INTERVIEW

Warpaint’s debut album, ‘The Fool’, is not the kind of record you instantly love. You might not even like it for some time.

warpaint

Warpaint’s debut album, ‘The Fool’, is not the kind of record you instantly love. You might not even like it for some time. It is, as they say, ‘a grower’, like any record you bought more than a year ago and still listen to. At best, it features two songs that might trouble the commercial world, although the ‘Polly’-esque hook of ‘Undertow’ is milked far too infrequently to bum-rush the charts, and the mathy, wailing ‘Composure’ quickly discards its catchy bits too as it returns to the eerie, droned-out place from whence it came. Something about it has clever ears giving it a second, third and fourteenth chance though, until its intricacies, extensive influences (from psych to post-punk to tribal rhythms to wistful folk harmonies) and straight up beauty become so glaringly obvious that you wonder how you ever missed them. Like when you realise your long-term best friend at school is actually pretty fit. How the hell did it get past you!?

Famous people (and others, I’m sure) have noticed Warpaint’s charm since they formed in LA in 2004. The late Heath Ledger was a fan, as is Billy Zane, and when the band played London pre-Reading & Leeds Nicholas ‘About A Boy’ Hoult turned up, along with the cast of Transformers. And for the sake of clanging down one more showbiz name, John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers (the then boyfriend of guitarist and singer Emily Kokal) produced Warpaint’s debut EP, ‘Exquisite Corpse’, in 2008. Oh, and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg has a sister who was a founding member of the band too – Hollywood actress Shannyn Sossamon.

All of this suggests that Warpaint are four very well connected young women who tear up the City of Angels, party with the stars and make music because they can. And that might be true, but they’re not fame-seekers. ‘The Fool’ is uncompromising, anti-socialite, spiritual proof of that, even in its name.

“Well, The Fool is the first card in the tarot deck,” ponders Jenny “and Emily and Theresa are really into the tarot, and it represents being ego-less and in a really strong place of vulnerability – kinda being naked without caring about how you’re being perceived. It’s about throwing yourself in the fire and not caring if you get burnt.”

“Yeah,” adds drummer Stella Mozgawa who joined the band three weeks before they recorded the album. “It’s basically about self-sacrifice.”

Jenny: “It’s not so much that that theme runs through our songs, but rather us putting our music out there in general, and the way Stella joined the band, not knowing what was going to happen but going for it.”

Since Leeds Festival, Jenny and Stella have been in Amsterdam eating cake while Emily and fellow singing guitarist Theresa Wayman have been in Hamburg. Today they’re reconvening at Maida Vale Studios to record three songs for Radio One’s Rob Da Bank show. Jenny’s been up all night, having failed to execute a plan to “get stoned and pass out” (“It just didn’t happen,” she says “so I was staring at the walls until we left this morning.”) while Stella energetically fills us in on Axl Rose gossip from the previous weekend, oxygen mask breaks ‘an all.

“[Reading and Leeds] were really fun,” she says. “There wasn’t as many people at the Leeds show but I enjoy that. I like being the underdog. Because how can you know your worth as a band if you’re only surrounded by sycophant?”

“For the first three years we just played in Los Angeles,” says Jenny “over and over and over. So people are familiar with us in LA, but that doesn’t mean that they’re familiar with you anywhere else.

“I feel like we’ve met a lot of people who’ve helped us along the way in LA. And we might not have met them in San Francisco or somewhere else, but it’s kinda irritating – not to be negative – because there are so many bands there and so many people playing shows. It’s kinda like, ‘I’m in a band!’ ‘Oh really? So is everyone in the bar.’ But then that’s one way that has helped us because by being in LA you’ve got to stay on your toes and you’ve got to be good.”

Stella says that the city has a “strange magnetism”. “The people you’re supposed to meet, you’ll meet,” she explains “and several times. They’ll keep popping up despite how sprawling it is. They’ll keep reappearing until you do something about it.”

It all sounds like a serendipitous movie, and that suits Warpaint just fine, ‘The Fool’ as frequently cosmic as the band’s own beliefs. Like the city itself, it has a ‘strange magnetism’, which is why it’s so hard to leave well alone. To belittle it to a snappy sound-bite (which is no mean feat considering how many genres it fellates over the course of its nine songs and forty seven minutes), it sounds how Telepathe would if they’d been schooled on louche, meandering psych, minimal folk and rock guitars rather than commercial hip-hop and synthesisers.

“You could say that we’re poppy, that we’re psychedelic, that we’re rock, that we’re a dance band…” says Jenny, and she’s right – Warpaint are the sum of all these parts. At one point, on ‘Baby’ – a track that manages to make five minutes of one acoustic guitar, tight vocal harmonies and nothing else feel like it’s over in a shot – they even sound like Cheryl Crow without damaging their sirenistic appeal. And that’s because, in a post Vivian Girls world where ‘DIY’ increasingly feels like a better word for ‘amateur’, this four-piece are offering us a girl group who write far out, expansive alt. pop like no one else. Nicholas ‘About A Boy’ Hoult might be chatting to Billy Zane while they do it, and the band’s LA hipness certainly hasn’t hindered their appeal back home and abroad (truth be told, their ties and general aesthetic were largely the most interesting aspects of the hit and miss ‘Exquisite Corpse’ EP) but there’s something about Warpaint and their confidently patient debut album that surpasses all the Hollywood fluff that deserves to be given a chance. And another. And another.

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