Photo Credit: Scott Kershaw
New Zealand born - London based, Kim Pflaum aka Laume sat down with us to talk about beginnings, her unique brand of synth-pop & how she spends her days during these truly bizarre times.
How would you describe your sound under "Laume"?
Kim: I usually describe it as dreamy pop music with a dark existential edge to it. Well, my favourite music to write is music that's quite light and poppy, a sound that's dreamy with nice washy synths and things. But underneath it are some dark lyrics and undertones, whether it be bass, or darker sounding synths, just to give it some contrast. I think that's my favorite music to listen to as well. It's kind of paradoxical in a way.
So you'd say that the music you listen to is similar to the sound you aspire to achieve.
Kim: In parts. I listen to a wide range of music, so some of it is very similar, while others are drastically different. I like it that way because I feel that the broader your listening palate, the more you can draw inspiration from. Even on my new record, I have dissonant chords and clashing sounds that don't usually appear in pop music. So, for things like that, I take ideas from other places and hope that they work together.
What would you say are the key differences between this project versus Maderia, Kim K, or Yumi Zouma?
Kim: Well, 'Maderia' and 'Laume' are pretty much the same thing, I just rebranded for the sake of standing out. There's a band in the states with the same name, so we ran into a huge issue. It's hard to find a unique name these days in music. I also wanted something a bit more personal, and so I chose Madeira. I had just left 'Yumi Zouma,' and had to come up with a name pretty quickly, so I just sort of defaulted on a name I had before Yumi Zouma. I was trying to make holiday-pop music or vacationist pop music. I always liked the name, mainly because I already had it, but I felt it didn't suit the direction I was going in. So ultimately, I had to rebrand because I thought I needed to bring in all my different personas under one big label.
Can you tell us how you got into music?
Kim: Yeah sure, so I started like a lot of kids in school choirs and things like that. At that time, I was part of the church, so they had music bands that I got involved with. On a more serious note, I started taking guitar lessons because I hated school. I needed a reason to get out, and that was my outlet/way to process things that an angsty teenage brain didn't know how to deal with. It kind of started there, and then I went on to create bands with my friends. My first band was an all-girl rock band, which was great. I kind of went through different genres and styles before where I ended up, and ultimately realized I liked the synth-pop genre.
Can you talk to us a little bit about your new Album "Waterbirth"?
Kim: Most of the idea behind "Waterbirth" is from rebirth and a kind of coming out. "Bad Humours," my first EP was me dealing with difficult emotional processes and sort of going through the tough stuff. This was more like the coming out of all that and having a new world view. I'd been reading some interesting, heavy books dealing with symbolism, and I got this idea to sort of incorporate all of it into my album and the coming out of the bad period. There's a quote I use from Voltaire, which states, "Life is just a series of rebirths" and sort of remaking yourself. It's meant to be an encouraging album, but it is also an album that reminds me to keep going on. It's a bit lighter than the last one, and its also just making peace with ideas and concepts that I was wrestling with. I also just wanted to do anything instead of following a particular rule book. Essentially, playing all my synth sounds and finding ones that I really enjoyed. I remember when I first started making this music (which is almost four years now), I was listening to this London band "Litany" which sort of use these washy synths and things like that and that sort of sparked the initial sonic scape I suppose, for the Album and I just went from there. Of course, I was also working with my producer Rude Jude, and he is great at the funky bass and keys. I kind of see it as when you're eating a meal, and you have the savoury bit and the sweet bit. It's like getting all the different pops of flavour.
Photo Credit: Johanna McDonald
You've done tours opening for/alongside Chet Faker, Lorde, etc. Have there been any learnings that you've incorporated into your own performance after those experiences?
Kim: Maybe the main thing is not to leave anything behind. It's very easy to lose things. There's a lot of gear and cables that I use, so yeah, that is a learning. Another takeaway is of having fun because it's so easy to get caught up and worried about the little details. Connecting with the audience as well was a big learning through these artists. I remember an incident where Chet Faker damaged his USB. He didn't have another one, so it was fun to search for something while everything was closed.
Given that you've just released your album and touring is such an essential part of the Album experience, not to mention the best way to share your beautiful music with fans, how are you reaching out and staying connected to them in these extraordinary times?
