Though the name rings of chilly nights, Zan & the Winter Folk’s sound is cozy, with layers of rich, upright bass, melodic banjo and soulful vocals.
That sound shines on the band’s latest EP “How To Be Alone,” which will be released on Sunday.
“Last year, we spent a lot of time just trying to figure out what our sound was and after many shows and many practices we just honed in. This EP, to me, is the best representation of our sound,” Zan Strumfeld said.
She inadvertently got the band together in 2017, when she asked a few of the band members to play a gig with her. Strumfeld has performed as a solo musician since 2011 and has recorded a few albums albums. But that first show sparked something within the group. Thus, Strumfeld, Michael Gregg, Will Brown and Mike Jenkins came together to form Zan & the Winter Folk.
In the last year or so, they’ve performed at Caffe Lena, The Linda and other popular spots around the Capital Region, along with a 10-day tour around the Northeast, and have recorded two EPs.
The first, “Your Girl No More,” was praised by Nippertown and The Alt, which also named Zan & the Winter Folk Best Folk Band of 2018.
“How To Be Alone,” builds off of the first, complete with melancholy melodies and layered harmonies that draw one into the emotive tracks.
“We wanted to create a sound that embodies the same sound that you [get] when you see us in a live performance, which I think really captures who we are, very intimate, very personal,” Strumfeld said. “We were able to get that organic chemistry that we have when we’re live.”
“Southbound,” the second track, is a sorrowful ballad, told through gentle guitar strumming, lilting vocals and punctuated by rich bass.
“What You Do,” the opening track, is upbeat with an edge. Strumfled’s vocals dig deep as she asks “Can you handle it all?” and the ensuing guitar lick echoes her question.
Though Strumfeld, the band’s main songwriter, worked on these songs during different points in her life, there’s a cohesiveness to the EP, both musically and lyrically.
There’s also a sonic clarity that brings listeners in close, as though they were sitting right next to the bass or the banjo. While the band’s previous songs have been recorded DIY style, this one was done at Overit Studios.
“I would say recording it at Overit Studios was actually a more organic process. It was really just the four of us gathered around microphones, where [with] the last EP we were doing all our parts individually to a scratch track,” Gregg said.
They had the studio for 16 hours over the course of one wintery weekend and they made the best of it; recording everything in one day and mixing and mastering the next with Carl Blackwood and Bryan Brundige. It was an exhausting, but rewarding process, said Gregg.
Even after playing together all weekend, they headed off to rehearsal the following Monday evening, which has become a tradition. Every Monday evening, barring major holidays, they get together to run through old songs or work on new material.
“It’s definitely helped us feel more comfortable as musicians, as band members and as friends,”Strumfeld said.
Between playing dozens of gigs a year, recording EPs and practicing every week, Zan & the Winter Folk has grown into its sound. In celebration of “How To Be Alone,” the band is heading to Little Pecks in Troy on Sunday from 6-9 p.m. Joan Kelsey’s Silver Lining will open. Pre-sale tickets are $12 and include a copy of the EP. Tickets at the door are $15.
For more information or for tickets, visit Zan & the Winter Folk on Facebook or eventbrite.com.