Friday, April 24th, 2020
Charlie Ryder of Yumi Zouma – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In
“The situation has been heartbreaking for us as the virus struck just as we released our new album.”
Apr 23, 2020
By Mark Redfern
We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with Charlie Ryder of Yumi Zouma. Although the band formed in New Zealand, Ryder is currently based in London.
We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people).
We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in.
Yumi Zouma released a new album, Truth or Consequences, last month via Polyvinyl, their first for the label. While formed in New Zealand, the indie-pop band’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 reflects on his COVID-19 experience so far.
Where are spending the quarantine and who are you spending it with? If you’re spending it with other people, have you found that the quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension?
I’m spending the lock-down at home in London with my girlfriend Val. At first, the lock-down caused a bit of tension as we weren’t used to living together (she’s been studying overseas for the last six months), but now I think we’re actually closer than ever. This extended period without distractions has helped us to establish some shared activities that we never really had time for before, and I hope that these will carry on after the lockdown is over (if it ever is)!
Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?
It seems so at the moment! The scary thing about COVID-19 is that a large proportion of us could be carrying the virus without displaying any symptoms, so until we get tested, it’s impossible to really know! But from what I can tell, everyone we know is keeping well and staying at home.
What’s your daily routine been like? Have you spent much time outdoors? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home?
My daily routine hasn’t changed too much, as I’m still doing my normal job during the day and then working on Yumi Zouma in the evenings, but now I don’t need to take the Underground to work, or even get out of my pajamas! Our time outdoors is fairly restricted here in London, but we’re allowed to go outside once a day for exercise, which is nice given that summer is approaching.
What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term?
The situation has been heartbreaking for us as the virus struck just as we released our new album, Truth or Consequences. We arrived in the U.S. for the start of our album release tour on March 12th—the day that the WHO declared the virus a pandemic and the U.S. announced the European travel ban. When we arrived that morning, things seemed fine. But one by one, we started receiving emails that shows were being cancelled, and by the end of that night, the whole tour was cancelled. Our album came out the next day, but we flew home and went straight into quarantine. It was gut-wrenching after spending two-and-a-half years writing and preparing for the release, but it’s a small problem to have in comparison to what many other people are going through right now.
If you also have a day job outside of music, how has that been impacted by COVID-19?
It hasn’t changed all—I just work from home instead of in an office now.
Do you trust the government and our leaders (such as President Trump) to effectively deal with the pandemic? What most concerns you about the response of elected leaders at home and abroad?
I don’t trust anyone to deal with the pandemic at the moment as the virus itself is so unknown. For instance, I don’t think we have any clear information as to whether it is humanly possibly to gain any immunity to the virus. Without this information, or a vaccine, I don’t think it is possible to plan for a return to life as we knew it before the outbreak.
How do you think the crisis will affect this November’s U.S. presidential election? Will it make it easier or harder to defeat Trump?
Without any insight as to how catastrophes affect voter sentiment, It’s hard for me to say. Regardless, there might not any candidates left to elect given COVID-19’s proclivity to kill the elderly.
Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful?
I use Twitter regularly and therefore have been getting most of my news from the roundups that they do which include updates from various journalists, outlets, and organizations like the WHO.
What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home?
It depends on how long this period lasts for. If a vaccine was discovered tomorrow, then other than the devastating number of deaths, bankruptcies, and job losses that have already been incurred, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were no long-term effects, as the human race has an unerring ability to move on and forget. However, without a vaccine or the ability to gain immunity from COVID-19, I imagine that our day-to-day lives will be drastically different to how they were before, and that working and socializing from home will become our new “normal.” For performing musicians, this prospect is daunting, and for many other industries, it would likely be their death sentence. Many of us would be without income for the foreseeable future, so I would hope that this would inspire some redistribution reform in many countries, and instigate a shift towards the widespread adoption of social benefit initiatives like Universal Basic Income.
If you have school-aged kids, how have you been dealing with homeschooling and how are your kids adjusting to life at home and away from friends?
No kids yet 🙂
Are your parents, grandparents, and others in your life who are at risk taking social distancing seriously? If not, what lengths have you gone to in order to convince them to stay inside?
Yes—my parents are aware that they are most at risk, so they are taking this extremely seriously—thankfully.
What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time?
I’m not sure—I don’t think it should be up to record labels, streaming platforms, or consumers to provide the assistance that the state should be providing to its citizens during such a crisis. The label that we’re signed to, Polyvinyl Record Co., have been extraordinarily generous in waiving revenue splits and releasing compilations where all proceeds go to the artists. BandCamp have done similarly, and many of our fans have been hugely kind in purchasing our music and merchandise during this time. But we are starkly cognizant of the fact that they are doing so during a time when they too are totally unsure of their financial situations. Instead, greater assistance should be provided from governments all around the world, given their lower cost of borrowing at this present time.
What is the best way fans can support you financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowd sourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight?
While our records and merchandise are available on the PolyvinylRecords.com website, where the incredible team are still working daily to ship to fans throughout the crisis, the best way you can support us right now is by telling as many people as possible to listen to our new album, Truth or Consequences. If you have the means to financially assist us, we would ask you to consider supporting initiatives like DonatePPE.org, or WeCount!’s Immigrant Worker COVID-19 Fund, which has been set up to provide medical support for undocumented victims who cannot use public health infrastructure.
Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine?
I’ve been enjoying the board game Shobu, the TV shows Will & Grace, Sex In the City, and Friends, the Bridget Jones trilogy of movies, and Time Crisis—an Internet radio show hosted by Ezra Koenig, and the American painter, musician, TikTok sensation, and Internet radio personality, Jake Longstreth.
Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?
We’ve looked into it, but haven’t found a solution that enables us to stream in synch between the U.S., the UK, and New Zealand.
Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?
Yes—converting all of my 32-bit Logic Pro X sessions to 64-bit sessions before OSX kills them.
Has the quarantine been a fertile creative time (are you writing or recording new music, for example) or have you found it hard to focus on creative endeavors?
Yep! We’re recording a new edition of Truth or Consequences, writing LP IV, doing some collaborations, and revisiting a special project that never saw a digital release…
Beyond the obvious items (such as toilet paper), what things have you made sure to get from the grocery store when stocking up? And, also, do you have any toilet paper?
Nesquik. We’re on our final roll… let’s see how it goes.