Jenny Lindberg, bassist of LA all girl psyche rockers Warpaint, is curled up in a ball under a blanket on a sofa backstage at the Luminaire. It's the first date of the group's European tour. On arriving in the capital the night before, the girls rinsed Soho's after-hours basements until well past the early hours. After supporting Yeasayer and Akron/Family in the states the band are touring whilst their eagerly awaited debut record, out on Rough Trade in June, is being mixed.
Warpaint's debut EP Exquisite Corpse is a dreamy, reverb drenched affair. Mixed and treated by the Chili Peppers' John Frusciante, it's full of subtle, echoing tweaks as the girls' haunting vocals soar aching above intricate layers of guitar and pulsing rhythms. It's a cliche to say that an all girl band are feminine, but Exquisite Corpse is dripping with emotion - pure, nuanced, complicated, neurotic, beautifully tender and unapologetically full of adoration. Stars' heartbroken lullaby beseeches its 'wonderful one' to understand that we 'glow in darkness', Billie Holiday channels The Temptations' My Girl in praising the merits of their ideal guy, while Beetles bristles with attitude.
Warpaint - Elephants
The girls still standing after last night's escapades, Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman (vocals and guitars), and the group's latest addition Stella Mozgawa (drums), cosy on down with Don't Panic to talk about LA living and their musical inspirations.
So where are you all from? Are you all from LA? Theresa: We're based in LA, but Stella's from Sydney, Australia. But she's mostly Polish. Stella: Yeah that’s right, almost 100%. Theresa: Well, Polish was her first language. We're from Oregon.
Stella: And Jenny's from Reno...
So what made you all move to LA? Emily: Well I guess a boy made me move there.
Theresa: My friend, she lived there. Also we were in high school together and we both knew that we wanted to go to New York or LA and we spent some time outside of New York the year after we graduated. New York is great, it's amazing, but LA is a little bit easier, maybe a little more accessible to move to. But that wasn't really the reason, it just happened that way.
Emily: We just kinda ended up being there. I never expected that I would like living there, but after some time... We did kind of get the best of both words - where you can get some nature, and get some space, but it's also a city.
Yeah, I've been there once before. I found just the pressure of driving through Beverly Hills is so oppressive, where other places in the area were amazingly beautiful. Theresa: Yeah, it’s not just Beverly Hills, there's a lot of cars driving there. It's horrendous.
Emily: I probably haven't been to Beverly Hills in like a year. I don't have a car, so I can only really stay in a very small neighbourhood, unless there’s an outing to the beach or to the airport or something.
The airport, the place in LA to hangout at!
Theresa: Oh yeah! Totally!
Do you feel that LA as a place is reflected in your music? Emily: It must be. Maybe the atmosphere, climate, people, and the things that I've been introduced to while living there. It comes from meeting people, and experiencing things. I think I would have started in a different place personally if I'd have been in Oregon. Theresa: I wouldn't say that we’re a sunshine LA band. We don't have a song that says California in it. Emily: We're like the truth of LA - the heartbreak and the darkness.
LA at two in the morning? Stella: Yeah, when all the bars close and everybody is desperate.
Emily: Maybe like, four or five in the morning.
The songs on the EP are a couple of years old. Do you get tired of those tracks now because they’ve been around and you’ve been playing them for a couple of years?
Emily: I don't feel tired of them because I think they keep evolving live. I don't listen to the EP very often, but to play them live they evolve because we've evolved so much.
Theresa: Yeah, especially Elephants. I don't think that song could ever get old for me to play.
How does the new record sound in relation to the EP? Has your sound changed a lot? Is there a conscious direction that you've taken with it? Theresa: I don't think consciously, but we definitely tried to be consciously wiser about the parts that we play and how they interact with each other. So in that way we're that much more experienced. It's even that much more intricate, yet simplified. I think it's a little bit clearer than our EP, which seems to have this reverb thing the entire time. I don’t think that’s what this album is going to sound at all.
I wondered about that. John Frusciante mixed or did a lot of treatment on the EP and when you listen back and focus you can hear all these little tiny tweaks, all really subtle, that really add to the psychedelic, hypnotic sound. Is that was something you’re going to ditch or does the new material still have that?
Emily: I think that the record has less of the subtle things, because of time constraints. We went in and recorded the songs as they were, as we played them, so it’s a lot like our live show.
Theresa: Which is pretty kicking.
Emily: But I don't think we would ever ditch the subtleties. The subtleties are something we look forward to doing more and more ourselves too. John did some really cool stuff and I think that we have the ability to really build on our parts. We all have the treatments that we want to do in mind.
What were you drawing inspiration from when you were working on the new record? Theresa: I think there’s a lot of inspiration from being in LA. There’s one song in particularly where it’s just the stress of being in that city. It’s always something to express, you know? So in that way, I guess, LA has affected our music for sure. There’re songs about that and there’re songs about relationships. All these feelings, that’s where I draw a lot of inspiration from for lyrics. Music is such an emotion-based expression – it's about everything, anything you're feeling.
Emily: The way that it unfolds for me is that it’s a really personally fulfilling, conversation with myself. I feel that a lot times I’m addressing myself. It's like a sweet, kinder part of me, talking to me.
Theresa: It’s therapy.
Emily: Yeah. It’s a cathartic experience.
When my female friends are going out and putting their make-up on, they say it’s their warpaint. Is that why you picked the name? Theresa: Yeah, it means all of that to us. Native Americans or indigenous tribes might put on warpaint for dance, for theatre, for battle and women do it today. You can have warpaint on and it's not even actual paint, it's an expression that guards you or expresses something.
Emily: I think we settled on that name ultimately because it's so open. It has double meanings or triple meanings.
Theresa: Yeah, it’s everything from being completely defensive to being completely open and expressing yourself. And we all liked it, we actually all agreed on something.
Are there any specifically LA bands that are inspiring you right now? Theresa: I really like Hecuba [http://www.myspace.com/hecubahecuba]. They’re really interesting, cool and unique but also really accessible to feel.