What kind of rock star gives his mother a full track on his big new album? We found one: Winter Zero, indie songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from the mountain town of Bozeman, Montana.
Winter’s new release, dubbed Pride of the Valkyries, has many faces, including tribute to the woman who raised him. “She taught me to play, and a few years later I accidentally smashed her guitar. Yet she remained oddly supportive. You can’t ask for a better mom than that, can you? I wanted to celebrate that influence.”
But the Valkyries album is only one part tribute: the rest is indie rock that is solid and tight, served up with bona fide hooks and a gravely baritone. While many early efforts bear echoes of artist influences, in the case of Valkyries, it is difficult to pin them all down. Winter finds a little Floyd and Pixies, perhaps some Tom Waits, Cohen, and Isbell, yet the sound feels honest and unique.
“Growing up in an actual ghost town, my earliest foundations were laid without an awareness of FM radio. I had a box of old scratchy 45s full of R&B from the 1950s. My folks spun Willie Nelson, Hoyt Axton, Mississippi John Hurt, and [you guessed it] Richard Wagner.
“Then one day my mom shows me a basic blues lick, and fingerpicking, which really set the table for everything I do today.”
Which in this case is a lot with a little. There are adventures afoot Extraterrestrial Highway is an anthemic invitation to paranormal investigation. Tea and Scandal is a lively hat tip to the unreliable narrators of legends of the old west. And California Sun explores the surreal social climates of the Golden State through the eyes of an out-of-water traveling consultant.
Though its arrangements are tight-knit, Pride of the Valkyries was recorded mostly solo, with Zero playing most of the roles in his small studio west of Bozeman.
“As indies, we submit to that crazy paradox where we are freed by our limitations as we learn to embrace them. With the tools and an ear for melody, you can find a huge pro sound, if that’s your thing. But inspiration is where you can defy the limits—just try all of the interesting doors.”
Pride of the Valkyries is available now on all major platforms, and for free streaming at winterzero.ninja.
For my Mother, who taught me to play: I am still very sorry about your smashed guitar.