April/May 2014

by Amelia Murray

Yumi Zouma: When Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

by Amelia Murray

Yumi Zouma: When Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Who knows where Yumi Zouma got their name, but they promptly, and sensibly, used it for their debut EP, released by New York/London label, Cascine, in February this year. With the scene set by first single A Long Walk Home for Parted Lovers, the four songs on the 10” EP have evinced some wonderfully admiring adjectives such as ‘wistful’, ‘dreamy’, ‘shimmering’ and ‘hopelessly romantic dream-pop’. The trio of Christchurch-domiciled vocalist Kim Pflaum, along with former Bang! Bang! Eche! musicians Charlie Ryder and Josh Burgess, is as international as the name suggests. Amelia Murray had to factor in three different time zones in order to co-ordinate this intriguingly understated band reveal.
Chatting with all three members of Yumi Zouma simultaneously involves a four-way Skype conversation between Josh Burgess in New York, Charlie Ryder in Paris, Kim Pflaum in Christchurch, and myself in Auckland.

I’m obviously the only one feeling a little apprehensive about four-way Skype-ing as the moment our accounts connect, it seems nothing out of the ordinary for them and they casually catch up on the weather in their respective cities. Indeed such interweb connection is the usual dynamic for this talented indie-dream-pop trio, who have recently gained a heap of online attention for their debut EP, written and recorded whilst living in very separate cities.

yumi zouma kim nzm154All once active and fellow members of the Christchurch scene, (where Josh and Charlie both played guitar in Bang! Bang! Eche! and Sleepy Age, and Kim of Aviatour and Kim K and the Kilns), the three gradually parted ways when Josh moved to New York two years ago, having scored an internship with Brooklyn-based indie label Captured Tracks. After Charlie moved to Paris last June to begin his masters in economics, Kim returned in Christchurch to complete her honors degree in English literature. The friends have indeed remained in contact, sharing musical ideas via email.

“Me and Josh would always send stuff to each other without the intention of ever releasing it,”” says Charlie. “But then when we did A Long Walk Home For Parted Lovers with Kim singing on it, I was like, ‘Maybe it’s about time we sent it to someone.’ So I sent it to Jeff at Cascine [the London/NY alternative pop label] and he emailed back that night saying, ‘We really liked it,’ and ‘Do you have any more material?’””

With their favourite label interested (and not much later signing them), they began working consciously towards an EP, sending Logic sessions back and fourth in-between study and work hours. Strangely, they found the distance to be nothing but convenient.

“What I love is, because of the time difference, Charlie can be working on something and then just hand it over to me and it’s 1am or 2am in Paris, but it’s only 9 or 10am in New York,”” explains Josh. “I can just keep going with it and we get double the productivity. We’re taking it in shifts – it’s like shift work,”” he laughs.

“Also, because we’re all separate we can just do it when we’re really into it and really feeling productive,”” adds Kim. “Sometimes if we’re all in the same room one of us will be like, ‘Oh, I can’t be bothered,’” and the other one’s like, ‘Oh but I’m real into it right now.’” It’s hard to make everyone motivated at the exact same time but this way we can do it whenever we want – it’s pretty handy I think.””

Also proving to be pretty handy is that the trio share the exact same recording set up, making it a lot easier to mix over the distance.

“If you walk into our bedrooms it looks exactly the same. We all have the same speakers, interface and guitars and stuff,”” says Charlie. “Having the same MIDI controller is the most slutty thing – because it doesn’t actually make a difference what kind of controller you have, but we all have the exact same one.””

Yumi Zouma charlie josh boat nzm154Their debut self-titled EP, released on vinyl through Cascine in February, encompasses four charming indie-pop gems reminiscent of ’80s synth pop and at times features mellow disco grooves (namely Sålka Gets Her Hopes Up). Kim’s vocals are gentle, lush and multi-tracked while guitars are clean toned and reverbed above the light electronic drums.

“It definitely sounds like stuff that we like and listen to. It’s a nice thing when you’re not making music for anything, other than wanting to make something nice – you just make something that you would probably listen to,”” says Josh.

“Until the release of the EP, we didn’t think it was gonna be a live band or anything like that. Because we all lived in different places, we never thought that it was going to be anything more than just one release. We thought we’d just release this EP and then maybe a few people would like it, but not many and that would be that, and we’d just go back to our normal lives. Things have sort of taken a different direction since we showed other people.””

Yes they have. In June this year the three plan to head to Australia for a tour, and hopefully” a couple of shows in NZ around that. Then, they will hit Europe for the summer festivals and the release of their second EP in August.

Currently continents and hemispheres apart from one another, Yumi Zouma are definitely taking a digital-age approach towards what it means to be a band in today’s world.