I spoke to Guy Henderson the Drummer for Zulu Winter, a London indie rock band that has been making waves in the UK and the US and have just been signed to Australian Label Dew Process. They are set to release their debut album “Languages” in May and play two shows in Australia in April after their appearance at SXSW.
No Jackets: G’day, where are you calling from today?
Guy Henderson: My flat in London, it’s a wintery cold, March night. I couldn’t be in a more different environment to you.
Your love of classic cinema is obvious from a cursory examination of your blog. Just out of interest, what is the inspiration for the name of your band? Does it have anything to do with the classic Michael Caine film Zulu?
Laughs, It doesn’t actually, between us we all obviously love of all sorts of cinema and film, the blog is a chance for us to put out these interests, a different outlet for what is turning us on at a particular time.
The name was unconnected to any of that sort of stuff. To just try and think of a name is one of the most difficult things as a band. Especially when you’ve got five voices passionately, it just sort of went round and round, we’d find one we’d like for month or two, three or four people would like and one would disagree. With Zulu Winter, someone came up with the idea of “9 winters”, a band name with the word ‘winter’ was good. Will said, could be anything could be ‘Zulu Winter’. Someone said something that was meant to be quite daft but it stuck.
The thing with our music and what we do, and the blog, of course it’s all connected, it’s funny question, we would never consciously be writing a song and making deliberate references to something, to a film or anything, it doesn’t happen in a deliberate way. All the art and culture that we suck in comes into our music. It’s a horrible word to say but it happens in a ‘natural’ or an ‘organic’ sort of way.
The blog is like a separate thing, a chance for us say what’s on our mind. It’s for each other as much as anything, sometimes, Dom or Henry or Will will put something on the blog, that I didn’t know about and I’ll find out what they are thinking about. I’ll find out that exhibition was on or this band was playing around the corner. Different members are reading it for each other, it’s as much for me to hear about whats turning Henry on as for the listeners.
It’s a good way to connect with your audience as well, they might come across it, find that you have some common interests and then go and listen to your music :
Or they might hate it and be turned off completely. Laughs, hopefully it’s something people find interesting to read. It’s just another little thing.
You’ve been compared to Foals, Coldplay and Wildbeasts, I’ve even heard ‘the new Vaccines’ are you encouraged or dismayed by these comparisons?
With all of the comparisons, it’s a mixture of feelings because its flattering, very nice to be compared. All those bands are successful bands that are connecting with people and its nice to be compared.
I think quite often it’s baffling that people make comparisons to The Vaccines. They’re a great band, great guys, they’re doing very well. It doesn’t make sense though because we make very different music. Our music doesn’t really sound like that. We share our management with the Vaccines, that might have been the initial spark for one journalist or blogger to make the connections and they (the comparisons) generally spread like wildfire. None of the comparisons are anything to be bothered about. Hopefully each fan will listen to the music, each individual; each listener will make up their own mind, not listen to these comparisons. As a music fan myself, I listen to what people say but I like to come to things fresh and neutral. You hope to be surprised by what you hear. Comparisons are nothing to be bothered about.
Your sound is distinctly complex, it is easy to hear the amount of intricate detail you put into your music, is this always the way you’ve played or has it been a progression?
I think, the five of us have played together for many years. We all have quite a strong approach to what we do. When we were kids, we would start to write songs write songs just put as many ideas, throw as many things into the mix as we could. What we’ve learned from writing the album, was to allow space for each other parts to sit together, its important to find those moments when you can push your part through, you don’t want it to be too confused. There is a lot going on with our music and hopefully it gels together well, lots of things go together.
The latter end of the recording process, we’d have a song written and recording we were able to find the bits we wanted flesh out particular bits, textures and atmospheres differently. Balance is the bottom line. The balance between having five people with lots of things going but still allowing space for each other.
In addition to this, you have a very danceable sound, easy to remix, is this something you are trying deliberately to achieve or not? Are you happy with the potential of your tracks being remixed with a club beat in mind?
