Warpaint makes music that demands to be heard live. They’ve carved out a niche full of hypnotic builds, a viciously funky percussion/bass section, and an effortless cool that melts your ears down into the spiraling soundwaves. In a live setting, that energy is infectious and their massive sound fills basements, dive bars, and concert halls alike.
The L.A. four-piece (Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg, Emily Kokal, Stella Mozgawa) came to New York recently, having been touring relentlessly since the release of their self-titled sophomore album last January. Only six more weeks of touring were left when we talked outside Babycakes bakery (these European tour dates have now been rearranged for March because of “family matters”)—not that they’re not enjoying the ride. There have been adventures along the way—the tour has been dotted with Swiss lakes, countless music festivals, and a visit to the saddest tiger in America.
Even with the months of touring behind them, there were no signs of tour fatigue as we recapped the last few months, talked spirit animals and veganaise, and touched on plans for the next album.
One thing I really took away from your show was how much you depart from studio recordings. Does that live improvisation extend to vocals too, or just instruments?
Theresa Wayman: We improvise some, but usually not with vocals.
Emily Kokal: Maybe if we’re experimenting with an outro or extending a song.
TW: Me and Emily improvised with some Michael Jackson the other night.
EK: That was great, and I did not know the words. Stella did it with me.
Stella Mozgawa: Yeah, I did it with you, I was there for you.
Jenny Lee Lindberg: I was wondering what that was, it sounded really cool.
What else have you all been covering on tour?
EK: We’ve been doing “Ashes to Ashes,” but it’s more like if something’s happening in between two songs, we’ll just fuck around and keep going.
TW: We did a SuperJam with Skrillex at Bonaroo, we covered “Let’s Dance” and “Pump Up The Jam.”
What are you going to do once you get home and have some time to yourselves?
JLL: Get a puppy! I’m getting a Labradoodle.
SM: Moving into your house, Jenny. I need to talk to you about that, by the way.
What are you going to miss about the East Coast?
EK: The seasons, especially fall. There’s so much to see, there’s amazing people-watching. It’s so visually stimulating here in New York.
True, but the West Coast has Astro Burger’s zucchini fries.
JLL: They also have veganaise there.
JLL: Yeah, they have the veggie vegan burger, but they also have veganaise.
Did you discover any new foods while on tour?
EK: We had a really good family meal in Vevey, Switzerland. We went swimming in Geneva off a boat and then we had some oysters and trout at the Bon Rivage hotel on the lake.
TW: The fisherman’s name was on the menu. It told you about the guy who had actually caught the fish.
JLL: And they had a garden in the back—they would bring things in from the backyard to your plate.
I assume you have a band spirit animal?
EK: We have some individual spirit animals.
JLL: Sloth. That’s mine. Everyone’s going sloth-crazy, did you notice?
TW: Sloth is the new kitten.
SM: Seagull. I actually don’t know what my spirit animal is. How do you find that out, do you have to go to a shaman?
TW: Once we saw a tiger in the South. At this gas station, they have a tiger in a cage behind the building—it’s like a tourist attraction that you can go and visit. It was the quite possibly the saddest thing ever.
Does this means that we can expect a song called “Sloth” on the next album? How do you pick your song titles?
JLL: Sometimes its the way the song feels, what the sounds remind you of. “Elephants” definitely has some elephants stomping around, “Bees” has that crazy buzzing bassline.
EK: “Beetles” was for Paul McCartney’s head move. “Disco / Very” was me asking Stella about that one jam we did in the desert that, “was kind of disco-y.”
SM: It was actually hyphenated first, “Disco-Very.”
How did the idea for a double video come about?
SM: It was really about time, and a lack of it.
TW: Once the idea came together though, we all thought it was actually really cool. It was bred out of necessity but then we wanted to go with it. It kind of married the two songs together.
EK: It was a full one-day shoot, and we did it chronologically, daytime into nighttime. The whole flow of the day.
Do you have any idea of who you want to produce the next album?
SM: We’ll see. We’re not at the stage yet to know for sure. We weren’t planning to have Flood do the last one until we were quite a ways into writing the material and had a good idea of what it was going to sound like. Nigel came a bit later as well, he came in for the mixing.
EK: I think we want to keep it pretty close to ourselves. A lot of times when you bring in people, it’s so easy for things to get watered down. Our demos at Joshua Tree have so much stuff, they contain the right vibe, the right feeling. I’m always curious to see what we can accomplish in our own space, just in the writing and the making of things. It’s good to have someone who’s there that knows us, a friend or an engineer or someone who you can bounce ideas off.
Speaking of, how was working with SBTRKT?
EK: We did a whole band jam session with him, we played a whole bunch of stuff and then he took bits and pieces from what we did. I think it ended up being a drum sample and some stuff I sang that he worked with. I went and sang with him at his Reading Festival appearance, it was nice to see him in his element in his show.
Are we going to get to hear that King Krule, Earl Sweatshirt, Warpaint collaboration?
SM: That was from a late night casual jam with our friend Jonti. It was basically everyone wanting to hang out with Jonti—he was the center of that universe. It was really casual to be honest, not like it was reported, we just hung out and made a track.
You’ve been experimenting with a lot of new pedals and cool sound toys on this tour. Do you have any favorites?
EK: Stella just got me a really cool pedal for my birthday, a Moogerfooger Drive.
TW: The Critter & Guitari pocket piano, it’s used on the beginning of “Drive.” It’s a little arpeggiated kind of synth part. But if we could do it every night live instead of sampling, we would.
SM: I just got a nice bass version of it yesterday from the warehouse. They can talk to each other.
Jenni Lee, I liked your jumpsuit. I assume that’s an homage to Korn.
JLL: Yes. Absolutely! No, it’s an homage to Charles Lindbergh, my great-great-great-great uncle. Nah, I’m just a liar.
SM: Lots of techno.
JLL: The new Maroon 5 single. They’re actually friends of ours, we’ve known them for a while. They’ve been doing it for a really long time.
TW: There’s that guy Karriem Riggins, that Stella found. He’s like Dilla—his album Alone Together is up there with Donuts. I love “Harpsichord.”
SM: “Tom Toms” is a really good track off that as well.
What are you looking forward to on the rest of this tour?
EK: We’re going to New Orleans soon. And Phoenix, which I’m excited about for some reason.
JLL: We have a day off in New Orleans.
SM: I’m gonna get another tattoo in New Orleans. I’m not sure yet of what, but I’ve got a few ideas. Perhaps some sacred geometry.