Posts Tagged ‘Isabel Munoz-Newsome’

Taken from their forthcoming second album, the John Congleton-produced ‘Devastation’, due out November 8th via Fiction Records, Pumarosa have released new cut, ‘I See You’.

“The song is about having the confidence to look back into the face of the guy who is talking you down, or taking your space, and saying “I see you!” I’m not going to be silent or make myself small so that you can feel ok. It’s not ok! And it can be fun!” explauns frontwoman Isabel Muñoz-Newsome.

“There is a swagger to enjoying power, And it can be fun! Theres is a swagger to enjoying power, and you can feel that in the verses of the track. and you can feel that in the verses of the track. The lyrics to ‘I See You’ ware inspired by the experience of me and my girlfriends. And also by the #MeToo movement.”

New album Devastation, out 1st November,

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. Signed to Chess Club Records, the East London five-piece led by singer and guitarist, Isabel Munoz-Newsome, the band released their debut single “Priestess” in September 2017, and we’ve been unable to stop listening since.

We made this together for the track My Gruesome Loving Friend. It was a day spent with our phones and each other. Thanks so much to Kitty who came with us, and who is actually the original Gruesome Loving Friend who I’m singing about.

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.

“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.”

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.

Pumarosa’s Isabel Munoz-Newsome, Nick Owen and Jamie Neville sit down to discuss their relief at Aussie road food and how they don’t do things “bite-sized”.

“Getting a little bit overwhelmed is good,” says Isabel Munoz-Newsome, singer/guitarist of London quintet Pumarosa. She’s talking about being on stage, and those moments where things either go wrong or oh so right, and she’s lost in her band’s spectral, psychedelic alt-rock. “I had this really bad jetlag yesterday; this weird feeling like I was in an elevator, like blood was rushing up and down my body. And sometimes, when I dance [on stage], I just spin and spin and spin. And, playing last night, I thought: ‘I really shouldn’t do this, I’m dizzy already.’ But I did it anyway, and I was staggering around. I enjoyed – for a moment – not being in control.”

The day after playing a sold-out show in Melbourne, Pumarosa – Munoz-Newsome, drummer Nick Owen, guitarist Jamie Neville, bassist Henry Brown, keyboardist/saxophonist Tomoya Suzuki . In the studio space, strewn with spotlights, reflectors, and drop-sheets, the outside world is far away. But the highlight of their first Australian tour has been time spent in the outdoors; stepping off an overnight flight and heading for a swim at Coogee Bay.

“It’s been really wonderful,” admits Owen. “Because on a rainy day in North America, where you’re only stopping at service stations, and the only food you can find is totally processed, touring is pretty bleak.”

Pumarosa’s first Australian tour has been a particular tonic for Neville, who, like so many Englishmen before him, came out here as an 18-year-old on a gap year. He ended up collecting money door-to-door in the far-flung Sydney suburbs for “a really fucked up company, just the worst people”. “So,” Neville says, “it’s been so nice coming back, because last time I was here I was just really depressed.”

Suzuki, the band’s “natural adventurer”, is keen to see whatever he can. He’s got a million stories: working in a nature reserve in the Ecuadorian rainforest at 19 (“tracking monkeys for scientists and studying orchids”). Showing up at a UK festival with a “saxophone and a passport”, leading to an odyssey of hitching throughout Europe, from Barcelona to a “psy-trance” rave outside of Budapest. Spontaneously leaving a Romanian festival to travel for two months with “11 crusty hippies” through former Yugoslavia down into Turkey, and driving around Morocco for months “picking up hitch-hikers”.

“Because Australia is such a beautiful place, you must have this next-level colonial guilt; like you’re living in a stolen paradise.”

