We sent one of our music writers Ben Elias to meet with Yumi Zouma, an internationally collaborative band that creates plush and decadent dream-pop. Formed online, after meeting in Christchurch, their debut EP was composed via email across the time zones of New York, New Zealand, and Paris. They just toured Australia with Chet Faker, and now they’re back home with us.
Kim Pflaum and Charlie Ryder were the composing band members present. Sam Perry was there, too. Sam, the self-described “jack of all trades slash teen heart throb” plays for the band live, but does not compose. Josh Burgess was absent (in New York), but called in during the interview by chance.
WGB: So, you just toured the world.
S: Maybe the first-world.
WGB: Would you do a third-world tour?
C: I’d be in to the idea of that. That’d be cool.
K: Bring the music to the masses. We’d make the shows free. We’d give out a cup of rice for everyone. It’d be a UN supported tour.
WGB: Who would you bring to the tour?
K: Chris Martin’s solo project.
C: Coldplay would be super in to that.
WGB: Bono would do it. He’d be all for it. Would you play with Bono?
[Entire band cringes]
C: I don’t know if Yumi Zouma would fit with U2.
S: You can’t put a price on good tone.
WGB: He says while tuning his guitar by ear.
C: That is Sam’s mantra.
In response to their cover of the Air France track (the band not the airline):
C: [Air France] got in touch with us saying that they really liked us, and that was cool, then the blog ‘The Line of Best Fit’ was celebrating the two-year anniversary of them breaking up, and wanted to do a song, and we emailed Air France back saying “Would you like to contribute to a cover of your song?” and they said “Yep,” and then they sent us everything from their song – all the sessions, all the demos, all the stems, everything – and then we wrote the song, and then they were like “Lets do a spoken word thing over the top.” And now we’re friends.
S: There was a pretty beautiful moment in the last couple of weeks, when we played in Sweden, in Gothenburg, which is where Air France is from; we actually met Joel (lead singer of Air France) for the first time. He got on stage and did the spoken word Air France intro to the song. We actually played that cover for the first time that night. We learnt it like, 10 minutes before the show – we’d never played it before – but we were like “we have to play it in Gothenburg, Air France is here.”
On Chet Faker with whom they toured Australia earlier this year:
C: We’d never band practiced before, until a week before the show.
WGB: That’s a really weird dynamic.
C: Yeah. Well because, we write everything on a computer, we’d never needed it for a live set, so transmitting that to live instruments took time.
S: Working out which layers are better and which ones to leave out, and stuff.
WGB: Most importantly, did you touch his beard?
C: Who, Chet Faker’s beard? Maybe inadvertently.
K: I think we would have been kicked out for that.
C: The guitar tech’s beard was much more impressive. Matty Jones.
S: He did a guitar solo at the last show we played, too. He’s a session musician. We were like “Can you get up and do a really ridiculous blues solo at the end of the song?” and he did it.
C: The last show of the Chet Faker tour. It was awesome. Super dope. [Chuckles]
C: This is our first day home. We went straight from Australia to LA, then to NY, to Canada, to Washington, Baltimore, back to New York, then to London, then to France, then to Sweden, back to the UK, and now we’re here. Two months.
WGB: Was that the first time doing anything of that scale?
C: I was on tour with Bang Bang Eche (BBE) for three months.
WGB: Same sort of scale?
C: Yeah. It was like, Summer music festivals in the UK. These were more like pub shows or theatre shows with Chet Faker.
S: You slept on more floors with BBE.
C: Yeah. [laughs] BBE was more D.I.Y
On Kim’s previous work:
WGB: Kim, did you have any previous groups?