Kim: I plan to play some shows in the summer, but we'll see if that can still go ahead or not with this current situation. Maybe I might end up playing some live sets over the internet or something, but even then, I want to play them with my producer as well so we can get more instruments going. Of course, we need to visit each other's houses for one. I study as well, so I only get so many breaks to sort of fit everything in.
What is the feeling you'd like to leave your fans with after listening to the new album?
Kim: Reflective but hopeful, I think that's a good thing.
You've been a part of many different projects over the years with many different people. What would you say is the biggest takeaway for you from all of these experiences? What would you tell your younger self?
Kim: Well, one of the biggest takeaways would be that there's no one way to do it. Everyone writes music in such different ways, and everyone has different prerogatives while making music as well. Some people want to be commercial, so they'll use a specific style of writing. Other people want to be free and just do whatever they want and not aiming to get that big record deal. It's nice to experience everyone's different processes and just realize that there's no one way to do it. I mean, there are always articles on how to write a song etc., but its good to just ignore all of that and do whatever feels natural to you.
So you'd tell yourself always to stick the course and not be overwhelmed with anything that you hear?
Kim: I also think with women and music there's sort of this big surge in the media about how we've got to do everything and prove ourselves and be the best that we can be. Well, no, you can still work with men, and you don't have to create the whole album yourself if you don't want to. There doesn't have to be that pressure to be like, "This is what I should be doing" and just do whatever you want.
How has growing up in New Zealand impacted your aural aesthetic and songwriting?
Kim: Because New Zealand is so small, it's sometimes hard finding your little community/niche to fit into because other music like New Zealand reggae is a lot bigger, and a lot more of the population would kind of listen to. It becomes harder to find your fans and find your smaller community. I think that's why a bunch of us leave so we can go to places to find a bigger synth-pop scene or an indie music scene even though New Zealand has a really good scene on its own. Once I moved to Auckland, I felt that there was a bit more going on, but it can still feel isolating.
When did you decide to move out of New Zealand? While you were with Yumi Zouma?
Kim: While I was with Yumi Zouma, a couple of us had moved to Paris, but that didn't last very long. It was always my plan to move to London after Paris, so I eventually got to London. I've been here for about three years now.
Are there Artists that you have drawn inspiration from or have helped steer you in the right direction sonically for this album?
Kim: Well, like I said, dreamy washy pop music like Litany and also older music like Kate Bush. I'm also inspired by 'Grimes' and 'Art Angels,' and albums that have a little more whacky sound, which I try to incorporate. Ultimately we listened to a lot of 70's and 80's music. You know those classic disco sounds and 80's for the synths generally. Quite a mixture, really. I want to make people dance because personally, I want to dance to my music. I feel that was the problem when I made acoustic music. I just got so bored playing the music, like after playing it a few times, I was just like, "I can't do this anymore." I also feel that when you get people to move, it creates more of an exciting vibe.
Artists that you find yourself going back to in these times?
Kim: Yeah, actually, I'm listening to a lot of the French band, Air (Moon Safari). I've also been listening to Toro Y Moi's latest release. I got a record player in London recently so that's been spinning for a while.
How has the pandemic affected you personally? Do you find yourself writing more?
Kim: Well, London is on lockdown so you can't really do much, but it hasn't affected me too much. I've anyways been the type of person to sit indoors and get down to a lot of work. When it comes down to writing, I think I'm still on the same level or maybe even a bit more. I work well with other people, so its good when you've got everyone at home too. Right now, I'm trying to build props for a small stock-motion animation film.
How do you balance all the different projects you're working on currently?
Kim: I'm a big-time table-er. I really enjoy making to-do lists and planning a lot. If not for this, I’d be lost.
Is there anything that you worked on but have now shelved and would you consider now as an opportune moment to release in light of the pandemic?
Kim: I don't think so because I just released an album, so recently, I feel all of those songs are still pretty new, and we pretty much put out all the songs that we wrote for the album. That's why its two discs long, which is quite long for vinyl.
Being a record store, could you tell us the setup you've got going on with the player you just bought?
Kim: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I was a little cheap buying this one, which is an Audio Technica Turntable and a simple speaker setup. I didn't go too hard here. Otherwise, I'd end up with record players around the world. I think one day when I have a house on my own, I'll get a proper setup. I also listen to a lot of music on my studio monitors, so that's always happening.
Words by Adithya Mathews & Akhil Hemdev