The band are engaging conversationalists, equally capable of talking about Brexit or Australian colonial identity, “Because Australia is such a beautiful place,” Neville thinks, “you must have this next-level colonial guilt; like you’re living in a stolen paradise.” They touch on the migration of populations to cities and of daily life to social media. They broach Sydney lockout laws: “When you’re touring,” says Suzuki, “what stands out the most are these strange little regulations you have in different places; like, I was so confused by all the rules in Sydney about drinking.” When it comes to talking about their band, though, Pumarosa can find it hard to find the right words.

“When you’re in band – performing music that you’ve made, words that you’ve written – everything feels so on the line. Every word I sing, every gesture I make, it’s all me,” says Munoz-Newsome. “But, just like it can be hard to describe yourself to people, it can be hard to describe your band. I find doing the social media really hard because it’s so self-conscious and self-referential. And for me, the moment of being creative is the opposite of that. When something is coming out, is being imagined, it’s very personal and very pure. [Once] the label asked me if I could take photos or make a video of me working on the album artwork. And I was like, ‘No! No way! I really can’t do that!’ The act of making art, being honest in that moment, that’s quite frightening and quite sacred. To have that just be, like, Snapchatted, it’s just wrong.”

“Making music,” says Neville, “you’re in the middle of a process that is completely freeing. We often have this collective, unspoken idea that we all just instinctively understand, and it will reveal itself to you as you’re doing it… We all just come together, in the one room – there’s no writing on a computer, building things or swapping files – and smash our ideas together, force something out of it. It’s very tactile.”

“We’re reacting to sounds, following them, as much as ideas,” Owen offers. “Like Sonic Youth, I think we’re often working with the energy of the guitar.”

“I think we have a Sonic Youth-esque mentality: make pop music, but do it with a kind of anarchic tonality,” Neville furthers. “I would definitely define it as pop music: we’re not avant-garde, we make songs. But, within that, there’s lots of different perceptions. Some people might just look at us as straight pop, someone else would think our songs are all too long and difficult.”

“I think the fact that our songs are very long, and the words are quite dense, is a kind of response against that [digital] climate,” says Munoz-Newsome. “We’re not providing that instantaneous, bite-sized content. We’d hope people would be happy that we’re offering something that exists outside of that.”

Growing up Munoz-Newsome never saw herself being in this position. Not just as the face of a budding buzz-band, but even making music. “I wasn’t writing songs when I was a kid,” she says. “I didn’t want to be in a band at all. It never even occurred to me. And then it just happened.”

“I think we have a Sonic Youth-esque mentality: make pop music, but do it with a kind of anarchic tonality.”

Of course, Pumarosa didn’t just happen. After studying visual art and painting and thinking that she’d find work as a scenographer, Munoz-Newsome was drawn onto the stage, first as a participant in performance art works. She began writing her first songs eight years ago, and spent years working on them, first just with Owen, then with the band as they slowly came together. Their debut single Priestess finally came out in 2015, and now their debut LP The Witch is here.

The album strings the band’s long songs – none are less than four minutes, four are more than six – together; moving from the “very subdued” opener Dragonfly through to the “really mental, high energy” closer Snake. “Moving from this cinematic opener, that sets the mood, then building up towards this crazy, psychedelic-Hare Krishna climax,” Munoz-Newsome says, “it feels like a journey, more than a set of songs maximising their position for streaming services. We liked the way that felt. But maybe that’s a bad idea, marketing-wise.”

“Finishing an album,” says Owen, “you’ve planted a flag, marked out this territory. After years of work you can finally say: this is a finished work, this represents us.”

As to just how it represents them, Pumarosa still aren’t sure. “We all have particularly different viewpoints, and there can be conflict in that,” says Suzuki. “I like that. If everyone agreed, it would just feel too safe. We’re not a single genre idea or a singular sound. You can listen to techno, or folk music from Africa, and connect those ideas, and draw influence from anywhere along that line. Everything is on the table.”

“Anything goes,” says Munoz-Newsome, “as long as you do it wholeheartedly. The worst thing you can do is fake it.”