Waldemar’s debut EP aims high and delivers
When we talk about singer-songwriters there’s an image that comes to mind. It’s the guy from Gilmore Girls strumming a guitar with a harmonica around his neck, or a girl in a coffee shop at a keyboard singing slow ballads.
These archetypes grow – if at all – by adding some musicians behind them, maybe amplifying their sound. The rhythmic strums become drumbeats and the whistling melody becomes a synth line. Slowly it builds into a band you wouldn’t recognize from that coffee shop open mic.
Waldemar never started that way.
“I tend to think in terms of grandiose,” frontman and singer-songwriter Gabe Larson said, laughing. “All of a sudden the song explodes in my mind. All the different elements gravitate towards anything but simple.”
Larson began writing what is now Waldemar’s debut EP – Visions – on the backend of his former group Reverii. He holed up in his basement (classic songwriter trope), but immediately gave power to his guitar and vocals — pushing things beyond their classic sounds and experimenting with the limits.
“I tend to think in terms of grandiose. All of a sudden the song explodes in my mind. All the different elements gravitate towards anything but simple.” – Gabe Larson, singer-songwriter, Waldemar
As the songs began to take shape he partnered with his brother Nick on drums and local wizards Evan Middlesworth and Brian Joseph to continue to build the sound. Songs took on layer after layer, growing impossibly lush before being pared back to their essence. It was a cathartic process. There were moments of insecurity, as the process shed much of what was blanketing Larson’s voice leaving it bare, but full above the layered instrumentals.
“I think of recording as a refinement process,” Larson said.
The songs, while refined, still maintain their depth. Every listen finds something new you didn’t pick up on before, often propelling the melodies to the forefront and driving the rhythm. There are moments – like the crescendo of EP opener “Totem” – that feel so full and powerful you almost feel bad listening to it while just sitting on your butt. This is cliff-jumping, marathon-running, goal-achieving music.
That power continues through the EP, capping off with the nearly eight-minute “Signe” that builds to a cacophony of drums, guitars, and vocals. There’s a thoughtfulness behind each song, but that doesn’t squash the natural, improvisational feel of many moments throughout the record.
Live, Larson still plays with his brother Nick and has added veteran drummer Colin Carey and most recently trombone player Tyler Jennings Henderson (Ian Wetzel and Andrew Thoreen also played on the recordings). The combo is somehow able to capture that huge sound without it getting bogged down.
Larson has always been a musician – dating back to his choir days – and learned from his father, a trumpet player, and his mother, a singer. But Waldemar is when he decided to push towards this as a career. It’s that move that led him to invest in the recording, to start the project with tours and shows, and to throw himself fully in it to find enough success to keep going.
And his tenacity is already paying off with national press write-ups and short tours. There’s a sticky element to Waldemar’s music that stayed with me, and it’s clear many others feel it too.
“Am I more afraid of trying and failing or not trying and wondering what would’ve happened?” Larson said he asked himself. “It felt like an unavoidable thing. There was no other option than to take it seriously.”
Waldemar’s EP Visions is available for download at waldemar.bandcamp.com. Learn more at facebook.com/waldemarmusic/ and waldemarmusic.com.