When your country’s biggest musical exports run the gamut from Keith Urban all the way to Lorde (not to mention Flight of the Conchords), it can be hard to pin down an overarching, definitive sound. Luckily for New Zealand’s Yumi Zouma, it’s this expansive, idiosyncratic melting pot of sonic influences that adds texture to their lush, synth-laden, dream disco act.
For their second full-length release, Willowbank, the band made a pit stop on their Asian tour to play an intimate gig in Manila. The day after, we caught up with them at This Is Pop, a hidden record shop/members only club that doubles as the personal vinyl collection of Terno Recording’s Toti Dalmacion. We asked the band members to handpick the records that helped shape their latest album.
Josh Burgess (Guitar/Bass/Keyboards)
I found myself listening to The Stranglers a lot to while making Willowbank. They were early adopters of keyboards and synthesizers, and a lot of the sounds on this record feature early uses of arpeggiators without being cheesy. It’s still a little heavy and punky—pop in an aggressive way. It’s not on this one, but they have a song called ‘European Females’ that has really beautiful keyboards, and that was definitely an inspiration on one of our new songs called ‘Us, Together.’
Sam Perry (Guitar/Bass/Keyboards)
I hold Suicide and Iggy and the Stooges in the same esteem because to me they’re just perfect rock ‘n’ roll. A big thing for me with both these artists is that they’re a lot of fun. You can tell that what they’re doing means a lot to them, but they’re not afraid to have a laugh. Another thing is that they made really amazing music that was also simple. Both Suicide and The Stooges taught me that you could make music that was so original with just two chords. It’s this dedication to the idea that if you’re gonna have two sounds, make those two sounds really interesting. Peter Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle influenced me a lot through his band Coil. He was one of those people who was a devout sampler enthusiast, and the way he uses samples changed the way I thought about instruments.
Christie Simpson (Vocals)
I picked the Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ because they revolutionized a whole style of pop music. I feel like I’m always trying to find that same level of energy as Annie Lennox. In the song, there are moments when her voice is so insanely powerful but echoing in the background, and I love that she has that power, but she’s still using it in a very subtle way. The Eurythmics had decadent moments, but for the most part were pretty restrained. This song reminds me of being a child growing up in New Zealand. It’s kind of a dark song but it also has a weird optimism to it. I can draw some parallels to our album, such as the way the Eurythmics write powerful lyrics. That was definitely something that we tried to do more of, but I think our style is a little more emotionally earnest.
Charlie Ryder (Guitar/Bass/Keyboards)
The first is a record by ESG, a legendary girl group from New York that influenced me in my teenage years. I was in a dance punk band with Josh that took lots of inspiration from bands like Liars and The Rapture—16 beat rhythms, drumming, and funky basslines. That sort of influenced the second generation of music that I began listening to, the electronic blog stuff in the late 2000s. Cut Copy was a big influence on me, particularly their song ‘Lights and Music.’
After blogs sort of stopped becoming my go-to music source, I started listening to a lot of stuff I’d find on archival Blogspots with older discographies. I was listening to Bossa Nova and Jazz. Me and Josh were watching a movie called The Party, which is an old Peter Sellers film from the 60s, and this actress Claudine Longet sings in it, and I was like, ‘Wow! Who is this singer?’ I did some research and realized that she was quite famous back in the day because she shot her husband who was an Olympic skier. The Rolling Stones even wrote a song about her. And so, for a long time I would play her records when I was trying to sleep, because it is just the most luxurious and relaxing music you can find. It’s just so smooth.
Listen to Yumi Zouma on Spotify.