Interview: Yumi Zouma

Lead singer Christie Simpson talks to us about Lorde, the rise of New Zealand pop music, and Yumi Zouma’s recording process on its first full-length album…

Hailing from Christchurch, New Zealand, the electro-pop group Yumi Zouma has set the blogosphere ablaze in recent years. After a series of earthquakes wrecked their hometown, the band was formed as a way for three friends to keep in touch. Its deeply nostalgic sound is one born from circumstance, beckoning memories of a time when they were all together. For their first two records, songs were written via email; actual in-person recordings were rare at best. Band member Charlie Ryder commented on this process, saying, “Living in different places with different time zones, you can send someone something and then when you wake up the next day it can be completely different.”

After releasing a four-track EP under the Brooklyn-based label Cascine in 2014, it was not long before the band was garnering attention from blogs like Pitchfork and The Fader. Yumi Zouma’s dreamy, synth-infused sound also caught the eye of fellow Kiwi recording artist Lorde, who invited the band to open for her world tour later that year.

Now with two EPs under their belt, Yumi Zouma has released their first full length album, Yoncalla. We talked to lead singer Christie Simpson about the album and some other stuff:

On your previous EPs, you wrote songs by emailing parts to different band members, but on Yoncalla you guys actually took the traditional route of writing and recording together. How would you say this affected the eventual sound on the album?

As opposed to having time to sleep on things, we had to think on our feet a bit more. We had to actually grind some stuff out, working on a song until it was done. So the level of collaboration was higher. The songs don’t sound like a mishmash of individual songwriters anymore, they have a bit more of a life of their own. Plus it means there are more duets, more of us singing together, and stuff like that. More mellow songs too.. the songs are a bit more emotionally diverse.

There seems to be a real resurgence of music coming out of New Zealand. Why do you guys think this is the case, and how would you describe the current music scene in New Zealand?

We have pretty diverse tastes so some of us love the music scene in New Zealand right now, and some of us don’t.. We have people like Lorde and Broods who are massive pop superstars, and then a lot of local stuff doing the complete opposite.. so NZ music has become kind of fractured with concentrations at the extremes of the musical spectrum, with not much in between anymore. There are some new female-fronted electronic acts that I’m really excited about though, such as Soccer Practise and October.

Where does the name Yumi Zouma come from?

It came from picking a name out at random at 5am in the morning so we could email our first song “A Long Walk Home for Parted Lovers” to our record label Cascine.

You guys have opened for Lorde in the past. Be honest, how old really is she?

19

Who is the least talented member of the band?

Charlie, but don’t tell him I said that.