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Feature

Pumarosa: Breaking through

Coming soon to a venue near you: Pumarosa are juggling touring with working on their debut.
Published: 8:15 am, October 20, 2016
Pumarosa: Breaking through
“I want people to fucking adore it!”

Isabel Muñoz-Newsome, the enigmatic frontwoman of Pumarosa, is gushing about her band’s forthcoming debut. “It’s been a really amazing few weeks,” she begins, on her commute home from the recording studio. “The last day is tomorrow so it’s all getting a bit intense.”

And it’s not just putting the finishing touches to their record that’s ‘intense’, either. Just days later, they’re jetting off to America to support Glass Animals on tour, then it’s back to the UK for their first headline run before heading to Europe again with the Oxford art-pop group.

Admittedly, the nerves are starting to kick in. “I thought to myself today, ‘I’m slightly nervous about that’. But then I just sat down and had a beer and the nerves went,” Isabel laughs.

“I think you get nervous because everything’s pounding on your door at once, kind of rushing you along,” she ponders. “Whereas if you look it in the face and have a real think about it, it’s great, it’s brilliant - it’s what you’ve always wanted to do.”

The London five-piece, uniting under their ‘industrial spiritual’ ethos, are one of this year’s most important bands; defying genres at every turn and mesmerising crowds up and down the country with their bewitching blend of swirling guitars, sensual vocals and obscure compositions.

Pumarosa’s early existence came while Isabel shared a yurt on the roof of a Tottenham warehouse with drummer Nick… and some chickens in the corner. “It was a beautiful, freeing - and pretty alternative - way to live in London. Apart from occasionally I’d get a bit scared,” Isabel confesses. “I could see the headlines: ‘Girl in Tent on Roof Dies a Horrible Death’.

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Soon after, Isabel met Pumarosa’s keys and saxophone player, a fully trained musician called Tamoya, when she was invited to The Jupiter Club as a songwriter. “It’s a really interesting night,” she begins.

“They have a proper brass section and backing singers, and you rehearse with them a few times before doing a performance. It’s a sort of one-off big band version of a few of your songs… all in a weird punk pub.” Tamoya liked what he heard and approached Isabel, saying, “If you want to play more then give me a call.”

The trio then met guitarist Neville at a private viewing under a railway arch gallery. “The floor was covered in water and we just started talking… And he’d heard of our band,” Isabel recalls, shocked at the time. “I was so flattered that I asked him to join,” she jokes.

Bassist Henry joined not much later and Pumarosa – named after a ‘little pink tropical fruit’ and the mythical Puma – was formed and they haven’t looked back. But despite playing countless shows over the last year, hearing their music on daytime radio and racking up fans worldwide, Isabel remains humbly unaware of how big they’re becoming. 

“It’s quite an abstract thing for me that we’ve ‘broken through’,” she suggests. “I’m still doing the same thing, I just don’t get as much time to sit at home and play the piano. Instead I’m on a bus or a plane. It’s not glamorous enough yet to feel like we’ve broken through,” she laughs.

As for the band’s releases so far, the songs are varied: in length, sound and style. Though they all have this “woozy thread” running through them, Isabel contemplates.

“They’re all quite saturated in feeling; not necessarily tragedy or that kind of emotion but they’re definitely heavy.” Watching Isabel and the band perform live, their otherworldly creations are powerful and thrilling creatures, each one staring the audience dead in the eye.

“I always hope people might be able to hear the words, because with certain sound-systems it all just turns into a wall of noise,” she reflects of shows passed. “It’s also quite nice, but when you’ve spent years thinking of these words...” she trails off.

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Studying their first three releases, Pumarosa’s creative thrill shines through. ‘Honey’ was inspired by Adam Curtis’ ‘Bitter Lake’. “It’s an incredible cross between an art piece and a documentary; it made me want to write and ‘Honey’ is what I wrote.” 

‘Cecile’, on the other hand, is less of a song – according to Isabel. “It’s more of a vibey track. It came out of a jam and it’s more about sensation, desire and sex. There’s a surreal landscape of desire... singing about the Black Lake, liquid and sex... and then there’s an explosion of energy at either end.” 

‘Priestess’ is about “finding that strength to be free,” Isabel suggests; “especially in a city. And finding the space to be wild, be an animal and do what you want to do without being borne down upon by London...” 

Contemplating Pumarosa’s aim as a band, Isabel begins. “We want to move people, and for them to really listen and hear the words. Be a bit bewitched, perhaps.”

That sort of ethereal aesthetic shone through during their mesmerising set at Latitude earlier this year. “That show was amazing,” she recalls, “I was like ‘why are you all here? It’s 12 in the afternoon’!”

Another particularly memorable performance was playing in the midst of a gas leak. “It was our first little headline show and we did it in a sort of blown out house, with our friends, Sweat,” Isabel remembers.

“We organised it to feel like a party or a rave; we wanted it to run late and we had a friend come and DJ. It was just really wild and actually quite dangerous. But I think, when there’s an edge, it makes it more exciting.

“The power cut just as we were about to start, then there was a gas leak. It was just ridiculous, and I smashed loads of equipment during the set and got up, carried on playing.

“It got completely out of control, but somehow it carried on. We got to bed at ten in the morning - afterwards the guys from Sweat were so pumped... And we’re all still alive so that’s nice.”

This time next year, Pumarosa’s debut album will have been out for some time. But where does Isabel see herself twelve months down the line? “The reality is, next summer we’ll play as many festivals as possible, so I’d like to be on holiday, relaxing somewhere nice.

“In an ideal world I’d like to be in a strange, little house in the south of Spain with a piano in the room and no-one else,” she says, conjuring up a picturesque break away from band life.

“I just want to keep writing; it’s quite hard when you’re always moving around.” Truthfully, though, Isabel’s got one goal in mind: “I want the album to come out and for people to fucking adore it!”
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Pumarosa tour the UK in October and Europe in November.

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