Married couple Kat Primeau and Chris Sousa started dream-pop band Sumeau as a duo, just the two of them creating beautiful music together. But they’re popular people, and it wasn’t long before their friends started joining the Sumeau ranks en masse. The 2014 self-titled debut album was a lot of fun, and here we are in a turbulent (to say the least) 2020 and Sumeau is a nine-piece.
“The band emerged out of Chris and I meeting at EastWest studios in Hollywood,” says Primeau. “We were both working there, and when there weren’t rockstar clients in the building we would use the rooms and all the fun chambers, the great microphones. Record joke songs and then eventually it turned into writing ‘real songs.’ We created our first album from there.”
The pair toured as a duo with a Boss RC-30 loop pedal filling out the sound.
“When we came back a bunch of friends came to our show and said they’d join the band,” Primeau says. “That’s how we grew into the amorphous nine-piece plus band.”
There are plenty of bands out there with a lot of members, but not many of them started life as a touring duo. You can’t, for example, imagine Slipknot going on stage like that — just two masks and a pedal.
“The Polyphonic Spree has a good aesthetic,” says Primeau “We love having a wall of people to go with the wall of sound.”
Obviously that swell in membership will have resulted in an organic evolution of a sound that Sousa says was always dreamy and lush, right from the start.
“But then adding additional members to help us record the album made it so we could write and arrange for more people,” he says. “Initially we just made music that required more people to play it than we had, and once we had more members it made more sense to have music that sounded like that. We were able to, on the newer record with the help of our band, really capture the sounds we were looking for initially.”
It’s all climaxed with the This is Not a Dream album which will have dropped by the time this piece is out, and Primeau says that she’s blown away with how it turned out.
“You always have the best wishes for your project, but the way that the recording went down, how blissful and joyful that experience was and then really fine tuning everything, I couldn’t be happier with the dreamy, less happy sound,” she says. “I feel like it’s coming out at a good time too, when people need it. A sonic balm and melodic mantras to get through the rest of this year. We’re very proud of our little music baby here, and everybody’s put a lot of time and effort into paying attention to the details. Hopefully it pans out and it’s a bit more cohesive and wholesome than the initial album that we did in 2014.”
While the songs were written before COVID changed the world, Primeau says that the themes are totally relevant today.
“This is Not a Dream alludes to the surrealist idea of the treachery of images,” she says. “We can exist in this dream-like state where we can awaken to reality, and that’s what I think this year is calling for. When we awaken, we want to be pure love and we want to share beauty and light. That’s the inspiration and mission I would say.”
It may have preceded coronavirus but Primeau was losing her father to early onset dementia during the writing and recording process, so the pair worked through some very dark days. When lockdown kicked in, having a project to work on kept the couple sane.
“It’s great because we were already working on it and then, things slowing down a bit, it took us a while to complete the album because albums take a while,” says Sousa. “But because of having lockdown and having more time, it definitely gave us the inspiration and time to finish this album and then we got back to work immediately and began working on a new album. So we’ve been working on that process kind of at the same time.”
Another album in the works, already? Wow. Meanwhile, they’ve been working on “g”listening kits, jars of glitter to send out with the new album.
“That has been soothing and so fun,” says Primeau. “We’re both makers, so we always want to be making something. This has given us purpose, and it also feels like we’re giving a gift.”
There’s a new single too — “Samsara” — which they say is about death and rebirth.
“It’s about trying to break free from the cycle of death and rebirth,” says Primeau. “Having an awareness of death, as a way of living and giving great insight to being a better person and bringing more to this moment. Not feel like a victim to circumstances but really emerge and purposefully use this moment where this is this recognition of change needed — let’s fucking do it.”
Then there’s that name, which sounds like it might be an expansion of those spiritual themes. Rather, there’s a far more simple, and fun, explanation.
“It’s a combination of my last name and Kat’s last name,” says Sousa. “The word ‘sumo’ sounds good and I liked it. Even before I knew Kat, I thought that would make a cool band name. Weirdly we started working on music together and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, this works perfect.’ Also, I liked the idea that it was this small thing but then it got massive with adding members and making bigger sounds. I liked the force of a lot of something, and you get that image from thinking of the sumo sport.”
That’s exactly what Sumeau is — a giant force. Sadly, we don’t get to experience them live right now, at least not fully. But we all hope that will change soon.
“The fact that that’s not happening has been not great but at the same time I have a feeling that once we get back to it, it will be in full force and everyone will be really excited,” says Sousa in conclusion. “Maybe people who have been taking for granted musical live performance for a while and are not getting out there as much will maybe be more inspired to check it out.”
Sumeau’s This is Not a Dream album is out now.