Louisa Hann talks to the newest addition to art rock When asked where the seemingly elusive band name Zulu Winter originated from, a surprisingly blunt and straightforward answer came from the band’s guitarist, Henry Walton: “Frustration, boredom... we wanted a name that didn’t say much about anything. It’s just two random words together.” This relaxed attitude seems to have been carried over into their career as an up and coming band, despite much of the hype the band have been receiving of late. Their new album, Language, was released with independent label PIAS Recordings early last month, and the band was clearly excited to unleash it on the public. They describe the method of recording and releasing albums as a “frustrating process. You have to sit on a record for a long time and wait for the mechanics of industry to take effect.” In this way, the band’s more free-spirited attitude towards the creation of their music counters the rigid restraints of the music industry. However, that’s not to say the record is not polished: “The nature of songs changes loads when we’re writing. Everyone goes away and works on their individual things.” With the band working meticulously on what each member has written in this way, it seems apparent that the four-piece is focused on their craft, rather than the ins and outs of the music business, or their own status and individual egos as members of a band. The origins of Zulu lie in Oxford, as the band formed and started their early career there. I asked whether the Oxford music scene has had any effect on their sound, as the city has seen bands such as Foals, Jonquil, Youthmovies and This Town Needs Guns come to the musical fore, all taking on a distinct art-rock sound, often verging on or appropriating the jaunty rhythms of math-rock. Zulu, however, seem to have let all this pass them by, admitting that while they were in Oxford (before moving to London), there was “not really much going on. There was no real scene there and we didn’t hang around with other bands. We’re cer-
tainly more insular than others.” This isn’t indicative of any will to separate themselves from musical circles: Walton acknowledges that “being a part of some kind of scene can help hugely. For us, it just hasn’t happened that way.” This purely adds to Zulu’s appeal, however, having burst onto the scene merely through their own abilities and merit. It seems difficult to actively dislike any of Zulu’s songs. The band is currently supporting Keane on tour, who have a distinctly different, perhaps more showy style to Zulu. Their likeability is bound to attract many of the Keane fans. They admit that “there are some hardcore Keane fans not bothered about anyone else. We’re seen as a bit of an inconvenience really... but some of them seem friendly and often come up to us interested in our music.” In my opinion, this shows a distinct lack of musical snobbery in an a
group of people merely wanting to spread their creations to anyone and everyone. This desire to please the crowds they play for pervades their performing style,
"THE MANCHESTER CROWD IS MORE CRITICAL, WHILE BIRMINGHAM IS ALWAYS UP FOR LISTENING TO MUSIC" shown by how they analyse different personalities of crowds between cities. “Some cities are definitely harder to play. For example, the Manchester crowd is more critical, while Birmingham is always up for listening to music.” I ask whether they alter their shows for festivals, as they have an entirely different atmosphere to standard venue shows, with a far greater proportion of the crowd having never listened to their songs before. “You have to be careful about it. If you get it wrong you could easily lose a crowd.” Walton reveals how the band tackles this problem however, describing their aptly named “disco set”, consisting of all the same songs, but with a faster, dancier feel. “We keep the crowd up and dancing.” On the subject of festivals, I asked which festivals the band is particularly excited about being a part of this summer. “I’ve wanted to play Field Day for a long time,” states Walton. “It’s about ten minutes from my house. I’m also excited about playing The Secret Garden Party. We played the first ever one as a different incarnation.” So the group have had experience of this kind of things before, although not to the extent they are experiencing it now. This festival season will certainly prove whether they have the musical prowess to continue to bigger and better things. There’s certainly plenty of opportunity to catch them, with the band playing at Field Day, Isle of Wight
and Bestival, among many others. To finish off my interview, I asked about any new and upcoming bands he is particularly enjoying listening to recently. He picked up on new bands Alt-J and Outfit, both of whom Zulu have previously played with, have released records on the same labels, and both of whom encompass the type of alternative rock Zulu seem to be channelling in their own music. Perhaps the band is more recognised within a musical scene than they, themselves, realise.
Published on Jun 10, 2012