Coming together from Spain, Brazil and England, GHUM create a diverse mix of grunge and post-punk. Ahead of their second performance at the New Colossus Festival in New York City, we caught up with Laura Guerrero Lora (vocals), Marina MJ (bass) and Jodi Khor (guitar) to discuss the challenges they overcame to get to America, their debut album Bitter and the the wide range of music you can catch on their tour bus.
So how are you enjoying the US so far? When did you get here?
Laura – So far so good. It’s been great. We got here on Thursday morning. We’ve had one day of exploration and saw the main attractions. We spent three hours in Central Park, we went to the central station. Marina went on her own adventure to see as many buildings as possible.
Marina – It was a long walk from Greenwich Village to the Dakota Building!
And is this your first time touring in the US? How was the gig yesterday?
Laura – It was really great. The venue was fantastic and the sound was very good.
It must be difficult because you only have a short time and it is basically band off, band on?
Laura – it wasn’t that stressful because it was very well organized and people were being on time. Although we did have to cut one song.
Which classic album cover is your current mood?
Laura – I think we have different moods. I really like the cover of Rid of Me by PJ Harvey. I really like the portrait. The expression in her face can define the feeling, I think.
Marina – I think mine would be Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. Something that I don’t know what it is. Mixed colors and confusion, a lot of information.
Jojo – Mine is probably quite similar. Heaven or Las Vegas by The Cocteau Twins. Yeah. I feel like in a city like New York you are always in a dreamlike state of mind but it’s quite fun and fast as well. A Fast pace of life. Everywhere you look is magical.
Your debut album Bitter came out last year? When did you write and record it?
Laura – I think it was February or March 2022. Right after the Covid lockdowns, when things were starting to open up, is when we could actually rehearse together the songs that we had like a sketch.
Marina – 2021?
Jojo – Hold on, let me check my iPhone photos.
Laura – Well it was right after the pandemic when things were like opening up again. And we released it in June, 2022.
Jojo – So we recorded it in March, 2021.
So you had to wait a long time for it to come out?
Jojo – Yeah because there was a lot of uncertainty with how much time we could have in the studio as well because there was still a lot of like regulations. And we were still masked up in the studio as well at times. It was a bit of a strange experience, but it took us quite a while to kind of figure out how we wanted to release it. And because we wrote the songs during the pandemic, we were still kind of developing them as well in the studio. So, by the time it was finally out, we’d been working on it for so long and we released it in June, 2022 when we were on tour with Soft Kill.
“Perro” is in Spanish – was it important to bring your language into one of your songs?
Laura – Yeah, I was actually born in Spain and I only moved to London when I was 23. So I’m very much Spanish, although I’m kind of in the middle right now because I go back to Spain and don’t feel so Spanish anymore. But I think, after a point of writing songs in English, Spanish just came out, you know? Because sometimes you just want to express things in your own language. They relate to a feeling that it’s kind of from your gut. So it just felt right for that song. I think the more we write, the more natural it is for me to mix both of the languages because that’s how I speak naturally. I use words in Spanish with them all the time. And actually Mariana speaks Spanish as well so we kind of like mix it up in the studio when we are writing.
Marina – I love the lyrics because it’s a story you’re telling and it’s so intense. I loved it when I heard it for the first time and it’s my favorite song also to play live.
Laura – It feels very much that it represents who I am.
(to Jojo) – Do you speak Spanish?
Jojo – I do not. They’ll just scream some words at me to try and get me to understand something
Laura – We are forcing Spanish onto her!
You released your debut EP in 2017. How do you think you’ve changed as a band in that time?
Laura – I think we have learned a lot! None of us had really played in bands for a big audience or we were just doing it as a hobby, maybe you (Marina) in Brazil played for bigger audiences?
Marina – But not like touring with several dates in row.
Laura – So we learned a lot about playing live and I think we changed a lot how we play live as well. We have more power and we are more confident. I don’t think we have completely changed the sound, but we have maybe matured a bit on the sound that we happen to have together.
Is there any advice you would give to the 2017 Ghum?
Jojo – Great question!
Marina – Do not care. Do not care. Just don’t judge. Just do it. I think we thought that if you put something out, it has to be good. Otherwise people are going to laugh in your face and it’s not true. People just like experiencing new things that are authentic, they don’t have to be perfect. People like things that they can relate to. Obviously there are people that are very talented and are geniuses or magical, and that is great. But things that are amateur, I’ll say we are not amateur, but things like that, people appreciate as well.
How did the band get together?
Laura – Because of Marina [laughs.]
Marina – Yeah, I wrote an ad on an online page just looking for other band members who are female and who would like the same kind of bands like The Cure and Warpaint and what else did I say?
