When it’s winter on one side of the world, one imagines the opposite for the other half. It’s never really the case when it comes to Britain, however. As drummer Guy Henderson shivers down the line from somewhere outside Birmingham, in the middle of their summer as well as a Zulu Winter tour, to discuss the band’s debut album, translating it to the live stage and playing in Australia for the first time.
“It’s very cold here,” admits Henderson, “we’re actually all sitting in a van we’re being rained on very heavily. Basically, it’s just another summer’s day in England!” the drummer laughs with an audible grimace.
Zulu Winter is one of the UK’s latest ‘It’ bands to be releasing music and making waves throughout the world. Earlier in the year, the London five-piece release their debut album, Language, and have since been touring heavily. Only having formed at the beginning of last year, but essentially been playing both together and in other bands for 12 years, they’re already making their first visit to Australia as a part of Splendour in the Grass.
“To have been added to Splendour, ‘whoa’, it’s seriously such a real honour. We’re really excited about it, it sounds like a really amazing spot in Byron Bay. The things I’ve heard about it, it’s like it’s the ideal festival location!” beams Henderson.
He humbly acknowledges that some of their industry hype may not have reached our shores yet but the strategic planning and passionate endurance past the fickle side of the business has ensured the band plan to stick around.
“A year ago, we had no idea where we really stood, we didn’t have any management. It was just the five of us in the band knocking some ideas around, writing some songs and recording. It was a great process but we never knew if there would be any specific release of the record. To have ourselves in the position we are in now feels amazing. We have [record imprint] Dew Process behind us out in Australia,” Henderson exhales happily, “…and everything literally feels amazing. It’s been the culmination of two years of hard work.”
The ebullient drummer elaborates on the formation of their first block of music, “Over the course of 18 months we’d gone from knocking ideas around to developing everything to about 80-90%. It was a process over quite a long period but in that sense we could really find the sound we wanted, get it right and gain a good perspective on things. There were some songs we kept going back to and some that were just rubbish and we didn’t like. It was a process that was, for want of a better word, quite organic.”
“After the songs,” he continues in the same breath, “everything went a bit quicker. To get the final touches and mixes done was really exciting at that point; to hammer the nail down and finish it off. It was really lovely to be able to go through the entire album making progress with our friend and producer [Tom Morris]. It wasn’t like we had some songs ready and got thrown into the studio with a producer we didn’t know. We were able to work alongside him over a long period.”
It’s clear the lads from Zulu Winter relish their time and space in perfecting material so they are one hundred per cent happy. Even when having space means skyping with a mixer overseas. “It was completely crazy and it sounds very strange!” the bubbling Brit exclaims.
“We would work with our mixer, who is based in New York, on parts from across the Atlantic using Skype! We were in our own space with our own speakers but we were able to get into a room with him. You don’t have the distractions of someone else’s studio you’re working in. It was just a really concentrated process, a really interesting one, actually. It was very useful, very 21st century!” Henderson chuckles with vague disbelief.
With their layered atmospherics and groove-laden indie rock, the musicians have created something fresh for A&R reps to dig into, while also producing tunes that seem sonically difficult to play live. “It’s fantastic to have this exposure but at the same time it can make things quite scary so we just concentrate on what we need to at the moment: our live show.”
“We started playing gigs back in September,” details Henderson, “and we’ve just been working on making everything as tight as it possibly can be. However, we all approach the live side of things as something which is constantly evolving. We keep finding moments in the set where we can extend on songs by building moments of suspense.”
It can be a shame and a bit of a bore when seeing a live band and everything sounds exactly like it does on the album. Guy nods down the line in profuse agreement, “Yeah, yeah, it’s all well and good but even for us when we go and see gigs, it’s nice when a band offers a bit more. We do try to recreate what we have on record as much as possible but with a lot of old analogue synthesisers. We basically try to find different ways to create the sound we made in the recording process.”
Henderson sounds as if he could be positively heating their chilly tour bus with his enthusiasm on the band’s impending visit Down Under. “We’ll be getting more into live visuals in our shows and just throwing in textures that are a bit more dynamic and explosive. As I say, it’s constantly growing and it’s exciting to keep on working on it.”
Regardless of Splendour still being in wintertime, it’ll sure as hell be warmer than their summer tour of the UK. Guy’s excitement bubbles over, “by the time we’ve blinked our eyes, we’ll be out in Australia putting on the best show possible and enjoying the weather!”
– Anne-Louise Hill
Language is out now through Dew Process. Zulu Winter play Splendour In The Grass this weekend.