Music Events

Waldemar Comes Full Circle With ‘Ruthless’

intimate, vulnerable record was five years in the making

Nickolas Butler |

Gabe Larsen is the artistic force behind Waldemar. (Photo by
‘MIDWESTERN BLUE-COLLAR POET-TROUBADOUR.’ Gabe Larson is the artistic force behind Waldemar. (Photo by Gabbie Henn)

From the moment the needle is dropped to the vinyl of Waldemar’s new LP, Ruthless, a musical curiosity is piqued. This is an intensely intimate, original, and vulnerable record, from the album’s first track, “Limbo,” to every detail of production in the handsome physical package. This is music as audio-diary, music as confessional. This is the music of a Midwestern blue-collar poet-troubadour. Each note and lyric is reverentially placed, like components of a complex mosaic.

“It’s so rewarding to look at this record and see it as a physical manifestation of the most transformative season of my life,” Gabe Larson says. Larson is, of course, the central gravity of Waldemar, the band’s primary lyricist, lead singer, guitarist, and as the album notes gesture at, “label maker.” “I made this record, but it also made me. I’m so immensely grateful for the process and how it changed me.”

This is the music of a Midwestern blue-collar poet-troubadour. Each note and lyric is reverentially placed, like components of a complex mosaic.

As personal as Ruthless is on a lyrical level, sonically, the album is a big, dreamy, intricately woven soundscape. Powerful waves of guitar, drums, and synthesizer break against Larson’s soaring, plaintive, nearly righteous vocals and lyrics. This feels like an album that was a long time coming, an album that absolutely could not have been realized quickly, an album that needed to be crafted over good times and bad, in low states of depression and peaks of confidence and discovery.

The struggle behind the creation and completion of Ruthless is a personal story of perseverance and purpose, all rendered during a time of incredible national and individual upheaval. Conceived over a five-year period, Larson is quick to recall that two of those five years were spent almost entirely sanding wooden floors. That labor and those long hours of steady tedium were surely fuel for this music and the vision of Larson’s own studio. Larson worked with his brother Nick to renovate a century-old building behind his house into a new, unpretentious, and magical addition to Eau Claire’s already storied musical history. 

From the exterior, the studio is a nondescript two-story wooden building just off an alley in the North Side Hill neighborhood. About 200 feet away, the students of Longfellow Elementary play and laugh during their recess. Already, the studio is imbued with a spirit of yeoman-like labor, fellowship, and artistry. But just as important as Larson’s workaday life and the creation of the studio was the arrival of his first child, a daughter named Ruth.    

On Saturday, May 6, Waldemar will launch its tour in support of Ruthless at Stones Throw (304 Eau Claire St.) in downtown Eau Claire. “I’ve had so much support from my Eau Claire community over the process of building the studio and making this record,” Larson says. “This show feels so special to me because I can finally share with everyone what I’ve been working on all these years. I couldn’t have made this record without the community support and I’m so grateful to complete the circle.”

Learn more about Waldemar and where to find its music at