Interesting, the issue of the dance beat. I don’t know how much you guys have heard in Australia. From what the public have heard, only three tracks, I think. Across the whole album, though the sound, it’s less in the dance floor area. More in the dance area is often the way that singles happen, and that’s what has happened with our releases. Across the 11 tracks of the album there is more spacious, quiet, downbeat drawn-back music. There is still a very strong influence of electronic music, so there is always going to be a slightly dancy element. The music we have put out are the most dancy tracks. It’s a natural influence with myself on drums and Iain the rhythm section, we are big fans of lots of dance music. That probably comes across with simple driving rhythms.
Zane Lowe picked your track ‘We Should Be Swimming’ as hottest record in the world. In the age of internet releases, digi-labels and just the mountain of music being released daily, do you see someone like Zane Lowe’s endorsement as more or less important than it was 10 years ago?
Umm, interesting question. I think as you say, there is so much more music out there, being consumed in the internet blog world. It becomes a mine field sometimes as a listener, as a fan, as someone searching out things, a mine field of what’s gonna stick and what’s’ not. Between a band and a fan there is no hard and fast rule about the way a band is going to connect to a listener. I think there’s no doubt the big high profile radio DJs, Zane for example, behind you, give you have a chance to reach many, many more people which is fantastic. We’re grateful for that. At the same time it’s a fascinating climate, there are so many more avenues to get heard, the way in which the music world changed in the past 10 years. 20-30 years ago, the big high profile radio DJs would be the only outlet for musicians. You would be entirely grateful for their support, dependent even, there would be no other way. Now there is another way so many other ways, that very fact becomes difficult for an artist, because, how do you cut through all the music? So then you come back to the radio Djs. No doubt what Zane has done for us has been brilliant. A massive help.
I’m a big fan of the video for ‘We Should Be Swimming’ It’s ethereal, other worldly, unsettling and beautiful…where did you draw the inspiration for it?
It changed quite a lot, from the initial inspiration, it ended up quite far from where we began. Dom posted on our blog, a video about the serpentine dance; it’s this sort of beautiful age old dance, it uses flowing clothing, catches the wind. You end up with dancer’s dress and costume looking like water flowing around, which was a theme from We Should Be Swimming. Obviously water flowing fit with that dance very nicely. That was the initial spark, we were very keen to have dancers involved. We were very keen to be somewhere that was a bit other worldly, dreamy, the highlands in Scotland were perfect. It was a fantastic place to be natural beauty, the fact that it was January it was , very very cold, fit with the lyrical content. It’s all about escaping from the rigors of day to day life. Finding a space to escape to. We came out with not anything like we thought it was going to be at the beginning, but it just became this beautiful thing.
Have you been to Australia before? Are you excited to tour internationally? Did you ever think a year ago from now that you would be touring Australia?
It’s incredibly exciting, not a massive amount of touring; we’ve never been out there as a band. We’re about to start doing a lot more (touring) and it’s very exciting. I have relatives in Melbourne, 10 years ago I visited. We’re only going to be over for about a week, it’s sad that it’s only a week, it’s such a lovely big varied country. We’re going to do lots of sight seeing, you know, get up early, go to bed late, its such an exciting opportunity.
Last question, would you rather only hear one song for the rest of your life, or never hear music again?
Laughs Umm, that’s a really interesting question, I need to answer quickly! I’d probably say no music for the rest of my life.
Most people say one song, you don’t have to listen to it on repeat…
Oh okay, I thought it would be one song for ever. Laughs In that case I would keep one song no worries, thought I would be stuck.
Thanks a lot, I’m looking forward to seeing you when you come out. Thanks for your time.
Yeah come down, have a beer and have a chat, cheers.
Visit http://zuluwinter.blogspot.com.au/ for more tracks, dates and releases.
Zulu Winter are playing in Melbourne: MON 16 APR – NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB &
Sydney: WED 18 APR – OXFORD ART FACTORY