My Firsts: Charlie Ryder of Yumi Zouma | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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My Firsts: Charlie Ryder of Yumi Zouma

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Mar 13, 2020 My Firsts Bookmark and Share

My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Charlie Ryder of Yumi Zouma.

The indie-pop band have released a new album, Truth or Consequences, today via Polyvinyl, their first for the label. While formed in New Zealand, Yumi Zouma’s members currently reside in various cities around the world: New York City (Josh Burgess—guitar, vocals), London, England (Charlie Ryder—guitar, bass, keys), Christchurch, New Zealand (Christie Simpson—vocals, keys), and Wellington, New Zealand (Olivia Campion—drums). The band self-produced the album and it was mixed by Jake Aron (Solange, Grizzly Bear, Snail Mail). Truth or Consequences is the band’s third album and the follow-up to Willowbank, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.

Read on as Ryder talks about his first concert, the albums his parents first played for him, the cool American TV show that scared him, and how he was forever scarred by the death of a pet.

First professional recording session?

When we were in Paris finishing our first album Yoncalla, we decided that we should try and find a studio for a few days as all of our previous records were primarily bedroom/living room recording. Somehow, the owner of our label managed to get in touch with the people who represented Philippe Zdar, who owned the Motorbass in Montmartre. We didn’t know about this though, so I was very surprised when I received a phone call the next day from Philippe in Ibiza. He said we could have his studio for free as he was busy hiking “deep off the grid” and that he wanted the studio to have “good music in the walls.” We had an amazing experience there with his engineer Antoine. This was where Phoenix recorded their Grammy-winning album, it was our first time in a studio, and we had the whole place to ourselves before Metronomy were due to come in the following week. We will forever be grateful for Philippe’s generosity.

First recording device?

I picked up an old Tascam four-track recorder around about when I was just starting high school and learning to play guitar for the first time. My first band would record our first ideas on this thing but we were pretty new to the process and I’m sure everything sounded horrible and out of time. It was a nice stepping stone before I started recording digitally using software like Pro Tools, Garageband, and eventually, Logic, which is what we all currently use in Yumi Zouma.

First instrument?

I started learning piano and music theory when I just started going to school. I was doing classical exams before I eventually got sick of that and moved to doing jazz. When I was around 13 I got my first guitar, a red Stratocaster copy made by a company called Samick. I got a bass guitar a few years later—a white Squier Thunderbird which was very impractical.

First record your parents played for you?

This is a tough one, but it was almost definitely a CD, as my parents didn’t own a record player, instead opting for a cabinet full of CDs which promptly exploded during the Christchurch earthquake. My mum likes jazz and my dad likes classic rock, but the earliest memories I can recall are of listening to their Michael Jackson History and Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell CDs. The bigger influence was probably that of my sister, who introduced me to playing the piano, or my neighbors Celine and Lydia, who got me into the pop music of the ’90s.

First broken bone?

I broke my arm when I was a little kid. I was walking along the top of a wall at Sumner beach and fell off onto the footpath below. We recently recorded a music video there for “Southwark,” the third single from our new album.

First concert you went to?

My sister took me to see Janet Jackson on her Velvet Rope tour. She played at the WestpacTrust Arena in my hometown of Christchurch. I was probably only around seven or eight years old, so not super familiar with Janet’s back catalogue and general place in history, but I enjoyed it a lot. It was the first time I’d seen such large stage props and backup dancers, but I think my first reaction was just how overwhelmingly loud it was inside the arena. We got to play there with Yumi Zouma when we were opening for Lorde, which was a nice way to bring things full circle.

First TV show you were obsessed with?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I owned all the seasons on VHS as it was the only late ’90s/early ’00s TV series that we got in NZ that was definitively cool with relatable pop culture references. The music was great and the fight scenes were super enjoyable for a young kid. At first I was terrified by the early episodes—I was probably only eight or so at the time and would get nightmares after watching (it would usually air quite late at night for me back then), but as I got older and more desensitised to the violence, I could lovingly embrace the series for the camp relationship drama it really is. This series probably got me into U.S. college rock more than anything else.

First album you bought?

The first album I can actively remember buying myself was Is This It by The Strokes, a record that came out in 2001, just as I was ready to start delving into non-Top 40 music. I remember seeing their music video for “Last Nite” on the legendary TV program Intellectual Property, and being transfixed by what I was hearing. I went to The CD Store (a big chain of record stores in New Zealand that only sold CDs until they rebranded as “The CD and DVD Store”), and listened to the whole album back to front at the listening booth. This started a weekly habit of mine, where I would go in after school and ask the girls who worked there to recommend new indie rock releases that had been imported in from overseas. I would sit at the listening booth making lists and ranking prospective future purchases—this was back in the time when a single CD cost around NZ$35, so you needed to prioritize!

First person you kissed?

My first girlfriend—we kissed halfway through Britney Spears’ coming-of-age cult classic Crossroads. We dated for a year, but things eventually ended and we went our separate ways during a Good Charlotte and Yellowcard concert.

First music festival you went to?

As a kid growing up in New Zealand in the ’90s and ’00s, your festival options were fairly limited. You went to The Gathering if you were into drum ‘n’ bass, or Big Day Out, an Australasian chain of festivals held every summer in January that would bring massive rock bands in from overseas, which was a fairly rare occurrence in New Zealand. As I was listening to a lot of indie and garage rock in my teens, it was a dream of mine to eventually get to go to a Big Day Out, but it was a hard sell as it was held in Auckland and I lived in Christchurch. My mum and dad were pretty reluctant to let me go to a festival in another city, but they relented by the time I was 16, and then I was making the pilgrimage every January along with all the other Kiwi rock fans around my age. I even ended up playing at the festival a couple of times. Other, less monolithic festivals such as Laneway started taking over the market, and the Big Day Out group eventually went out of business, but I will always fondly remember these epic stadium festivals of my youth.

First pet?

A cat named Brighton, who died on Christmas Day. She was my mum’s, so my parents got me a pet of my own for my birthday one month later—a black and white cat named Porsche. Porsche was then quickly killed in a motorway incident shortly after. These holes in my heart have never been filled and this is why I don’t write joyful music.

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