Ever Changing; An Interview with Christie Simpson of Yumi Zouma

Originally formed in New Zealand, the members of Yumi Zouma jointly have come along way since their humble start in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Currently based in New York City (Josh Burgess – guitar, vocals), London (Charlie Ryder – guitar, bass, keys), Wellington, New Zealand (Olivia Campion – drums) and Christchurch, New Zealand (Christie Simpson – vocals, keys), the band’s new material finds them sticking to their convictions (whether in the face of climate change or a failing relationship) and learning to live in the ambiguity of uncertain times with love and a hint of escapism.

Yumi Zouma’s latest album (and the first with Polyvinyl) Truth or Consequences showcases a group that honing on their calming, dream pop sensibilities to the maximum.  The narrative behind the album explores romantic and platonic heartbreak, real and imagined emotional distance, disillusionment, and being out of reach.

We recently caught up with Christie to chat more about Truth or Consequences and much more.

The band has been together now for a handful of years.  What can you say were some of your fondest memories starting?

Some of our fondest memories are as follows:

1. Our first show ever, at the Darkroom at Christchurch. We didn’t think anyone would turn up, but it was way past sold out with a line around the corner. We couldn’t believe that people were singing our lyrics when we’d never played live before!

2. The EP II release show at Cameo Gallery in New York. This was one of the first sold-out headlining shows that we’d played overseas. We had no idea what it would be like, but it was incredible.

3. Our first time playing at SXSW – we loved playing lots of shows every day! That’s why we were so sad when it got canceled this year.

4. When we were recording our first album Yoncalla in Paris. The weather was beautiful, and we were able to spend the mornings exploring the city before working in the afternoons and evenings. Furthermore, the legendary Philppe Zdar let us mix in his studio for free, which was our first time in a professional recording studio. We will forever be grateful for that!

I saw that most of the group had moved away from Christchurch except for you.  What was the driving force to moving away from the city?

I have also moved away from Christchurch now! Now Charlie and I both live in London, Josh still lives in New York, and Olivia is the only one living in New Zealand, in Wellington. Although Christchurch is an amazing city full of brilliant people, there comes a time when you have to leave. It is a bit of a rite-of-passage for most Cantabrians – we go and see the world, get out of the bubble and get out of our comfort zones. Although right now, it would probably be good to be in a bubble down at the bottom of the world in the midst of this pandemic!

Since you have formed as a collective, there’s been a consistent stream of music that has come out. Is it the goal to continue to go this route?

Definitely! We get very antsy when we haven’t put any music out and try to make sure we work on stuff all of the time. Also – we would hate to be forgotten!! 🙂

Besides the distance, what has been the biggest hurdle in terms of working together?

The time zone difference presents a lot of problems – especially when you need to get on a call together. The only time that usually works is early in the morning in NZ and late at night in the UK. It’s even worse when someone from Australia is on the line!

When it comes to writing, how much collaboration is involved with the bandmates?

It’s more collaborative than ever before. This is the first time we’ve done the vocal melodies and the lyrics together for every single song. Willowbank was close to that, but not quite there! The next step is to get our drummer Olivia completely integrated into the process!

How much influence has outside music from New Zealand has impacted the group?

Hugely! New Zealand has always been a country that listens to the sounds of other cultures. The outside impacts what we watch on TV and hear on the radio to a large extent – especially in our formative years when we are first starting out as songwriters, and a lot of international artists are our biggest influence. But when you start getting older and going to local gigs, you discover the great artists around you more and more. Now I would say NZ artists have been some of the biggest influences for us.

Congrats on signing with Polyvinyl.  How did the relationship with the label come about?

Our deal with Cascine had finished, so we were talking to a few labels at the time. We loved lots of bands on the Polyvinyl roster, like Julia Jacklin and Jay Som, so our lawyer and manager sent Polyvinyl the album, and then we slowly fell in love with each other. We had never met a team of such lovely people, so when it came down to making our final decision, they were the obvious choice!!

What’s the meaning behind the album title?

It’s the name of a town in New Mexico. We chose it as it was an interesting name that we saw whilst on tour a few years ago. It has since taken on a new meaning for us, given the time we live in and the events that have since happened to us. Now, it speaks to us about how black and white life is, and how when things come down to it, life is fundamentally about truth and honesty, or the consequences will out.

With the new record, you decided to produce it yourself. Was it challenging to do, considering everyone being apart?

We have always produced the records ourselves, so we’re used to it! We have gotten very used to swapping files back and forth between each other. Sometimes it’s better that we’re not in the same room together, so we have room to experiment whilst the others are asleep, but we still meet up to produce from time-to-time to get instant feedback and unique interactions – the combination of each style is good.

As you move forward, do you find yourselves wanting to explore more sonically? 

Completely! It’s natural – your own personal tastes and influences always change between records. When I think about the music I wanted to write on different records, it is all so different! Furthermore, with every album, you achieve certain things you wanted to achieve. And with every album, we get a bit less afraid to embrace our pop side, be cliche, or make more c’lassic’ sounding music. Hopefully, this allows other people to connect with the music more and more.

What is it that you want to achieve in terms of goals in the upcoming future?

We would like our music to be heard by as many people as possible, not just us plus a select few! We want the world to hear what we are bringing to the table, especially in tough times like these when we all need more fun and joy in life. We want to inspire others, like the bands who inspired us when we were young. Also, when people let us know that our music made a difference in their lives, it gives us such a sense of purpose, and we want to continue to do that. It would also be great to start making some money, tour with The 1975, and play on late-night TV!

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