DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: YUMA | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists we have right here in the north east. This time, we talked to Sunderland group YUMA – aka Shannon Powell and John Timney – about their folk sound and giving 100% at gigs.

What inspired you to first start making music?

We have both been musicians for many years and have been inspired by countless artists both local and global. This particular band came about when we met at University (doing music of course) and tentatively started writing together. We just hit it off really well and realised we were into the same things and YUMA (pronounced ‘yooma’) grew from there. The band is inspired by life and the universe, anything and everything can find its way into our songs.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

We are both influenced by a number of artists. The Civil Wars are a major influence, but we draw inspiration from a variety of genres. We love bands like Calexico, and Iron and Wine, which are a similar style to ourselves, but we are also fans of Radiohead, Pearl Jam, the old Blues and Jazz greats; Billie Holiday, the late John Lee Hooker and anyone who writes great songs, regardless of genre labels.

How would you describe your sound?

Our sound is stripped back acoustic folk and blues based around a rich, down-tuned 12 string acoustic guitar with haunting high register melodic vocals weaving around it. We like to think that after playing together for just over a year now, we have struck the perfect balance in blending the blues and folk genre. We are neither one nor the other but possess characteristics of both, and that’s what makes us a little different.

Where do you see yourselves fitting into the local music scene?

As a relatively new band, we feel like we are just finding our place in the scene. Having both played in other bands previously, we feel that playing acoustic blues and folk music has revealed to us another side to the scene in the North East which we are really enjoying being a part of. We are very lucky to have made such good friends so quickly and to be able to support each other in all musical ventures. One of the main contributions we make ourselves to the music scene are the regular charity gigs that we host around the area, to which we always invite other local artists to play and raise funds for a good cause. These nights are always a great success and we hope to keep doing them for a long time to come.

“We are very lucky to have made such good friends so quickly and to be able to support each other in all musical ventures”

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by YUMA?

At our gigs we always give 100% – we can be surprisingly energetic for an acoustic duo. We fill out our live sound with various hand percussion instruments, glockenspiel and some live loops to allow for more guitar parts to occur simultaneously. We also sometimes like to embellish our set with a story or two about the subjects of our songs; we are always inspired by a good story, and so most of our songs have one at their heart, whether it is obvious or not to the listener. Some are inspired by historical events and others are straight up fiction we create ourselves; we just love to have a narrative and a theme running through our music.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as a band?

We feel that our biggest achievement is just the sheer amount of progress we have made in the short year we have been together; it seems to have absolutely flown by. We formed in April 2014, and since then have written and released our debut EP, Dreamcatcher (available on Bandcamp and on limited edition CD at our shows), we have played countless gigs in Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham and as far afield as York, and we have been lucky enough to be involved in such unique events as Music at Marley Hill and a gig in a railway shed at Tanfield, Europe’s oldest working railway, alongside such great local acts as The Lake Poets and Lilliput. We have supported other brilliant local acts such as Charlie Dancer and on top of this is all the money we have raised for causes such as the Great North Air Ambulance, PDSA and Alzheimer’s Research UK through our YUMA Presents events.

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?

Maintaining a consistent creative flow and putting everything we have into our music is a constant challenge, but one that we enjoy, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it. The hardest thing for us has been gaining recognition as a new act, but we feel that after a lot of hard work we are starting to feel some return, and right now we are loving what we do more than ever!

What else have you got planned in the future?

We are well underway recording our first full-length album – that’s all we are willing to give away at the moment, but we are extremely happy with the direction our music is taking and can’t wait for people to hear what we have been working on. The release date and title will be announced very soon. Some of the new tracks have been making an appearance in our live set and have gone down very well, so until the release the only place the new material will be heard is at a live YUMA show.

As well as this we are planning a run of unique local shows, tied into our YUMA Presents events, hosted in unusual locations. Again, this is all waiting to happen and details are yet to be announced so we don’t want to give away too much now, however rest assured that a lot of good things are in store for YUMA.

Keep up to date with YUMA’s gig and their charity events on their Facebook page.

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