Back in the early 90’s Britain experienced a resurgence of musical brilliance. The energy and gregarious attitude of ‘english’ bands created a legion of devoted global musical lovers who lived their lives based on the bands they loved so dear, (Blur, Suede, Pulp, The Stone Roses, The Verve, Radiohead, Oasis Happy Mondays, The Charlatans, the list is long and really quite extraordinary). Travelling through space and time, today musical diversity begins to dissipate, blame social media and streaming music perhaps for the demise of groupies, fan clubs and committed movements in pop culture devotion. In more recent times the bands that have emerged from London town are equally powerful but lack the drive, ambition and the confidence of the 90s. Pumarosa are one of the latest bands to rise out of London’s cracked musical pavers and judging by their recent live performance at Howler, Melbourne, remind us that London still has a mighty pulse.
Like a bolt of electricity, in late September 2015, a five piece band from London, going by the obscure name ‘Pumarosa’ delivered the year’s most diverse and engaging cut of the year, ‘Priestess’ a 7 min or so mesmerizing defiant dance cut that would fill any indie dance floor with an all mighty throwing of shapes. The ‘free flow’ and jam-chemistry portrayed in the song, epitomised what it would feel like to be in a band where a single jam session evolved into an all out frenzy of un-orchestrated magic.
Drummer Nicholas Owen, started the band with lead singer Isabel Munoz-Newsome and explained that this energy that we feel in all their delivered tracks are naturally born from what they feel when they rehearse. “Before last year we spent a lot of time rehearsing and would improvise together, often recording passages from these. Some of our songs are built in this way so they are definitely about capturing or recapturing a feel that happens quite spontaneously.”
Starting proceedings as a duo, Nicholas and Isabel didn’t really have a grand plan of becoming a ‘band’, it was more of scenario where the “Gods dictated”, Nicholas explained that, the “other righteous members then were added to the fold.”
Experiencing Pumarosa live is somewhat like watching them rehearse, their ability to reinterpret what they create in the studio is natural and energizing, their musical landscape tightly building around the captivating vocal abilities and performance of Isabel. They epitomise what it would feel like to be in a band, where it just ‘works’.
“I think everyone in the band has always been in bands, or practising music in some way…especially Tomoya who I think used to be in about 10 different bands spanning many genres.” says Nicholas.
The confidence of Isabel’s performance can sometimes detract from the other band members but it seems evident that the other 4 are perfectly happy to simply provide the effortless groove, emotion and landscape for her to let loose of her powerful vocal chords. You can’t help but draw comparisons to Kate Bush in the theatricals and stance.
Pointing out musical comparisons wouldn’t be fair, for we happily embrace Pumarosa’s works as unique and undefined, but when asking Nicholas about Australian bands that have influenced and inspired, “We are all massive fans of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and The Birthday Party before that. I particularly love his last two albums. Such a strong performer and Warren Ellis’s arrangements are fantastic”.
With the very unexpected news that the band would tour Australia, especially without delivering their debut album, excited as we were, their was a certain uncertain feeling on who “actually” had heard of the band here in Oz. What was more peculiar was the double bill with America’s newest pop sensation, LANY, whose crowd were of the younger variety, not the sort of crowd you’d expect at a Pumarosa gig. The crowd support at Howler was still admirable despite most of the crowd their to swoon and scream for LANY, with mobile cameras at the ready. Perhaps this show would not form a highlight for the band’s epic tour schedule and international performances, we did ask Nicholas what their highlight was for 2016.
“Playing at the Royal Albert Hall was pretty unexpected and fun. Our own shows we did in London were great, scarier than usual, but great. I think the highlight overall though was recording the album with Dan Carey.”
Watching bands like Pumarosa live, remind us just how important it is to play defiant, to play like the crowd knows every word to your song, every move to your beat. Opening their set with latest cut ‘Dragonfly’, it’s clear why the biggest taste makers, are watching the band with keen eye. The sound is meticulous, uncomplicated and audacious. Popular and familiar cuts ‘Cecile’, ‘Honey’ and ‘Priestess’ sound just as powerful as they do on record, while ‘Lions Den’, ‘The Witch and set closer ‘Snake’ provide excitement for what we will hear from their debut New Born, ‘The Witch’.
We asked Nicholas how he felt about delivering their debut album ‘The Witch’, out via Fiction on May the 19th. “I think it’s best we just put it out there and see what comes back. But we are really proud of it…a lot of work went into it. I am excited to have a proper body of work out there.”
With their very quick tour of Australia now behind them, they band will gear up for more hometown shows across the UK and Europe to show off the results of their debut. The response in Australia may well have been light and slightly under the radar, but as the word grows of just how excellent Pumarosa are, it may be that we see the band back in Australia again, head lining their own shows with a new-found audience who would be kicking themselves that they missed their debut Australian performance.
In lead up to visiting Australia, we learnt from Nicholas that leaving the cold of London town behind and embracing the warmth of an Australian summer, it was the sea that he band were most looking forward to experiencing, although not without some trepidation. “I am also in two minds because I have a palpable sense of dread concerning sharks. I like to think this fear goes beyond the trickle down misrepresentation of such great creatures by Hollywood, but it probably doesn’t.”