Collin Erie for AOL Los Angeles-based all-girl quartet Warpaint are the new…
- Posted on May 3rd 2011 4:00PM by Theo Bark
The band's lineup has undergone some changes in the years since their first practice. Their original drummer, actress Shannyn Sossamon left the group twice, though her sister Jenny Lee Lindberg still plays bass. Singer/guitarist Emily Kokal is no longer dating Frusciante, and after an assortment of drummers, the three founding members, which includes singer/guitarist/drummer Theresa Wayman, recently settled on New Zealand talent Stella Mozgawa, who seems like a perfect fit.
Now, the ladies of Warpaint play and joke like old friends and giggle like kids, yet their music is decidedly dark, fragile and powerful. The rumbling bass lines, winding guitars and wistful vocals conjure a sound somewhere between Gang Gang Dance and the Cocteau Twins. The band recently stopped by Spinner's L.A. studios for an interview and a spectacular Interface performance.
What is your writing process like?
Lindberg: It's pretty collaborative. A lot of the time something will start, either the bass line or guitar line, and we'll just start layering upon each instrument and jam out for as long as we feel necessary. Then usually it just takes a natural turn, either left or right, and the song kind of just writes itself.
Kokal: We've just always written in a really repetitive way, weeding out what doesn't work as we just keep repeating. We can do that for hours. If people ever said that our music is hypnotizing, it's because we really mantra out on a part to find what everyone's part will be. Once we have that, we'll move on to another section.
How has your sound changed since you started playing together?
Lindberg: We've definitely gotten tighter as a band. We've been on tour for the last year and a half pretty straight, with not really any breaks. Stella just joined the band a little over a year ago, and being like "we know that this is our drummer and we're gonna make the next three records with her" is a nice security. It's comfort. It's like "OK, no one's going anywhere. We can sit here and we can write," and it allows freedom and space for us to be creative, which is great, because that was always a kind of stressful thing in the past.
Kokal: Also, both the EP and record were made before we ever toured those songs or ever really played them out live. We spent years mostly being a garage band, like we didn't leave our garage with our music. Now it's going the complete opposite spectrum -- we played so many shows last year, and we are all are so into dance music and energy that having an audience to bounce off of is just giving us so much more energy ourselves, and bringing energy to the songs. The songs have a new life to them, through playing them live and just getting a crowd to dance. The other night we had crowd surfers at our show!
Lindberg: Yeah, and we've been playing our own shows so that allows freedom to take a song to a new place, or to jam. We have more time to do that onstage, which is fun. Shaka.
Kokal: For us to Shaka.
Kokal: We just need a new word for 'jam!'
Lindberg: Shaka band.
Kokal: It's a layup. That's Dave Chappelle.
You guys are really playful on stage and in your interviews, but the songs are really kind of somber.
Lindberg: That that pretty much sums us up as humans, too [laughs].
Kokal: Well, it's both. I guess it's like little kids or something, where you can be at the height of ecstasy and then you can cry about your ice cream falling. I think we're just ...
Lindberg: We're true to our moods. That also plays a really big part in the way we write music. We could all four be in different moods, and we bring that to the music and it can make for a very eclectic sound.
Kokal: Yeah it's an outlet, an emotional outlet, but I can see that shifting too. It's nice to bring the positivity up. It's good because people can relate emotionally to things that are somber, or there can be a melancholy or some kind of happy feeling through listening to that kind of music. I get a lot of peace and happiness from listening to sad music, but I definitely like the feelings you can get from music that just jacks your energy up and gets you happy and stoked about life.
You said that you're into dance music. Who do you guys like?
Kokal: Aphex Twin.
Kokal: Squarepusher, Venetian Snares -- that's really electronic but, just dance-y, good basslines, Holy F---.
Lindberg: Just soulful, groovy music that's soulful, groovy music [laughs].
Kokal: Well, soul music, you know funky R&B, Disco, I listen to Brandy.
Is that an influence we'll hear on the new stuff that you're working on?
Lindberg: I think on this next record you'll hear a little bit of everything. We're pretty antsy to explore new avenues and bring what we like to hear in other music into our own. Not emulating it per se, but just like that feeling that we're talking about; making sure that there is a lot of that feeling on our next record.
Kokal: Especially playing so much live, we're excited about making songs where we would want to be dancing really hard. Or just, that energy where you can go and lose control of your muscles, just go dancing.
Lindberg: Yeah, music that evokes lots of emotion, whether it makes you mad or sad or happy.
Kokal: There's a physical reaction.
Lindberg: Yeah, it's got to be a strong sensation, a strong physical sensation that comes over the body [laughs].
You guys were friends for a while before you started playing.
Lindberg: Yeah, we were. That's also an important factor in our music, that we're all really good friends outside of that. [Emily] and I live together in a one-bedroom apartment, so we go on tour, and then we come home and we hang out. We're all very much a part of our social life as well, so I think that makes making music a lot more fun, when you enjoy the person that you're making music with, on all levels.
Kokal: We probably wouldn't do it if it was like, more business or something. It feels like a family.
Lindberg: Or the music would just be boring. I don't know, I think it would just be substantially different if we weren't buddies.
We heard that RZA is a fan of your song 'Bees' and came to one of your shows.
Lindberg: That was fun. I didn't actually see him at the show. [It] was a long time ago.
Kokal: That's the song he liked actually, a lot. That and one of the others maybe.
Lindberg: It's a little hip-hop.
You moved here from Oregon and Reno. How does living in Los Angeles inspire you?
Lindberg: I started playing music in L.A., like maybe a year or two after I moved. I started doing anything creative, really, once I moved to L.A. I felt really comfortable and open and was ready to explore like my creative side. I felt very stunted in Reno, and just, uncomfortable expressing myself on that level. I was really a bit lost in Reno, so it was nice to come to L.A. and have a lot of options and meet a bunch of people and be really inspired by what everyone was doing, because people get things done in L.A.
Kokal: I was introduced to a lot of music besides, you know, in Oregon there was a lot of Northwest, grungy '90s stuff, but moving to Los Angeles I just met a lot of people that opened me up to a lot of different kinds of music, and that has really shaped the direction I went in from what I was doing when I lived in Oregon for sure.
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