PUMAROSA – ” Priestess “

Posted: June 22, 2017 in MUSIC
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One seven-minute, epic song about freedom and dancing set to propulsive bass, spaced-out guitar, more than a hint of dance music, saxophone and hypnotic vocals.

Now signed to Chess Club Records, the East London five-piece led by singer and guitarist, Isabel MunozNewsome, released their debut single “Priestess” last september , and we’ve been unable to stop listening since. The song has hints of Woman’s Hour in its fragile opening moments, but transforms once Munoz-Newsome starts her chanting vocals. The band follow in-kind with adventurous jams, almost like finding each other for the first time before locking into a groove that morphs the song into a sort of dance-rock track that’s a million times more appealing than that description.

Pumarosa have been together for just over a year, developing from the core of Munoz-Newsome and drummer, Nicholas Owen, to the five-piece who released “Priestess”. Munoz-Newsome explains the origins of the band: “We’d been playing together for quite a few years doing different projects and sort of coming in and out of playing with each other. The last band we did together ended, and I started writing stuff on my own. I thought I would get a band to play with me… and then the band became bigger than that!”

Before Pumarosa took shape, Munoz-Newsome had some developing of her own to do as a song writer and musician: “At the beginning it was like folk music and then it became really electro, and then it became really heavy rock, and now it is what it is now!” The pieces of the band then started fitting into place: “We found Henry [Brown], who plays bass, then Tomoya [Suzuki] who plays saxophone and keys, and the last one to join was Neville [James] who plays guitar.”

Despite the varying styles as she found her feet, she never regarded any choice she made as being a calculated decision: “I think everything happened organically. I never thought, ‘Well now I’m going to get into this genre.’ When I was on my own and writing, I was just playing piano and guitar, there was a lot of that sort of folky music around at that point. So it seemed natural to play that. And it’s very much about songs, and I was trying to write songs rather than jams at that point.”

Her surroundings and the people she had around her influenced direction. “As different people come in then they bring their own influences, so it shifts,” she says. “There was a period where we were rehearsing in Palma Violets’ studio, and while we were there the music got really rocky! And that’s just because that was what was in the walls – they’d go in and play their sweaty rock and it’d rub off on us!”

“Priestess” feels like a song written by a band, and a fully-formed one at that. It’s how the song develops that’s most impressive. From a nascent, nebulous jam, to something forceful, direct and danceable by the end, it’s got a narrative that’s easy to trace, and that’s even without Munoz-Newsome’s sharp and emotive lyrics and imagery. “Some stuff we write totally together and it comes out of us jamming,” explains the singer. “But most of it still comes from me writing on my own, and I need to write on my own. I don’t really want to write with other people. I rely on those guys to arrange the song, though, because I don’t know how to write a guitar solo, or drums…which I find completely mysterious!” This is where long-time musical partner Owen comes into his own: “I’ll love it, I can tell when it clicks and I know when it’s exciting, but Nick is so good. When he does something on a song I’ve written it can completely revolutionise it. It’s wonderful playing with those guys.”

“Being in London, being an artist, you’re trying to tap into certain things or be open to certain things but at the same time you’re working within a big city”

 

You can hear the rumble and movement of the city in “Priestess”; the bass acts as some kind of anchor, a suggestion of bricks and mortar and place holding the track together, while Munoz-Newsome’s vocals, the saxophone and the jam element hint at the movement of people in and out of the city and its boroughs. “Freedom” is sung about and it feels like the theme of movement is wider than simply about a dancer…who happens to be Munoz-Newsome’s sister Fernanda.

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