Zulu Winter has been working full-time for only six months, but that hasn't stopped the U.K. rock band from making a rapid impact on the indie scene. The London-based five-piece, all former childhood friends from Oxfordshire, England, last year left behind more conventional employment to pursue artistic endeavors and hopes of stardom.
"We never really considered music to be a viable career path until about a year ago when we suddenly thought, 'If we're going to do this, we need to do it now,'" says singer Will Daunt, who quit his job as a journalist just before Christmas. Guitarist Henry Walton was previously grants manager for a charity, while bassist Iain Lock, keyboardist Dom Millard and drummer Guy Henderson also spent years juggling regular jobs with their band work.
Prior to forming Zulu Winter in 2011, the same lineup scored modest success as the Molotovs, releasing the mini-album "And the Heads Did Roll" on London-based independent Fierce Panda. "We weren't really up to scratch then," Daunt says. Taking inspiration from a picture of a Zulu on its rehearsal room wall, the act changed its name and hunkered down to write new material.
"It was a very slow process to begin with because we were all in quite intense careers," Daunt says. "But the more that we worked on the record, the more we thought, 'There's something really good here.'"
Early adopters have been quick to agree, with media types including blog Brooklyn Vegan, indie music website Pitchfork and Nylon magazine among the tastemakers that have endorsed Zulu Winter ahead of its debut, "Language," which bows domestically June 19 on Arts & Crafts. The band, which has been favorably compared to Coldplay and Keane, is the label's second British signing, following Los Campesinos!
"Our whole team felt such a connection to their music that we just went out on a limb," label president/ co-founder Jeffrey Remedios recalls. He believes the group "sits very uniquely and specially just to the left of a lot of these mainstream acts that they get compared to."
In the run-up to street week, Zulu Winter played New York's Mercury Lounge on June 12, followed by three shows in Toronto booked by Adam Voith at the Billions Corp. Live performances will play a key role in building the act's U.S. profile, with the band due to return in the fall, Remedios says. Meanwhile, the radio plan targets triple A formats, with KCRW Los Angeles and WFUV New York among the stations spinning the catchy rock anthems "Silver Tongue" and "Key to My Heart."
The decision to stream "Language" in its entirety ahead of release on Zulu Winter's official website sits at the heart of the label's long-term strategy for the act, Remedios says. "You need to focus on acquisition before monetization."
In the United Kingdom, "Language" hit stores on May 14 through the Play It Again Sam label, which also handled the album's simultaneous European release. While U.K. sales stand at 1,600 units, according to the Official Charts Co., PIAS U.K. managing director Peter Thompson says he plans to develop Zulu Winter "sensibly and naturally." To that end, the band recently wrapped a U.K. support tour with Keane and this summer will play European festival dates booked by Paul Buck at Coda Agency.
"We've definitely put in a lot of work to get to this stage," Daunt says. "But we know where we're at now. We know what we want and where we all want to go."••••