​pumarosa make music about sex and the radical power of dance

The London-based five piece sat down for a chat with i-D beside the lake at Latitude. Watch out for their psychedelic vibes at Visions festival this weekend.

by Charlotte Gush
03 August 2016, 11:43pm

London five piece Pumarosa caught our attention with the release of their stunning debut single Priestess last year, and we got our second helping of their hypnotic pop hooks and psych grooves with the release of the ecstatic Cecile in March. The band have spent their summer criss-crossing Europe for a string of festival dates (including Visions in London this coming weekend), they have a third single coming out in the autumn, and their debut album -- produced by Speedy Wunderground's Dan Carey -- is scheduled for early 2017. They're a band to have on your radar.

i-D caught up with singer, songwriter and guitarist Isabel Munoz-Newsome, drummer Nick Owen and guitarist Neville James (Jamie) after their set under the canopy of pine trees on the Sunrise stage at Latitude, sitting down beside a lake to talk chance meetings, the power of dance, political songwriting and sex. Here's what we discovered...

The founding members had never met before starting the band
Isabel: We were both invited to come and play with a mutual friend of ours, who was going to start a music project, and then…
Nick: He didn't come!
Isabel: We both turned up, but he didn't. So then we started playing together. We've had a few different projects together -- for a while it was a two piece, then we met Henry, and then Tomoya at this weird night where they invited songwriters to come and play with a big brass band -- he plays sax.
Nick: It's called the Jupiter Club.
Isabel: It happened at the George Tavern on Commercial Road. Really cool night, all sorts of people, not just 'singer-songwriters'. [Tomoya] was there, and he just said, 'If you want to play more, call me'. He's, like, music man -- he could just play music 'til the cows come home.

Their debut song Priestess is about the radical power of dance
Isabel: The Priestess is kind of whoever dares to dance and let go. But then also my sister's a dancer, she's amazing, and some of the lyrics are definitely about her.
[Fernanda Munoz-Newsome, who dances in the video]
Isabel: She's really inspirational. But it's also about dancing, and how it's outside of this scene we're all in where you pay for everything -- you can dance and no one's going to charge you for that. There's a sense of autonomy, freedom.

...and it's a seven minute epic
Isabel: It was probably more like 14 and we cut it down! I was quite worried about it actually. The funny thing is, Dan Carey -- who we are working with -- did make a radio edit, but no one played it -- all the radio people wanted to play the long one.
Jamie: When we went into the studio with Dan, we were expecting him to be like, 'Yeah, that's great, but let's cut it down'. But he did the opposite, he understood that it is this long hypnotic process, you're supposed to lose yourself in it.

How did the Shura remix come about?
Isabel: She just contacted us and said she really loved the song, and could she try remixing it. And she sent that sassy remix!
Jamie: We've supported her a few times.
Isabel: It's quite emotional, quite beautiful pop.

They've embraced the genre 'industrial spiritual'
Nick: I can't really remember if we came up with it. I think we did actually say, 'Yeah, that's the kind of music we play'.
Isabel: And then everyone's taken it on.
Nick: It sort of contains a red herring, because people think of industrial music, and it's definitely not that.
Isabel: It is though, it's heavy, it's dark.
Nick: But it's not like chainsaws on sheet metal!

Although, during Lion's Den, Isabel does shreds her guitar with a beaten up mallet drumstick...

They have really diverse musical influences
Jamie: Tomoya [keys, sax, synth] would listen to anything from jungle to jazz, or this morning it was Ravi Shankar. He's incredibly eclectic.
Nick: We love Massive Attack and Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Happy Mondays, the Knife, Birthday Party, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop...
Isabel: They're not artists who are trying to create a new form of music, but it's a little bit dangerous -- when they go on stage you don't know quite what's going to happen. That sense of being a bit exploratory, or experimental.
Nick: Or confrontational.
Isabel: I can't understand why any [band] wouldn't do that. I don't mean you have the be violently confrontational, just have a space for possibility.

...but are united in their awe of Patti Smith
Isabel: Seeing Patti Smith last year at Glastonbury -- she's wild man! I was a bit like, 'Do I want to go and see her do it now, 50 years later -- it might be quite sad'. But she was wild, she was political and edgy and dangerous.
Nick: And shameless and vulnerable and savage. There was one point when she was running off stage and stacked it. It looked like a really bad fall, but the band kept playing, and she came back on stage a shouted, 'Yeah, I fell on my ass at Glastonbury -- because I'm a fucking animal!,' and everyone was just like, 'Fuuuck!'!
Isabel: It was the most rock and roll thing I've ever seen in my life. Defying everything you think about a 70 year old woman.

Isabel isn't afraid to write about social and political issues
(On the new track Lion's Den, she sings "The cake's been eaten, there's just scraps now")
Isabel: That's kind of how I feel things are for us, for our generation. In one way, culturally -- in the art world, but also in music -- the fact that so much has been done, and there's just this regurgitation. But also economically, and with the environment. It's quite fucked, isn't it? Our parents' generation opened up the box, but then didn't really pick up the pieces.
Jamie: There isn't much social mobility. And there's so much nostalgia, especially with the internet -- all forms of music are available to everybody. Everyone looks back really intensely, and there's so much pressure to be original.
Isabel: When you read about the neoliberal thing that's come from the 40s, it's so harsh, it's so calculated. It doesn't trickle down! So yeah, I'm compelled to write about it, but it also might be more personal -- it could come from me sitting at home and feeling particularly poor one day! I don't know that life ever would be fair, but that it seems manipulated specifically not to be seems so cruel.

Latest single, Cecile, is all about sex
Isabel: Which is also what I sit at home and think about! I think music and sex and physicality are very intertwined. I've had gay relationships, straight relationships, I don't think you have to be specifically anything. It's about that slightly mythical other that you're desperately desiring, and can't quite reach.

Pumarosa are playing at Visions in London on 6 August, before heading across Europe to Pstereo Festival in Norway, Lowlands Festival in the Netherlands, Festival Number 6 in Portmeirion in Wales, and Electric Picnic in Ireland.


Text Charlotte Gush

Latitude Festival