A London five-piece with a big future, Zulu Winter first made a splash with ‘Silver Tongue’ earlier this year. With 2012 around the corner, they’re set to take their tribal pop on to a bigger playing field. Emma Swann pinned them down to learn more.
Half way through our chat with Zulu Winter, the faces on the pub’s TV screen begin to look a little familiar: yes, it’s them. The first time they see themselves on telly, and it’s with us in a quiet (well, it’s Monday afternoon) pub in east London. ‘It’s a bit weird,’ is their initial reaction, aside from laughing at the TV’s old-fashioned dimensions displaying the credit ‘Lu Winter Ver Leave’. ‘It’s a real moment,’ keyboardist Dom Millard exclaims.
‘We haven’t seen it before, so that’s quite exciting,’ bandmate Henry (Walton, guitar) agrees.
At first glance, the story of Zulu Winter is short and sweet: band forms in early 2011, band creates massive buzz six months later. But, as all things are, it’s not that simple. The members (vocalist Will Daunt, drummer Guy Henderson and bassist Iain Lock making up the rest of their number) have known each other since their school days, have been playing together in bands for years, and regrouped as Zulu Winter ‘about eighteen months’ ago. ‘The previous name we were playing under… wasn’t very good,’ admits Will, sheepishly, while Dom continues. ‘We found ourselves making music that we didn’t like, basically. We woke up one day and were like ‘this is rubbish!”
A period of self-exile followed, the band locking themselves away from prying ears for ‘a year and a bit’ to write, write, and write some more. ‘We didn’t play any gigs for nine or ten months, and just tried to write as much of the album as we could,’ chips in Guy.
‘Our first official show wasn’t until the Shacklewell Arms in September,’ Will continues. ‘One of the scariest things that can happen to a new band is, you have three good songs, and then everyone goes ‘Oh, these guys are amazing!’, and suddenly they’re all ‘Have you got any more songs?’, and they’re like, ‘Er, no”.
It allowed the band to find their feet, and, as both Dom and Henry explain, more importantly find their sound. Dom begins: ‘We wanted to have enough songs that we could get a sound, and make something that made sense to us.’
‘The speed at which things move means that you don’t get enough time to develop what you’re actually doing before someone else is asking more of you,’ muses Henry. ‘This way, we knuckled down and spent as much time getting things as right as possible.’
Their masterplan appears to have worked. Weeks after their first live outing, and days before the release of their debut single, they’re well on the way to having
a whole album recorded. ‘75% I’d say,’ estimates Dom. The single, a double A-side 7’ featuring ‘Never Leave’ / ‘Let’s Move Back To Front’, was released in early November via Double Denim. It’s a ‘good statement of intent of our sound,’ says Guy of the tracks chosen, although as Will attests, they may not be the band’s obvious ‘single choices’. ‘I don’t think they’re our most ‘pop’ songs,’ he ponders, ‘we’ve got various other songs which perhaps would be considered more ‘pop’, more traditionally ‘pop’, but it’s nice for us to release something that’s a bit more ‘this is where we’re at’.’
‘Never Leave’, the track to which the aforementioned video belongs, was written ‘a bit later on,’ while the flip side was one of the first Zulu Winter songs to come about, and, according to Dom, marked a band milestone. ”Back To Front’ was written quite early on, and when we
wrote that it made sense to us, what we were doing, it’s the epicentre of the album in a way. It was a real moment where we were like ‘hey, we could be alright!”
They’ve also been adding to their short live history, a single launch at CAMP in London, and then the small matter of Brixton Academy, where they support Friendly Fires at the end of November. ‘It’s gonna be amazing’, Dom’s reaction is hardly surprising. ‘We’ve all been to gigs at Brixton, seen lots of bands there, and it’s always quite amazing to see bands there. I think we’re first on, so there might only be like, twenty people there, it might be quite cavernous, but…’ Henry’s quick to point out it’s not all about the big gigs. ‘We’ve got quite a long tour coming up,’ he chips in, ‘which is good. Good to be playing lots of shows.’
What, then, for 2012? ‘There’s things being thrown around by our management,’ Will states. ‘Plans to go to Japan, Australia and New Zealand, play SXSW, all that kind of stuff. But the most important thing for us is to make sure that the record is as good as it possibly can be.’ This is a point they’re all in agreement over, and as Dom explains ‘we all really believe in the album as an idea. All the bands that you love, it’s about the great album, the classic album.’
‘Even if people don’t listen to it,’ asserts Henry, ‘I want to come out of the studio with a record that I’m proud of. There’s an element in everything that we’ve done, taking time out just to write and record, that it was for us, and that always has to be a central point, we make music for us, we want to make a record that we like in the way we like it. And if you start doing it any other way, you’re a bit f**ked. And it’s too early to get f**ked.’
Taken from the Winter 2011 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.