K: Yeah, I kinda did my own stuff. I had a wee singer/songwriter folky outfit that I played. It was good, I really enjoyed it, and I got quite creative with percussion and stuff like that. I often got friends to help me out, but at the end of the day I didn’t really enjoy the format, like playing songs of that style. I really like writing songs like that but performing them – I don’t know. It didn’t have the same buzz as being in a really noisy band. Before even that I had an all-girl rock band. It was so rowdy. But, I ended up writing all of the music – all the drums, all the guitars, all the bass – and I just got a bit tired of putting all the effort in. I wanted more input from other places. It also turned out that the other members of the band wanted to go and become lawyers so, they went and did that. That’s when I started my solo stuff. Then I started chipping at way at some more electronic music that I’m still kind of working on in the wings, but then Yumi Zouma came along and I did vocals on a couple of the tracks, and then it all kind of worked out. It’s quite a good dynamic. I’m really enjoying it. The recordings are very dreamy, but then as you’ll see when we play, we can get in to it and it’s a bit more rock.
On Working together (and a phonecall from Josh):
WGB: It’s really impressive how, obviously you collaborate through this worldwide platform, but your sound is very cohesive. You can’t pick apart any sort of hesitance between any of you when you collaborate together.
K: It’s interesting – some of my good friends that know all of our previous projects can pick out little tiny bits because they know all of our work. They’re like “Ooh, that’s definitely a Charlie thing” or “Ooh, that’s a Josh thing.” So, if you know our previous works down to a t, then –
[Charlie gets a call from Josh]
S: Hey! Put Josh on the phone!
C: [picks up the phone] Hello, Charlie speaking? Hey, we’re just in an interview right now. Do you want to contribute? I’ll put you on speaker. [band laughs]
J: I can hear you!
[band says hello in unison]
WGB: Hey, this is Ben from What’s Good blog.
J: Hello! This is so technologic because I’m currently standing on the street.
WGB: This is so in the spirit of Yumi Zouma.
J: Yeah, so, what have we covered?
C: How’s New York?
J: It’s good. This is actually my first weekend in New York in maybe two months. I’m just here to check in with the homies. I hear the show sold out?
S: There’s 60 door spots left, I think. It’s technically sold out, but not completely. We can call you in the middle of the set.
J: Well I’m about to go in to a rave.
C: You’ll be in good spirits then. Rave to the grave.
J: Rave to the grave! Okay, well I’ll leave you to it. There’s a nice cameo from me. I don’t know if you’ve heard them but the new EP masters sound really good. Okay, One Love everybody!
Band: One Love!
[Josh hangs up]
S: We subscribe to the Rastafarian religion in the One Love department.
C: It’s our ritual before we go on stage.
On criticism of their sound being unvaried at the Chet Faker show:
C: I’m sorry! I don’t know what to say!
K: To be honest, uh, those were some of the very first shows we’d ever played. They were literally the second and third kind of shows we’d played – ever. As we went along on the Chet Faker tour, we tweaked a lot of things, got lots of advice from the sound guys – what worked in a bigger environment, what worked in a smaller environment – things like that. For a while we had all the tracks running with drums at the same time, then we split them out, which helped the sound guys be able to manipulate the sound better for each room. I think definitely after we nutted out all the kind of stuff there would have been a lot more dynamic there. There is talk of us having the guitars both sound too dreamy and reverb-y, but that’s just what we like, man.
S: We basically sold out band practices. The first two shows were just sold out band practices.
C: 2000 people came to see Yumi Zouma band practice.
S: When you say it like that it’s cool though, right?
C: We’ve been playing for a while now though, so hopefully, no excuses.
On the new EP:
WGB: Does the sound of the new EP depart from that of the old EP?
C: Yeah, I think so. I think so quite a lot. It’s not as relaxed. When we were in Paris last week, a lot of my friends were expecting it to be really chill, but it’s full on. It’s a lot more ‘power-pop.’
On the future?
WGB: What’s the future of Yumi Zouma?
C: Single in October, EP in February, Tour in October, Tour in January-December –
WGB: What’s the conceptual emotional future of Yumi Zouma?
C: It’s always changing. We thought we were just going to release one song and go away. Now we’re like a band that plays shows and, I don’t know man. You know just as much as we do. If people like us, maybe we’ll keep going. I don’t know. [chuckles]
K: It’s up to the fans now. Our life is in the fans’ hands.
WGB: Those are your parting words?
S: Our parting words are “One Love”
[Band echoes “One Love”]
C: Thank you for having us.