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Interview
Yumi Zouma

Yumi Zouma

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
date
Monday 11th August, 2014 1:25PM

Yumi Zouma was formed last year by three Christchurch natives who make beautiful dream-pop songs, despite currently being in three different corners of the planet. The trio, made up of friends Charlie Ryder, John Burgess and Kim Pflaum, assemble their music by passing pieces of songs back-and-forth through the internet, a process that they have refined to the point where they can't imagine doing it any other way.

Their catchy alt-pop tracks snagged the attention of international label Casine, and had signed up before ever even playing a show together. Their first joint performance was back in June in the Darkroom bar in the trio's hometown and saw the group playing to a packed out crowd. We had a chat with Ryder about how that first show went, and some of the benefits of being a band separated by the globe...


The first time you had ever played together was recently in Christchurch. How did the show go?

The first ever show was interesting in a number of ways. Firstly, because we never thought Yumi Zouma would ever be a real band - when we started out, we thought we had created just a project that would release one or two songs on the internet, that maybe a small amount of people would like.

Secondly, because we all flew into Christchurch just a week before the show, without ever having played the Yumi Zouma material in our lives. Even though obviously we had to have played the material in order to record the songs, the way we record is so fragmented that we only really record the parts once, and then send them off to the rest of the band on email. Until we all met up in Christchurch, we had never had a band practice. So it was quite an interesting experience to be all in the same room playing this material for the first time to ourselves. We thought it would be more stressful, as we only had seven days to go from being relative strangers to the music to starting a tour that would take us around the world for two months. But the thought of "what the hell were we thinking" only occurred once or twice. Things went relatively smoothly. The hardest part was just getting all the keyboards and samplers set up with the Yumi Zouma sounds so that we could play. That took a few days.

Because we booked the show so last minute, we didn't think anybody would come, but it was absolutely crazy... the whole place was packed. It was so surreal - people were even singing along to our songs while we were just thinking "how do you know us?!".


The three of you obviously live in completely separate parts of the world and communicate via the internet. Have you ever much time together in the same physical space, aside from the tour you are now on?

Yeah, even though we're now all spread out, we've had long periods of time together previously, so it isn't a big deal. We all hung out together in Christchurch and played music together, toured overseas together in each others different bands.

It's funny how people play up the whole long distance song writing thing, and say how hard it must be to be in a band like this, when it's totally not a problem. Even when we did live in the same city, we'd still send each other songs over the internet and record separately from each other. We're happy together or apart, there are advantages to both. When we're apart, we can write and record efficiently, almost in shifts, due to the differences in time zones, and we get time to ourselves to experiment and take ideas in different directions. When we're together, we're much more influenced by each other - meaning you get less freedom to mess with things, but you get that nice chemistry of bouncing ideas of each other, inspiring stuff that wouldn't have happened otherwise.


Can you imagine all being in the same town and working together, would Yumi Zouma work like that?

Maybe! I don't think it'll ever happen though. Josh really likes New York and has a great job there, I really like Paris and am in the middle of a degree there, and Kim is in the middle of doing honours in NZ and is looking at moving to the UK after that.


Did the three of you set out to make that pop music sound, or how did it emerge??

We never set out to do anything, Yumi Zouma was just the product of us finishing our first song 'A Long Walk Home For Parted Lovers' overseas, and thinking that maybe we should show this to someone instead of just leaving it on our computers. Each of us has a pretty different writing style, and we can hear each of our trademark things that we do on each on the songs. I guess when you put those styles together you get a weird little melting pot that creates the Yumi Zouma sound or whatever.


How does this compare to other musical projects you have been involved in?

Everything is in reverse. With other projects, we were stuck in New Zealand, trying to people overseas to notice us, playing lots of shows, trying to find someone to release our music etc. With Yumi Zouma, we had signed our deal with Cascine before we were really even a band or had released anything, or had ever considered playing live. And now I guess we're stuck overseas so we need to come back to NZ to get people at home to notice us!


Was it intentional to go straight to overseas label and surpass New Zealand?

No, not at all! I guess it just turned out like that because we wanted to sign to Cascine, who are a US label and have a very New York-based focus as opposed to a NZ one. But we didn't want it to seem like we were just surpassing NZ - that's why we wanted to do the first Yumi Zouma show in Christchurch at the Darkroom, a place which is special to us, and why we wanted to come back to play these shows at Cassette and Meow. Playing shows in New Zealand is awesome because we have emotional connections here and get to see our friends, so it wouldn't have been fun if we didn't play any shows in New Zealand for some reason.


How did it feel when Cascine jumped at the song 'A Long Walk Home For Parted Lovers after you pitched it to them?

Amazing! We were really big fans of the label and it was amazing just to be able to speak with them, let alone have them so excited about music that we had made. Like a dream come true.


It seems like the three of you all kind of met by chance, at Rockquest etc. Does it seem kind of fateful that you are all making music together?

Haha, yeah that's true, but at the same time, it's hard for us to think of not meeting under other circumstances because NZ is so small - if you're a musician in Christchurch, chances are that you're going to meet the other people who are into the same music as you and start a band together. Maybe not having our chance meetings on planes and things would've just delayed that a bit, but it probably would've still happened.


I understand that the three of you are multi-instrumentalists. What are your roles within Yumi Zouma?

The only role so far is that Kim sings. Everything else is taken care of between us and done in parts over time depending on how the song started out, and what each of us thinks the song needs. We all have the same instruments, equipment and recording set ups in our apartments, so everything can be as fluid as possible.


What does that look like when the three of you come together on stage?

The live show is basically an extension of the writing process as none of us handle specific instruments, and things change from show to show. A lot of the time we can't all play together due to our individual schedules, but we have our friend Sam Perry (i.e. Zen Mantra), who is also a multi-instrumentalist and plays live with us, and he can take over any of the parts depending on who is available. The songs are reworked a bit to be more live-friendly. It's a lot more guitar based, but because of the electronic set-up (i.e. drum machines instead of a live drummer etc) it's not really a "rock band" show either.


What direction do you hope to take Yumi Zouma after the tour?

Onwards and upwards!

Yumi Zouma are playing this Friday 15th at Cassette Number Nine in Auckland, and Saturday 16th at Meow in Wellington.  See over here for ticketing details.

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related gigs
Fri 15th Aug
Cassette Nine, Auckland
Sat 16th Aug
Meow, Wellington


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