Los Angeles' all-female psych-rock unit sharpens its knives
Listening to Warpaint, the self-titled second album from the LA four-piece (out January 21st via Rough Trade), feels like drinking a bottle of heady red wine. It’s got the refined textures, the dizzying emotional effects, the seductive blush. Most of all, though, it’s the product of a slow and studied maturation process, one that in the band's case includes a successful debut album, three years of intensive touring and a writing retreat to the “alien environment”—as guitarist/vocalist Theresa Wayman describes it—of Joshua Tree National Park. Taking sips where The Fool took tokes, it’s a more nuanced and light-footed record, one that grabs you by the hips and invites you to dance. I chatted with Wayman and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg about why delineated roles like “guitarist/vocalist” and “bassist” are not so applicable on an album as fluid as this, and how Warpaint has evolved to sound more like itself than ever. The record is out January 17th via Rough Trade.
How would you say your sound has progressed from the first record to the second? WAYMAN: This album is more stripped-back and straightforward but also more subtle. It seems like an impressionist painting; it's all about feel. LINDBERG: It’s more spacious, and I definitely think it’s sexier. We had that in mind: wanting to make a more spacious, sexy record, where things aren’t being so spoon-fed to you. I think on the last record, we had so much to say—it’s a bit chaotic, but what we learned when we went out and started playing was that we had to strip back a lot of the parts because they didn’t actually translate live. It was too much.
Everyone always talks about the lush layers in your music, but Warpaint has all these raw moments, like that bass at the beginning of “Drive.” LINDBERG: Yeah, I think this record’s also a lot more meditative. I’m not dissing that last record at all, but I think that this record is a little bit more accessible to your ears. I feel like it’s something [where] you really can just sit back and let the music lead you on this journey, as if you’re being pulled on a raft on the ocean or on a lake.
This record feels more communal, too. There’s places where you use “we,” like the line we will kill you on “Disco//very," whereas before the lyrics were always really personal, despite using different voices. This time, it’s like... LINDBERG: A group effort.
Yeah, like you’re really saying, “we are a group of people.” LINDBERG: We approached that song in particular in a way where I wrote the first verse, Theresa wrote the second verse, Emily wrote the third verse and we all sing the chorus together; it’s kind of our hip-hop ballad. It was like, Let’s just make this song fun, make it feel like a party; let’s not get too deep about it. Even though I’m sure those lyrics probably sound pretty deep and heavy and dark, they actually come from a really childlike and innocent place where we’re just having a good time. It’s us against the world. It wasn’t even conscious, but it’s like an ode to our band and our relationship and how powerful and special that can be, especially when we’re having fun together, and it’s shown in that song.
It’s definitely the most aggressive Warpaint song. LINDBERG: It’s just nice to let yourself go sometimes. It’s nice to scream. It’s nice to feel anger, even if you’re not angry; it’s nice to go to that place in a playful way. The track is super dance-y, and everything about that song is really primal. And that is fucking fun.
Has your songwriting process changed since The Fool? LINDBERG: I think that for this record we were very conscious of wanting to create more space for one another, and also just trying to keep an open mind with the way we were playing—instead of, you know, keeping to our respective roles in the band, which is “I’m playing bass, Theresa’s playing guitar, Emily [Kokal’s] playing guitar, Stella [Mozgawa]’s playing drums, Emily and Theresa sing”. On this record there’s definitely more people singing; I’m singing a lot more than I was on the last record, Stella’s singing. I’m playing guitar on the record, Theresa plays bass on the record, Emily’s playing keys, Stella plays guitar—we wanted to keep it playful and have a good time. We just didn’t want to have any limitations on our creativity and our process.
What would you say are the driving emotions behind this record? WAYMAN: Love. The ups and downs of self-discovery. LINDBERG: I can say that, whenever I play, I always have in mind that I really want it to be sexy. There is a groove in there; even if it’s a slow or sad song, you can hop on the dance train regardless.
In an interview you did around The Fool, you described that record as the ideal album to get stoned to. What would you hope people would do while listening to the new album? WAYMAN: Make love. LINDBERG: I would hope that people would want to dance. I mean, it’s obviously not disco or techno, but there’s definitely a sexy sway in there. Or they could have sexy time to it.
Why did you decide to go self-titled now, for the second album? WAYMAN: It just seemed right. Our last album was comprised of some songs that were made before we were even called Warpaint and written by different incarnations of our band over the years. Warpaint became a stronger entity after The Fool, when we started touring and playing together every night. We really started to see what we were all about and what our strengths and weaknesses were and how to hone in on being Warpaint. This album is an expression of that and, in a way, a new start. LINDBERG: You know, it kind of feels like our first album. This is the first record that we’ve written from the ground up with Stella.
How did you originally come up with the name? WAYMAN: It just sounded good and I like that it conjures strong images without being too heavy or serious. LINDBERG: To me, at first, that name did not resonate at all. I thought it was really cheesy. I just didn’t like it. It was a while before I actually started really enjoying it…[but] it really did feel after a while that that was who we were. It just felt effortless, and easy to say, and it made sense.
And now you’ve lived with that identity for a while, does it mean something different to you? LINDBERG: No, it actually doesn’t mean anything to me! It feels just like saying my name. That’s just who we are now.