Jojo – Cocteau Twins
Marina – Did I? Okay. And Pixies. I think Laura came first because I knew Laura from another jam, but that band didn’t work out. But I remember that I really liked her voice and her style and just her vibe but her voice mainly. And then we needed someone to play guitar and Jojo came along and when she said, “I love the Cure,” that was it. But we had no idea that we would be here playing in America and playing in all the other countries we’ve played. We just wanted to have a good time and go to practice and just chill as a hobby. But then it ended up growing and here we are!
So I saw you have a new drummer?
Laura – Yeah, unfortunately Vicki had to leave. We all work and it was very difficult for her to make time for both things. But we wrote most of the songs with her and it was fantastic working together. It’s just sometimes you need to make a decision. And now we have Abbi and she is playing tonight with us.
If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
Laura – That’s the most difficult question ever.
Jojo – Mine’s easy! Well, one of my favorite albums is DIIV – Is the Is Are. I went through several years just listening to the album over and over and over again. It’s just such a perfectly packaged album and just very listenable. And each song sounds like a sibling of the other song, you know? It’s related to each song and I remember skiing down a mountain and listening to it; it was a real moment for me.
Marina – Yeah. I think sometimes it’s the music but also the memories that you relate to the album that make you just wanna go back there all the time.
Laura – I’ll choose one that has nothing to do with the music that we do. It’s kind of like electropop and it’s Spanish and the lyrics are really absurd, but it’s related to the time when I was studying at university and it was such a happy time. It’s called Tú no existes by Astrud. It’s very fun to listen to.
Marina – I think mine would be The Velvet Underground & Nico because it’s just perfect from beginning to end, from start to finish. But also Disintegration by The Cure is also perfect. So yeah. I’ll take one.
I saw that you had to have a crowdfunder and play gigs just to get over here. It seems to be getting more and more difficult for bands to make a living from things. What needs to be done?
Laura – Obviously you cannot pay the artist but maybe they can provide other things like accommodation or transportation, things like that really make a difference because it’s really expensive otherwise. Because it’s really difficult for a band that comes from England but it would be even more difficult to come from other countries that have fewer economic resources. So if someone is really talented, has a lot to say and has really good material, but they don’t have money, it’s really unfair. You have to rely on your network.
Jojo – Also, as a whole, it’s very, very difficult, not just to showcase, doing a North American tour. You have visa costs for every person in the band. And then on top of that, you have to pay accommodation, a tour driver and a tour manager, someone to do merch. You have to pay for gas, you have to pay for food. It’s very costly. And then you offer the bands absolutely no fee and you have to fly over as well.
Laura – It just eliminates the people in the middle. You either have a lot of money or you do it for free.
Jojo – The whole industry, no-one’s making that much money, especially bands of similar levels that are playing these showcases at the end of the day. Yeah. So the expectation there is really ridiculous sometimes and it’s really hard. But we’re really lucky to have such a good, solid fan base to be able to support us, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford half of it. We’re very, very thankful and very grateful.
And you’re going next to play at South by Southwest? What do you hope to get out of these showcases?
Laura – We would love to tour in the States and in South America, that would be amazing.
Jojo – We have a lot of fans in Mexico City as you can imagine. There’s a big Goth scene there apparently. And we get messages all the time “When are you playing Mexico City?” so that would be dream. And Brazil where Marina is from. That would be cool.
I know you can’t sell any merch when you are here and then with all the costs continuing to go up, it seems like everything is stacked against you to succeed. It must be heartbreaking when you put so much into it to then just see more and more things getting put in the way.
Marina – You’ve got to be independent, you’re gonna have do it on your own. I hope that we get new fans and people that have never heard too much before. That will be something to make it easier.
When you’re touring, what plays on the tour bus that we wouldn’t expect?
Laura – Lots of pop stuff. Britney, Carly Rae Jepsen, Whitney Houston. Everything
Marina – We have a karaoke playlist.
Jojo – We were listening to System of a Down – “Toxicity” and we had a big karaoke moment to that as well. And these guys always like doing Alanis Morrisette – “You Oughta Know”.
What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
Laura – We should do a band one I choose Gorgonzola cheese and you cannot take it off!
Jojo – Maybe we do a half and half?
Laura – Yeah. Okay. So a four season pizza and one half has gorgonzola. What do you want?
Marina – Pepperoni, onions, artichoke, mushroom, tomato, everything. I love pizzas.
Jojo – Just naming that “Papa John’s pizza!”
Marina – No, there’s no artichoke in that.
Jojo – I like, what’s the smoked mozzarella? Is it provolone? Is that what smoked mozzarella is? I would have that and black olives.
Laura – And it be called “Disorder”.
So what’s the plan for the rest of 2023?
Marina – Write more songs and tour.
Laura – We are in the process of writing new songs. We have a new drummer and we have quite a few ideas so we want to get them recorded as soon as possible because we just want new stuff. We’ve been playing the songs for a while and you know, it’s time.