(Band) life is a highway: a chat with ZUMA at Loch Hart

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

(Left to right) Darcy Purser, Alex Latham, and Patrick van Wegen of Zuma at Loch Hart Music Festival, 16 November 2019.

Photographer: Lachlan Wyness.

It's mid-afternoon at Loch Hart Music Festival and you're looking for something to pair nicely with a cold beverage and a setting sun. Thankfully, psych-disco-pop-rock fivesome Zuma were up to the task. We sat down with Darcy, Alex, and Patrick - who bought me a beer, the gentleman - after they took the stage at their third music festival to talk about being in a band outside the 9-to-5, what they see in one another, and their biggest fan: Jess and Jim's dad.

How did you find performing at Loch Hart?

Darcy: It was really fun. We were a bit nervous beforehand, but it was very good.

Alex: It was really good to see people getting up and dancing, enjoying the set.

With Darcy on drums, Alex on vocals, Pat on keys, Jess on guitar, and Jim on bass... what social role do you feel each of you play in the group?

Darcy: Pat's the funny man.

Alex: He's like the class clown of the band that everyone laughs with.

Darcy: Jimmy's probably the mediator.

Alex: If there's arguments, he'll settle it down. He's also the one who's always late to rehearsals.

Darcy: That's probably worth noting - Jimmy's late to everything.

Alex: Darcy and Jess are the very punctual ones. Darcy's the organiser, very good at the emails.

Zuma at Loch Hart Music Festival, 2019. Photographer: Ivy Emily Trim

How long have you guys been together?

Darcy: Myself, Jess, and Jimmy - who are the two brothers in the band - got together probably about eight years ago. We were just sort of jamming. We previously had another singer, but she left. We got Alex maybe three or four years ago.

When our previous singer left the band, we were looking for a singer for about a year, then a venue owner recommended Alex. As soon as Alex came to a jam, we knew she was a good fit.

We've been properly together, the five of us, for about three or four years.

With three of you in Melbourne, Pat in Ocean Grove, and Jess in Geelong - how do you mitigate that distance?

Darcy: We try and jam once a week together and we alternate between Melbourne and Geelong.

That's one of our challenges in recent times, being able to all get together. But we push through it, and we generally do it. It's good when we have regular gigs, because it makes us get together.

When do your jams usually take place?

All: Tuesday nights.

Darcy: It's the only night everyone's free. And Jimmy's always late (laughs).

Who came up with the name Zuma?

Pat: Jess and Jim. It's a Neil Young album. They grew up listening to Neil Young.

Darcy: Their Dad, John, who was here today watching us ... that Zuma album by Neil Young is his favourite album. He comes to every gig religiously.

Alex: And critiques it!

Darcy: If you're not sure about how a gig's gone, you just go straight to John.

Who would you say your main stylistic inspirations are?

Alex: For instruments, obviously a lot of Tame Impala and FOALS .... even Willaris. K lately, and Temples.

Darcy: We're starting to do more instrumental, more electro-type stuff.

How did you go about putting together your self-titled EP released earlier this year?

Alex: We'd been playing these songs live for such a long period of time, and we just felt like we really had to get these songs out.

Pat: We felt that if we didn't release them, we'd move on to other stuff and they'd just disappear. We're playing new songs now.

Darcy: Jess writes most of our [instrumental] stuff. He'll write the basis of a song, generally, and then he'll hand it over to us. Alex will lay down some lyrics and vocal melodies, I'll put some drums to it, and we all add ideas as we go.

As you work towards your next release, how do you think your sound evolving?

Darcy: I would say we're heading down a similar path to our first EP, but I feel we've learnt a lot. We've learnt how to make that sound sound better. Maybe a bit more space-y.

Pat: The next one will definitely be more polished.

Alex: More upbeat.

Darcy: We've got four or five songs that we're playing live at the moment that we haven't recorded yet. The next step is to record them and try and release a few songs hopefully in the next six months.

Pat: Whether it'll be an EP or an album, we're not sure.

What do you hope people feel when they listen to your music? What sort of atmosphere do you try to create with your performance?

Pat: We go for more of the emotive thing, our songs are quite serious.

Alex: We want to create emotion within the person. We want them to feel something.

Darcy: We're starting to do a bit more upbeat, dance-y stuff. We try to get a good mix, so that when we play these live shows, people enjoy them and get up and dance.

Alex: And I suppose lyrically, a lot of the songs are tailored towards when you are transitioning from that adolescent stage into the young adult stage, from partying hard to growing into more of a refined adult.

What's your outlet?

Darcy: I work in the fashion industry, so that's mine. I enjoy fashion and clothes.

Alex: For me, it's lyrical writing, songwriting in general.

Pat: Just music in more of a general sense. Going to gigs, that's my outlet.

Darcy: If I was to say what Jess and Jimmy's were... I think Jess is a really talented songwriter, and that's how he expresses himself. He does a lot of work that probably goes unnoticed in terms of writing our songs.

Alex: [Jimmy] is a very talented songwriter as well, he's very good with his words. Whenever I'm stuck for melodic or lyrical ideas, I'll turn to Jimmy and he'll generally have something to help me out. He's very good to bounce ideas off with.

Pat: They're both pretty smart, the brothers.