It's fair to say starting a guitar band is hardly the most sensible career move in 2012.
As any Connexions advisor will tell you, its probably just below astronaut and pope on your list of feasible choices. But for four guys from Oxfordshire - Will Daunt, Iain Lock, Dom Millard and Guy Henderson and their St. Albans pal Henry Walton - there has never been another option. Having played together since they were 15, theyve overcome all manner of music industry adversity to get to this point. "Ive never even considered anything else," Henry admits. "Playing guitar with these guys is all theres been."
After a few early gigs they had to disband for University. Will went to Dublin to nurture his literary instinct, while Dom and Henry went to Liverpool where they played Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones in tribute band The Next Pistols. Eventually they all found their way to London and, in time-honoured first indie tradition, signed to Fierce Panda for three singles and an EP.
"We were young, hanging out having fun, just banging out tunes rather than thinking about what we wanted to do. Relationships became fractious, and it just wasnt going well," says Dom. "So we left our team behind, changed our band name and sat in studios on the City Road and worked at our own pace, away from pressure."
After months of working the record, they finally put two songs on the blog and Zulu Winter became a reality. "Suddenly it became this industry feeding frenzy. Every manager in London wanted to speak to us. There was a month where wed rehearse each day then go out to meet someone in Shoreditch House every evening. We all got very drunk."
Eventually they went with Kaiser Chiefs, The Vaccines and Crystal Castles manager James Sandom. "The thing we love about James is that he takes a band at face value, and says 'you are what you are and Im going to make you as successful as you can possibly be'."
Now, 12 years after they first practiced together, Zulu Winter are finally getting the success they deserve. Theyre playing sold out shows in UK and Europe, and have already shared stages with Friendly Fires and The Horrors. Their debut album, Language, is more than worth the wait, packed with syncopated dance beats and punchy, melancholic pop. Why all the fuss? Because beneath those confident melodies - and we might add, impeccable cheekbones - is something thats been absent from alternative music for too long: ideas.
"We love the instant impact of pop music. But we also didnt want to write songs that were one-dimensional. All our music exists at different levels."? ?The lyrics on the record follow paths laid by T.S. Eliots The Wasteland, using his reflections on youth, manhood, old age, femininity, religion, and atheism as a prism on modern life. Musically, much of the ambient expansion beneath the vocal lines is influenced by obscure electronica of 60s Moog pioneer Dick Hyman.
Delve deeper still and youll discover their cult online presence: Recent highlights from their blog include articles about a new production of Mikhail Bulgakovs The Master and Margarita, an update of the 19th century French literary journal La Revue Blanche and the trailer of classic 70s British horror, The Shout. "We write pop music, thats obvious if you listen to us," says Will. "We just like that element of surprise, that if you listen in different environments you start to hear different things. "Its not like Im thinking of foreign cinema while Im drumming," agrees drummer Guy. "Its just where our sense of identity comes from. It doesnt mean youre going to write an avant-garde space-pop jazz tune."
They actually shy away from over computerizing and complicating their set up. They insist on live instruments and live sounds during their performance: "Whats the point of watching a band when theyre just letting off loops? Its like theres four of you standing there, youve got voices, youve got hands. I want to see actions and physicalities that produce sounds," says Dom.
In essence they are a stack of inconsistencies. A box fresh band whove been around for over a decade. Lovers of simple pop hooks who are mostly influenced by experimental electronica and classical literature. Five blokes who have "no intention of being masculine" and would rather be at home with some Hitchcock than "in the pub necking Stella." It shouldnt work. But these contradictions bring depth and longevity to a record that surprises listen after listen.?
Zulu Winter dont see why an indie set-up requires lobotomized sloganeering. Indie pop can be subtle and erudite while still tearing out your heart with full frontal melodies. But in these difficult "end of indie" times will that be enough?
"We dont have that choice," says Will. "To be in the same band for 12 years is an incredibly difficult thing to do but the one thing it does show is that we have massive belief in each other to do well. None of us are messing about here, were all pretty ambitious but luckily that fits with what we do. We dont have to compromise anything."