Singer-songwriter Gabe Larson is the artistic force behind Waldemar, a heartland indie rock band from Eau Claire, WI. Self-releasing on May 5, the group’s debut record Ruthless is five years in the making, the outcome of trusting one’s vision despite the roadblocks that stand in the way.
Waldemar, named after Larson’s Midwestern farmer grandfather, exemplifies an acceptance of personal heritage and an understanding of the difficulties we inherit and share. At a creative crossroads following a band breakup, Larson found inspiration in the tenacity of his once-struggling ancestor and used it to forge his path forward. With his brother, he transformed a rundown horse barn on his property into a professional recording studio, then meticulously wrote, recorded, scrapped and rewrote the 11 songs that make up Ruthless.
Throughout the five-year process, Larson worked manual labor jobs installing floors, fixing roofs, painting houses, and driving school buses to fund his passion and support his growing family. The story is a living metaphor – rather than abandon those things that needed repair, Larson and his collaborators tirelessly worked to remake them and find a way to instill personal meaning.
The album-titled first single distills the painstaking effort and range of emotion, combining soaring vocals and confessional lyrics against a backdrop of sweeping, reverby guitars and keys. The lyrics speak to the dense, soul-filling sonic trip when Larson sings, “Deconstruction of everything I thought I knew / To find the truth.” Listeners will be reminded of anthemic rock moments of The War on Drugs and Miracle Legion and challenged by the probing of personal inventory alike The National. Listen to the single and watch the live in-studio performance here.
“As physically exhausting as it was to build the studio, making this record was even more grueling, mentally and emotionally,” Larson explains. “I found myself in a season of deep uncertainty – everything was in question. Many questions still remain, but I’ve been slowly finding a strange peace in knowing that life is always lived amidst uncertainty and the only way forward is trust.”
Ruthless is the relentless vision of a musician perfecting a sound, the cascades of guitars, synths and vocals washing over a listener like rivers polishing stone, like grit on grains of wood. In a Midwestern setting that gave rise to so many other American dreams, Waldemar’s debut album is a testament to the power of struggle – that we are made by what we make.