In an industry in which the product is becoming increasingly formulaic, Los Angeles-based duo Sumeau is carefully crafting a brand of psychedelic pop music all their own. Born from pure love and bold experimentation, the pair’s recently released self-titled debut album features Chris Sousa’s dreamy soundscapes paired with Kat Primeau’s sultry vocals. The duo explores instrumentation, looping, and dramatic effects to create a truly hypnotic experience.
Sumeau’s debut album has been a lengthy labor of love for Sousa and Primeau, who met while working at EastWest Studios in Hollywood. The pair spoke with me about how the dreamy record became a reality. “We had been writing songs for different projects, and I had been playing in a few bands [like Son Ark] that already had a specific sound, so being able to experiment in the studio without time restraints or specific direction felt really freeing,” Sousa explained. “We had the time to find play with sounds, arrangements, and song structures.”
“We thought we’d make an EP, but we kept experimenting, pulling our friends into our sessions, creating new soundscapes, seeing shows, interacting with friends at the studio, and we just to decided to take our time and create something artful and fun,” Primeau added.
While the album is full of honey-dripping experimental tracks, Sousa said each song was written in a completely unique way: “Sometimes it would start with one interesting sound that would be at the beginning of the song, and by the end, it would be buried in the chorus and the whole rest of the song was written around it.”
“‘A Fire’ was written and recorded in two days,” Primeau explained. “Some songs, though, I would sit with for a month or two before it became apparent what world the melody or lyrics should live in. We were very fortunate to have the luxury of time and a lot of talented friends who contributed to the compositions as well.”
The experimentation and creative freedom shows on this hazy psychedelic debut. The groovy, high-spirited “Digging Out” naturally flows into the more personal, lulling “Hang It On The Wall.” The duo effortlessly crosses between electronic beats and purring vocals from the Phantogram-reminiscent “Déjà Vu” to the distorted “A Fire,” which features a bevy of strings.
Sumeau’s influences are as diverse as their sound. Sousa cites groups like Pink Floyd, Ariel Pink, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Yo La Tengo as inspiration, while Primeau is heavily influenced by intelligent female songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Mary Chapin Carpenter. “I feel a responsibility about the types of stories and experiences I want to share,” Primeau said. “I’m a big fan of absurdist theater, visual art, improvisation, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood collaborations, and some of the albums that came out while we were writing. Norah Jones’ collaboration with Danger Mouse and Tame Impala’s Lonerism were very inspiring in terms of production.”
Sousa and Primeau have been dating for years, and the positivity and love emanating from the pair is evident in their music. “Chris and I were falling more and more in love with each other as we worked,” Primeau said. “I think a lot of lyrics speak to that — my disbelief over how awesome he was, my fear of screwing up a great thing — as well as what I was curious about as an artist.”
That curiosity fueled songs like “Next Day Blur,” the lead single off the album. It’s an undeniable highlight as the buzzing synthesizers of Sousa’s beautifully textured arrangements swirl around Primeau’s velvety vocals.
Now that the pair has an entrancing debut album, Sumeau is preparing to bring their kaleidoscopic soundscapes to what will surely be memorizing live performances, focusing on a mini tour of intimate shows.
“I think our music is very vibe-y, almost cinematic, and we’ve been gathering visuals for a sort of Sumeau TV experience we’re creating that might make it to a stage show,” Primeau explained. “Mostly I’m just counting on all the warm ups I learned in theater school to continue to allow me to connect with the song and be present with the audience. We’re switching off instruments and I play bass on some songs, too, which is not something I ever expected to do but really dig.”
The promise of more music, play, and experimentation is on the horizon for Sumeau, but for now, the pair should bask in the sunny glow of their hard work. In their first effort, Sumeau has created true, undiluted ear candy, so settle in and enjoy the trip.
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