Band of the Day

2012.08.03

Zulu Winter

Otherworldly, atmospheric pop swimming in a sea of ambiguous lyrics
Hold your breath. Float down to this seabed. Then we'll see how long we can sleep.
lyrics from We Should Be Swimming

London-based indie rock band, Zulu Winter, is a five-piece comprised of Will Daunt (Vocals/Guitar), Iain Lock (Bass), Dom Millard (Keyboard), Henry Walton (Guitar), and Guy Henderson (Drums). The band released their debut album, Language, on the label Play It Again Sam in the UK (May 2012), and Arts & Crafts in the US/Canada (June 2012). The band is already being touted as the new Vaccines, which coincidentally have the same manager, James Sandom (Crystal Castles, Kaiser Chiefs, Vaccines). Zulu Winter have sold out shows in UK and Europe and shared stages with fellow indie acts Friendly Fires and The Horrors. 2012 brings the guys on a heavy touring schedule including many UK festivals, such as Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival. It was also announced that the band would support Keane on their 2012 UK Strangeland tour.

There's something strange about writing about a band called Zulu Winter when it's the middle of summer, but then again, Zulu Winter seems to be a band that revels in contradictions. The band is made up of five British friends, but Zulu refers to the largest ethnic group in South Africa—a country where winters are actually quite sunny. Similarly, Zulu Winter makes music that seems to mirror the contradiction in their band name. It's pop music, but not in the straightforward sense that you might hear on the Top 40 charts. Instead, on their 2012 debut album, Language, they show that pop music doesn't have to be one dimensional—for instance, you might hear upbeat dance pop synths contrasted with ambiguous, melancholic lyrics. “Let's Move Back To Front” is a perfect example of this. It starts off with keyboardist Dom Millard playing a pretty riff that sounds like it came straight out of a dream sequence, followed by a tropical drumbeat from Guy Henderson. Lead vocalist Will Daunt proves to be a fan of onomatopoeia, the way his voice literally stretches out and rises to a falsetto swoon as he sings, “swoon around the fateful flames/with your ham hands/and dance till you don't know your name.” The song continues to build up in rich sonic layers before fading out to a gentle soundscape of what sounds like birds chirping in a forest. Throughout the album, Zulu Winter demonstrates a knack for creating vivid imagery. “We Should Be Swimming,” as you might deduce from the title, conjures up watery vibes both in the lyrics (“hold your breath/float down to this seabed/then we'll see how long we can sleep”) and in the music itself, the way some of the background vocalizations almost sound like mystical sea creatures or how the synth bleeps could really be the ping of a sonar system detecting an underwater hazard. For the discerning listener, if you pay attention to the end of the album's penultimate track, “Never Leave,” you'll notice a nod back to “We Should Be Swimming.” Around the four-minute mark, the slightest bit of high-pitched, mournful “ooh” vocalizations (perhaps from orcas?) lead up to repetitions of the line “swimming/we should be swimming.” It's this calculated attention to detail—these obviously aren't songs that were just sloppily slapped together, packaged up and released to the public—that sets Zulu Winter apart from many of their contemporaries.