Interview | Warpaint

THREE years since their debut LP The Fool’s release, LA four-piece Warpaint have returned with their self-titled sophomore album. Heading straight to the Top Ten albums on the Official UK Albums Chart and receiving glowing reviews from fans and fellow musicians alike, Warpaint will be in Australia for their second St Jerome’s Laneway Festival this week. I had a chat to Warpaint’s Theresa Wayman (vocals/guitar) about their beautiful new record, how it came together, and Warpaint’s one month “band camp” stay at Joshua Tree.

How’s your day going?
It’s good, this is the first thing I’ve done so it’s been nice. Then we’re playing in Paris later tonight.

Will this be the first time playing the new record?
We played a show in New York a few nights ago, it was a small, intimate  show – a little over 100 capacity venue. We tested stuff out and it went really well, I’m really happy and excited and I really love playing our new songs.

How was the response from the crowd?
Really good. I think that these songs kind of lead into live scenario really well. We’re playing them exactly as they are on the album for the most part and that’s completely working. For our last album we had to change things a little bit in order to play them live.

The album’s out now and is such a beautiful record, why did you guys decide to stream  it ahead of it’s release?
You know what, I didn’t even know that was going to happen. No one asked us, but I’m really glad that did happen because we didn’t have any leaks of the album. It felt really good to have people hearing it and hearing a response before it actually came out. I don’t really know who decided to do that to be honest [laughs].  I’m not in the dark about what goes on but none of us really knew about that. I think the more that you can give your music away, the more that we can give things away, kind of shows our love for the people that just listen to our music and that we’re not everything we do is strictly business. I know that streaming our album isn’t giving anything away really but it sort of feels like we’re not being too precious about it, you know?

You guys wrote the album at Joshua Tree, what was it like to work there, was it an inspiring place?

We went for a month and lived together in a house and wrote music. It was inspiring because we were together and we were out of LA and we didn’t have any distractions and we could just live and breath the music. It was like going to band camp. We could hang out together and only think about our creativity and that was it. I feel like we could have been anywhere but then at the same time Joshua Tree is a really weird place. It kind of pulls something out of anyone that’s there. It’s right on the edge of a national forest as well so it feels really remote and alien and I think that’s really exciting for the senses.

What’s the writing process like between you guys? How did the record come together this time around?
On our last album there were a few times when we all sat down and figured out some of the lyrics to some of the songs which I don’t think is really known that well that that happened. On this record, that didn’t  happen at all. At the same time, there were two songs that were penned by Stella or Jen. In that way, it was a group effort but nobody helped me write my lyrics and I wasn’t helping Emily write her lyrics. Stella did write the lyrics and the melody for “Go In” and Jen wrote “CC” and sings it obviously.

There are some sounds we haven’t heard from you guys before like some RnB influences, where do you think those sounds have come from?
I guess just listening to that kind of music but it’s really unintentional. I don’t really think of music in those terms usually. I rarely listen to something and think “That’s an RnB melody. I wan’t to write an RnB melody” and go and do that or something. I can tell when is a beat is more Hip Hop sounding or rock sounding, I’ll usually go for the more Hip Hop sounding one. I don’t go into a song thinking that it needs a particular sound. That being said, there is a song on the album called “Hi” and that started sounding really Hip Hop and a little bit Dr Dre and I felt like every part that was added needed to feel more like that than anything else. So there was a little controlling and a bit of a contrived effort to make it sound a little bit Hip Hop.

What kind of stuff did you listen to growing up?
I listened to a lot of Bob Dylan because my dad was obsessed, and Talking Heads. A little bit of Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. I was really into Cindy Lauper when I was really young, that was probably one of my first favourites. I remember loving The Pointer Sisters, that “Jump” song – I was really young, I just loved it. Then, later, I had a bit of a Beatles phase and got into Van Morrison and Al Green in high school. Then I started getting into Outkast and some other random albums that my uncle gave me that you wouldn’t even know of, some Hip Hop that lead me into that world, then I found Bjork’s ‘Debut,’  Aphex Twin, Portishead and Massive Attack. That kind of stuff really opened my eyes to the world of electronic music. Which appealed to the Hip Hop and rap side of me because I used to listen to a lot of that stuff as a teenager as well – Wu Tang, E-40, Too $hort, really hard stuff [laughs]. It’s a pretty eclectic mix.

What first sparked your interest in picking up an instrument and writing music yourself?
When I was in high school I started playing guitar and Emily and I were friends and we would play together. My dad always played guitar, and my mum as well. They would play folk songs with me and my sister and my little brother, and I loved it. I would learn those and then played Beatles songs with Emily. I always sang because I was in choir. So I guess I started doing it on my own in high school then continued after.

Warpaint will have existed 10 years this year, what’s the most rewarding show you’ve played so far?
I really liked playing in Amsterdam at the Paradiso (Grote Zaal). It always feels like the biggest show we’ve ever had but it’s not the biggest. The crowds are just so amazing. Oh and Russia was incredible, that was really rewarding because we’d just gone so far. The people there were so sweet and really passionate and really cared about us. Also, some of them were some of our first fans that found us just through Myspace and have loved us and followed us since then for a really long time. Also playing Brixton Academy was really, really special because it was the biggest show we’ve ever headlined. That was just really epic, the room is so big and has so much live reverb and has that history.

You’ll be in Australia soon, how do you find audiences here?
Really good, I like going to Australia and I think our album has had a good reception there from what I hear from Stella, really. She said things are going good over there because she has the in. She knows. I love Australia. I’m excited to go there and hang around. It’s been a while, I need to go.