreamy pop and synth-funk has re­cently caught the at­ten­tion of tastemak­ers from New Zealand right the way through to North Amer­ica. Sadly, we’re not cel­e­brat­ing this state of af­fairs at some glitzy af­ter-show party. For Char­lie Ry­der is in Paris, where it has just turned mid­night, vo­cal­ist Kim Pflaum is bask­ing in a bright New Zealand morn­ing and, for Josh Burgess, check­ing in from early evening New York, it’s still the pre­vi­ous day. In­cred­i­bly, this is also how they make their mu­sic, col­lab­o­rat­ing via the In­ter­net across the three con­ti­nents in which they live, e-mail­ing each other sec­tions of songs to form a co­her­ent whole. They’re not re­ally a ‘band’ in the strict sense of the word at all. “Work­ing like this hon­estly has its ben­e­fits,” laughs Ry­der, dur­ing the kind of In­ter­net-based con­fer­ence call the three friends are clearly very fa­mil­iar with. “Be­cause we’re across three dis­parate time zones there’s al­ways some­one awake work­ing on a track. We def­i­nitely get more done than if we were all in the same place and had to sleep at the same time. We’re like the rst 24-hour band.”

“Se­ri­ously, it’s not that weird for us,” adds Burgess. “Even when we did live in the same city, we would write mu­sic like this, send­ing stuff to each other over the In­ter­net.”

“When you’re forced to­gether in the same space, there’s al­ways some­one who isn’t quite as mo­ti­vated”

That city was Christchurch in New Zealand, and the 2011 earthquake there is cen­tral to the Yumi Zouma story. For one thing, they all had to move – Burgess end­ing up in New York, Ry­der in Paris and Pflaum stay­ing else­where in the city – and the dis­as­ter also de­stroyed most of the live mu­sic venues. The Brae, the lead track on their EP, is a beau­ti­fully drowsy and re­jec­tive pop song about loss, laced with nos­tal­gia for the street on which they used to hang out as a teenage trio. That road crum­bled to noth­ing af­ter the earthquakes.

“It’s odd to think that this place you call home has gone for­ever and you can’t go back to it,” says Burgess. “Ev­ery­thing does be­come in­stantly nos­tal­gic so maybe that is re ected in our mu­sic. Cer­tainly my feel­ings to­wards per­ma­nence have changed.”

It’s of­ten said that cities in uence a band’s sound – the likes of Manch­ester, Mem­phis or Berlin hav­ing a de­fin­i­tive mu­si­cal style and at­ti­tude. Be­ing spread all around the world could make Yumi Zouma in­dis­tinct, but in­stead they’ve dipped into the sounds they’ve loved from all their home­towns. In fact, Ry­der says that when he met a po­ten­tial record la­bel in Paris, its own­ers were ex­cited by how French they sounded, and if you lis­ten care­fully to the EP, there is a def­i­nite nod to cel­e­brated French down­tempo pop act Air.

“We’ve al­ways lis­tened to that ro­man­tic, poppy French mu­sic, and yes, we’re huge fans of Air,” ad­mits Burgess. “But then, the whole en­ergy of New York has de nitely changed how I write – I’m do­ing a lot more late-night stuff now. And all of us have grown up with mu­sic from New Zealand of course, which of­ten comes with a sense of isolation.”

Burgess him­self has had a more peri­patetic ex­is­tence than most – his for­ma­tive years were spent in Bahrain, where his par­ents worked. It’s stretch­ing it some­what to sug­gest any Mid­dle East­ern in uences come through in Yumi Zouma’s mu­sic, but Burgess does think it made him more open-minded. “We were there be­fore 11 and liv­ing through that in the Mid­dle East, hav­ing pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions with Arab people and cul­ture, was re­ally im­por­tant for my out­look,” he says. “We’d love to play there ac­tu­ally. I’ve al­ways thought more bands should.”

That, of course, would mean be­ing in the same room at the same time. Burgess ad­mits he doesn’t re­ally con­sider Yumi Zouma to be a band, but in the end, to be suc­cess­ful, it’s not enough to ex­ist on­line. You have to play live, meet your au­di­ence, have an im­age.

“And we are go­ing to tour in June,” re­veals P aum. “I think it’ll be ne – I’ve fronted bands be­fore so it’ll be no shock to me. I guess in our early shows we’ll be gur­ing out what we want to be like, whereas bands from the same city know that be­fore­hand. But we’ll come up with some­thing...”

And if not, they can al­ways com­mu­ni­cate via e-mail on the tour bus. Which is not as far-fetched as it might seem when they nally got to­gether in New York re­cently to nish off some of the vo­cals on their sec­ond EP, Ry­der says they were still more ef cient when they were sep­a­rated out in dif­fer­ent rooms. “When you’re forced to­gether in the same space, there’s al­ways some­one who isn’t quite as mo­ti­vated,” agrees P aum. “You do have a ten­dency to waste each other’s time.”

All of which might make Yumi Zouma sound a bit cold, cal­cu­lat­ing and emo­tion­less, but the mu­sic sim­ply doesn’t bear this out. It’s warm and en­dear­ing. Burgess talks of fo­cus­ing on the de­lights of mak­ing the best song they pos­si­bly can, and there are no sharp edges here – the EP feels or­ganic rather than a dig­i­tal cut and paste job.

“I think that’s be­cause al­though we’re de­liv­er­ing this mu­sic to each other by elec­tronic means, we’re not elec­tronic pro­duc­ers,” says Ry­der. It’s warm, or­gan­ic­sound­ing mu­sic be­cause we all play gui­tars, bass and key­boards. We love tin­ker­ing with drum sounds to make them sound like our favourite Prince or Michael Jack­son songs. It’s a col­lec­tive ef­fort from people who are best friends, rather than a pro­ducer send­ing a back­ing track across the world for some­one else to sing over.”

A col­lec­tive ef­fort? That re­ally does make Yumi Zouma sound like a band – a sta­tus that still takes some get­ting used to for P aum in New Zealand.

“My friends were shout­ing at me when the EP was nally re­leased,” she laughs. “‘They had no idea what we were up to. And the truth is, even I didn’t think what we were do­ing would turn into what it has. Hon­estly, we weren’t a band in my eyes un­til that rst re­lease.”

With that sum­mer tour, an­other EP in Septem­ber, and a de­but al­bum to fol­low in 2015, Yumi Zouma are de ni­tively a band now. Just a rather strange one. Lis­ten to the Yumi Zouma EP at https:// soundcloud. com/ cascine/ sets/ yumi- zouma- ep The Brae is out now, on Cascine

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