During the course of this site’s 11-plus year history, I’ve spilled a lot of (virtual) ink covering the acclaimed indie synth pop outfit Yumi Zouma. Last year, the JOVM mainstay act, which features members residing in New Zealand, the States and the UK signed to Polyvinyl Record Co, who released their critically applauded, self-produced, third album Truth or Consequences, an album that thematically focused on distant — both real and metaphorical; romantic and platonic heartbreak; disillusionment and feeling (and being) out of reach.
Of course, if you really follow and love music, you’re well aware of the fact that touring is often the most important — and necessary — part of the promotional camping for an artist’s or a band’s new release. Before they hit the road, that artist or band will figure out how to re-contextualize their new material and some previously released material for a live setting, imagining how a crowd will react to what — and how — they’ll play in a live a set. Like countless acts across the world, who were touring — or about to tour — as COVID-19 struck across the world, the members of Yumi Zouma were forced to cut their tour short and head home, leaving scores of their fans without the opportunity to hear the new album in a live setting.
Last October the JOVM mainstays released Truth or Consequences (Alternate Versions), an album conceived as the band’s response to the lost opportunity to re-contextualize and explore the boundaries of the original album’s material through live engagement with fans. Interestingly, since the release of Truth or Consequences (Alternate Versions), the members of the acclaimed indie pop outfit have been busy: Earlier this year, they released the standalone single “Give It Hell,” an essentially classic Yumi Zouma track featuring wistful and melancholy lyrics `paired with breezy arrangement featuring glistening synth arpeggios and a gentle yet persistent motorik groove. But underneath the song’s bittersweet air is a subtle celebratory note, a reminder that even in the most difficult of circumstances, we need to be grateful for being here now — and as an old song once said “all things will pass.”
“Mona Lisa,” the second single of 2021 by the acclaimed indie pop outfit may arguably be the most expansive song of their growing catalog: Beginning with an introduction featuring acoustic guitar, rapid fire drumming and Simpson’s imitably ethereal vocals, the song morphs into a breezy pop confection that nods at New Order and Bruce Springsteen — in part to a sultry saxophone-led coda. The song’s expansive and unusual arrangement evokes a shifting and complicated emotional state, seemingly influenced by our incredibly uncertain moment.
“’Mona Lisa’ came to us gradually over a long period of time – so its story has changed and shifted, developing new relevance with each new phase of our lives,” Yumi Zouma’s Christie Simpson explains in press notes. “It’s a song that ruminates on conflicting, shifting uncertainty – of wanting someone that maybe you can’t have – of uncertain boundaries, of confusing interactions, misunderstanding, yearning. Trying to forget an obsession – or shifting between losing all hope and giving in to the obsession – lured back by the excitement and promise – the moments of feeling so alive. The terror and joy of a big crush. And so we wanted the video to feel like a mirror to all those emotions along the passage of time – except in isolation. A year stuck inside (as we have been), alone with the big feelings, the big highs, and the low lows – dancing around your bedroom, losing it a little bit. Moving in, making it yours, moving out again. The strange phase we’ve been existing in, trying to thrive in (occasionally succeeding, but often not). The joy, the sadness, the conflict, the chaos – without ever really leaving your bedroom.”
The self-directed and recently released video for “Mona Lisa” stars the band’s Christie Simpson and is informed by real life events — namely, the jubilation, claustrophobia and mayhem of months in lockdown in both the UK and her native New Zealand: Simpson had just moved back to New Zealand after making the fortuitous decision to head to London the week before the outbreak of COVID-19. And in the video, which was filmed in Lyttleton, New Zealand, we see Simpson move into the studio apartment, make it her own and gradually lose her mind. Interestingly. the room was built by the band to match the artwork for the single.