An Interview with Yumi Zouma
Yumi Zouma is a band that was formed in New Zealand and now has members living in London, New York, and in New Zealand as well. This far-flung group writes and performs some of the best pop songs I have heard in ages. Yumi Zouma answered my questions about their writing process, recording, and what’s next for the band as they look toward their second full-length.
Hello all in Yumi Zouma. Could you please start by introducing yourselves to our readers and letting us know what you all play in the band?
Hi! We are Christie Simpson (vocals/electronics), Charlie Ryder (guitar), Sam Perry (guitar), Josh Burgess (bass)
How did the band form and how did you get involved with the North American label Cascine?
The band formed when Josh sent me (Charlie) an email with the first draft of what would become our first single, “A Long Walk Home for Parted Lovers.” We finished the song that night and send it off to our favourite label at the time, Cascine. We didn’t know who at the label to send it to, but we knew the label’s manager was Jeff Bratton so kind of just guessed his email. He emailed us back straight away and said he loved it and asked if we had any other songs…we said yes, even though we didn’t, so the next few weeks were full of writing and recording. The same thing happened with EP II.
I must ask, where does the name of the band come from and does it have a particular meaning?
It comes from the deepest, darkest depths of the Yumi Zouma inner consciousness. Do you think it has a particular meaning?
What is the music scene like in Christchurch and your area of the world and how do you see your environment impacting your music in terms of writing and your sound?
It’s difficult to answer that question because we’re very far removed from the music scene in NZ, both musically and physically. The music scene in Christchurch is very different to the kind of music we make, and we haven’t been home in a while. We’ve actually never written a record in NZ, so the environment hasn’t had an impact on us yet. But this is something we want to change with our second record.
In a very short time, you have developed a rather infectious sound. How does the band go about writing and recording songs?
It’s been different with every record we’ve made. In the beginning, we emailed the songs to each other and worked independently, trading the files back and forth. For our first album, Yoncalla, we wrote together for the first time while we were on tour supporting the first two EPs. We’re not sure what the process will be for the second album. Maybe none of us will be involved.
Your EP’s came out in 2014/2015 and then your full-length came out in 2016. Can you talk about how you all got to know each other as songwriters/collaborators, if there was any change in the way you approached writing between the EP’s and the full-length, and if you think your approach will work going forward?
We’re very intense people, especially when it comes to the music we have made, so it was quite useful when we were writing for the EPs because we could each spend a period of time alone with the music to experiment with each song as we saw fit before finishing it and sending it back to whoever had sent it first. However, when you’re all in the same room together, you don’t have this luxury, which can be quite difficult for the initial writers of musical ideas who see their creations taken away from them in real time. We had to learn to become patient and let this process happen naturally, but it can still be quite difficult, so sometimes we need to go into separate rooms and pretend that we’re on other sides of the world again.
So, let’s talk more about Yoncalla specifically. What was the process like for writing this particular album in terms of the time and choosing of tracks? Was there a lot of music you all had come up with to choose from or did you really concentrate your efforts on a small selection of tracks represented now on the album? Also, if there are other tracks out there, will fans ever get to hear them?
The process was that we would take a week off every few weeks to write and record while we were touring EP I and II in 2015. We had a few ideas saved up already from previous sessions, but the majority of the album was recorded on that tour, and nearly everything got used on the album. A couple of tracks were used as bonus tracks for the limited edition vinyl, and a couple more for the Japanese edition of the CD. There were two more songs which we didn’t really finish – you may end up hearing them one day, but to be honest, they probably aren’t good enough for release!
I like to ask bands about specific songs off their newest releases to get more specifics about the writing and recording processes. Would you please talk about the writing and recording of both “Haji Awali” and “Drachma” off Yoncalla?
Haji Awali was a difficult song – it was one we had been working on since the beginning of the recording sessions, constantly revising over and over in order to get right. We tried lots of different variations of the arrangement before settling on the final version right at the end of the recording process. Drachma was different – it was an old idea that popped up again right at the end of our time staying in Josh’s apartment in New York, and we finished it within a day. That one was really fun to write!
For our gearheads, what sort of gear do you all use both live and in the studio?
Live we use Fender Telecaster guitars, a Fender Bronco bass, Roland SP404s, Neunaber Wet Reverb pedals, Malekko Analog Chorus pedals, Roland Jazz Chorus amps, and a Waldorf Blofeld. In the studio, we use the same gear, an Apogee Duet, and a Prophet 600.
Thanks so much for answering my questions. I guess the last thing to ask is, what’s next for Yumi Zouma?
We just finished covering all of “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” by Oasis for the Turntable Kitchen series, and that comes out in April. Then our second album will come out in the 2nd half of the year.
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