INTERVIEW: Pumarosa on Touring with Glass Animals and Performing in Old Italian Cinemas

    • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

    [Photo Credit: Wolf James]

    Every now and then, we stumble upon a true artist. Someone who truly feels the music, makes sacrifices for their craft, and indulges in the spiritual aspect of it all. Self-proclaimed "industrial spiritual" band Pumarosa and their lead woman Isabel Munoz-Newsome are a rare case who demonstrate just that. They released their seven-minute cut "Priestess" which is a slice of pure perfection - danceable drums, ethereal guitars, Blackstar-like saxophone, and defiant vocals. It all leads up to an intense build that's somehow so subtle, you don't realize how high you've gotten off of the sound until the song ends and you come back down.

    We recently featured their latest single, "Honey", and after hearing it, we couldn't turn down the opportunity to talk to the band. After hearing about how they rehearse in abandoned cinemas and starve themselves during the writing process, we just had to dig deep into their minds - and we are so glad we did.

    KIRSTEN SPRUCH: So you're in the UK right now?

    ISABEL MUNOZ-NEWSOME: Yeah, we're just rehearsing actually, getting the set ready for America.

    KS: You're going on tour with Glass Animals, right? That is pretty awesome.

    IMN: Yeah, yeah amazing. It'll be our first proper US tour!

    KS: Which city are you most excited to visit?

    IMN: Well, I've always wanted to go to Los Angeles - I've never been - so I'm pretty excited about that. It also seems like the good people of London move to LA, so I've got a few friends there. And San Francisco! I've always dreamed of going there as well. I've been to New York before and I already know I love it.

    KS: Do you usually start writing a song on guitar? What's your process like?

    IMN: I actually write on the piano usually and then transpose it to the guitar. I play too much guitar so I want to play less but then I always end up jamming with it and then I'm like "oh well, I wanna play it again." I had piano lessons as a child, so I can see much more clearly what I'm doing with piano. With the guitar I'm actually pretty naive - I play sounds that I think are nice, but I wouldn't be able to really tell you what notes Im playing.

    KS: You know how there are some musicians who are educated with theory and the technical aspect of music and then there are some musicians who just use their ear and play whatever they feel? Do you think writing in one of those ways is more beneficial than the other?

    IMN: I think there are different ways of doing it. Some people write in patterns - like pop songs - and if you are aware of that maybe you'll write a more 'successful' tune. But I also think maybe it's quite good to be more instinctual because hopefully people respond in an instinctual way. So if it just felt good to you, if it felt like it made sense, then I think it will hopefully feel like that to everyone else's ears. Not everyone, but most people who you click with. We were talking about this the other night because Tomoya, who plays keys and saxophone in the band, is properly educated in music. He studied it at university. He told us that at a point during his course, he was thinking "This actually might be damaging," because it puts your brain in front of your instincts a little bit.

    KS: People start to overthink it.

    IMN: In an ideal world, you should become a master of it and then let go of it and play as freely as you want.

    KS: So it's more of a mental thing?

    IMN: Yeah, I think so. When you think about, Picasso and all those guys could draw and paint incredibly detailed pieces - photographically - but then they went wild. They disrupted that and chucked it out, but they still had that knowledge.

    KS: Something I found really interesting was that you guys have recorded in really exotic places, like old Italian cinemas and half knocked down houses. Does that influence you in some sort of way? Is that also something you just feel out when you're writing a song or rehearsing?

    IMN: I respond a lot to spaces. The atmosphere or theatricality of a space can transform how you feel and what you want to do. I actually studied theater design, so I spent a lot of time in various theaters and kind of abandoned spaces making performances and stuff. Finding the cinema where we went in Calabria was really powerful. It's a huge cavernous space, so it does make you play differently because you've just got this enormous beautiful echo, and so you play much more expansively. In fact, there's this one tune that we did out there that we're still wrestling with now because it just doesn't quite work unless you're in this massive space.

    KS: I also read that you like filling your rehearsal rooms with smoke and you starve yourselves while you're playing. Is that true?

    IMN: Yeah, well actually we were doing that until five-thirty in the morning last night because Dan Carey, the producer we're working with, goes pretty nuts. He's a very obsessive, passionate presence. So last night, Nick, our drummer, was so tired, he was laying on the floor, and Dan was just like, "Get up Nick! Get on the drums! Get on the fucking drums! Come on! Get up!" And his children were asleep upstairs and his wife, Jane, was hanging out with us and she kept being like, "Don't scream so loudly, the kids are asleep," and he's like, "Shut up!" So yeah, it's quite exciting and slightly intoxicating space to be in.

    KS: Is that why your music is kind of angry?

    IMN: Angry? Do you think it's angry?

    KS: Well, I thought "Honey" was definitely angry.

    IMN: Yeah, I suppose "Honey" is a bit angry.

    KS: Yeah, what was that one line? You cursed someone out and I loved it.

    IMN: Oh yeah, I say, "You stupid son of a bitch," of course. That's so funny. I just don't think of it. You know, that's just me. When Dan is getting passionate like that, it's not angry. It's more excited. It's really good.

    KS: Do you think sacrifice is important in the creative process?

    IMN: I think it's just not to be completely satiated when you're trying to create. Maybe if your body doesn't need stuff, you're going to become, not lazy, but you don't need anything. No need to propel you forward, so maybe being a little bit hungry or cold, I think a touch of that is good. You shouldn't be perhaps completely comfortable. Life is hard, so I think if you're coming from a place of happiness, you won't really have that much to say.

    KS: Right, because the best music usually comes from sad people.

    IMN: People aren't usually walking around grinning from ear to ear. I think people connect with music often because of the lyrics.

    KS: What's coming up for you guys next?

    IMN: Well while we're on tour with Glass Animals, we're also doing some of our own dates. I can't believe we're doing our first headlining shows in America.


    9/20 - San Francisco - Rickshaw Shop *
    9/21 - Los Angeles - The Echo *
    9/25 - Washington DC - Echostage ^
    9/26 - Philadelphia - The Fillmore ^
    9/29 - New York - Terminal 5 ^
    9/30 - Boston - Blue Hill Pavilion ^
    10/1 - Ithaca - State Theatre ^
    10/2 - Toronto - Sound Academy ^
    10/4 - Columbus - Express Live ^
    10/5 - Milwaukee - The Riverside ^
    10/6 - Chicago - The Rivera Theatre ^
    10/7 - Mineapolis - Myth ^
    10/8 - Brooklyn - Rough Trade *

    * = Headline show
    ^ = w/ Glass Animals

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