Thinking of Waldemar

Reverii frontman plunges the depths of solo work

Eric Christenson

DOWN BELOW. Gabe Larson performs at the “Lake House” basement venue in Eau Claire. Larson, formerly of Reverii, has named his latest project – Waldemar – after his late grandfather.
DOWN BELOW. Gabe Larson performs at the “Lake House” basement venue in Eau Claire. Larson, formerly of Reverii, has named his latest project – Waldemar – after his late grandfather.

Clinical depression tends to run in Gabe Larson’s family. “Mom’s side of the family, everybody’s got it. Dad’s side of the family, everybody’s got it,” the singer and multi-instrumentalist told me. “Me and my siblings, we’ve always known that. We all just look around like, ‘When’s it gonna happen to me?’ ”

“(Choral music) is a big influence on the way I think about music and the way I write.  Choral songs don’t go G, D, C, G. They’re ranging, they’re lush, and all the parts are working together intricately.” – Gabe Larson, on his choral upbringing as it influences his new solo project

Larson isn’t a particularly sad person at all, but I don’t blame him feeling down after going through a little bit of a rough patch. He was fresh out of school and things were looking good for his rollicking indie rock band Reverii. They had picked up a handful of high profile shows with big national touring bands, had an album worth of songs nearly ready to record and finish, and they had built the thing up to the point where they could actually make a real go at it.

And then they quietly called it quits.

“All of a sudden we weren’t a band anymore and all these songs were left as skeletons. And that was just gonna be the way that it was,” Larson said. “I felt like I needed to write something. I didn’t really care what it was gonna be.”

Depression is a tricky thing to pinpoint. Often it flies under the radar, undiagnosed in the people it affects. So when Larson started feeling some darkness creep up in his freshly post-grad existence, he immediately thought of his paternal grandfather, Waldemar, a Wisconsin farmer (“not a good one,” Larson remarked) who suffered from depression throughout his twilight years.

“He was just a super depressed man. He was a very quiet guy,” Larson said. “I liked him, but he was a hard guy to get close to.”

Overcome by the impulse to write, Larson scratched out some lyrics to an uncharacteristically folk-twinged song, which would become the first single for his new solo project which shares its name with his late grandfather, Waldemar.

The song in question, “Visions” is a slow burner, anchored by subtle fingerpicking, thudding drums, and Larson’s sharply acute vocals, twisting harmonies around each other like a winding trail.

Larson has been surrounded by choral music his whole life, growing up in singing ensembles of all kinds and perfecting the craft with groups like UW-Eau Claire’s Singing Statesmen. And you can tell. His distinctly unconventional chord progressions, buckets of reverb, and deft harmonizing call to mind some of the area’s favorite vocalists, Justin Vernon and Sean Carey.

“(Choral music) is a big influence on the way I think about music and the way I write,” Larson said. “Choral songs don’t go G, D, C, G. They’re ranging, they’re lush, and all the parts are working together intricately.”

These Waldemar songs have complexity and simplicity – as well as a big dose of poignancy, something Larson hopes will translate to a live setting, as he establishes his on-stage sound, usually with a rotating cast of friends to help out on different instruments.

Larson, a seasoned booker/manager, has already put together a modest Midwest tour for himself and his pal, local folk singer D. Janakey, in August. And utilizing a collection of new stuff and unreleased Reverii skeleton tracks, Larson’s about two-thirds of way finished with a debut Waldemar record. But you can find two singles on the web in the meantime: “Visions” can be found at waldemar.bandcamp.com and you can hear “Brotherly” at soundcloud.com/waldemarmusic.

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