Interview: Warpaint

In the land between dream pop and post-punk lie Warpaint, the LA-based quartet that’s been hard at work spinning a hypnotic web of minor chords. The girls’ gothic gifts were all over 2008’s Exquisite Corpse EP, but it’s their full-length outing, The Fool, that’s got half the world’s indie population completely in thrall. And what’s not to love anyway? These ladies are talented, beautiful and as their debut shows, know exactly where their heads and hearts are at. We picked Warpaint out of the Laneway Festival line-up, and got Theresa, Emily and Jenny to paint this pretty picture…

Text + Interview: Min Chen
Image: Aloysius Lim

How’s life as Warpaint?
Theresa: It’s pretty awesome and I don’t mind it. Every job and every life has its stresses but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else!

What were you doing before Warpaint?
Theresa: Um… working on Warpaint! (Laughs)

When did work start?
Theresa: Well, Emily and I have been friends since we were kids, and we’ve stayed and travelled together after high school. And eventually, we moved to Los Angeles, met Jenny and her sister [the band’s ex-drummer, Shannyn Sossamon], and formed the band. It’s just been a work in progress since then.

We noticed there were actually a few years between your formation and the release of your first EP…
Theresa: Well, we were working on our sound and also because our group line-up changed a lot. Another reason was that we just were making sure we were doing what we wanted to be doing before we put it out there. We were very meticulous and we wanted it to feel right, which sounds really vague and ambiguous, but we go by feel a lot. So we waited until it did feel right… And also, we’re definitely not the kind of people that try to get a boyfriend that could get us in the industry or blah blah blah, ‘cos that’s not our approach.

What would be your approach?
Theresa: We just like to go by what we feel is good and sounds good. There are so many things that we listen to and that we like for various reasons, so we just try to do the same thing.
Emily: We’re also the kind of band that instead of writing new songs all the time, we would just change things we’d already done. Like, we’ll always go back and change the song a hundred times. It’s this kind of perfectionist quality that we all have by default, because that’s how we started to write.

And what happens when the band writes together?
Jenny: It’s really collaborative and not one person is in charge or regulates or tells everyone else what to do. Everybody speaks really freely and we mostly all agree.

It helps being friends first, huh?
Jenny: Yeah, for sure! It’s like the cherry on top. We’re a band and friends, which is pretty cool.

We feel ya! So how was it like making The Fool?
Theresa: It was fun making the album. And interesting as well, ‘cos we only had been practicing the stuff for a month or something tops, before we went into the studio to record it, so a lot of the stuff that was happening was happening in the studio for the first time. It just felt really new being in the studio, it’s like, “Oh, what are we gonna do today!”

It’s turned out to be amazing album. You happy with it?
Theresa: Yeah, we’re really happy with it. I think when you create something, especially the first time that you’re put to the task of creating a large product like an album, there are things that we hear where we’re like, “Oh, next time we’re gonna do that differently”, but that doesn’t make us hate it. Every time we’re asked that question, it’s like I can’t help but have those feelings too, like there are things we want to change as well. We always want to do better next time but we’re really proud of it though.

Are you also sitting well with all the hype and praise surrounding the album and the band?
Jenny: Um, I tend to stay away from reviews, or reading about what people think or what’s going on as far as hype goes. It makes me feel anxious and I think that somewhere along the line, you’ll lose the plot.
Theresa: I’m definitely interested in what’s being said to a certain extent. Amongst all that stuff, some of it is going to be valuable, though some of it is gonna make you think about the wrong things and make you think about what other people are thinking as opposed to what you want to be creating. And like she said, you’ll soon be missing the plot as an artist.

Agreed! But we can’t deny you’ve made a pretty fine name for yourself…
Theresa: It’s really great to have a name that we can do a lot of different things under. It’s like a platform for us. There are endless possibilities with that name and it’s just really exciting ‘cos there are a lot of things we want to do with it. We’ll always have Warpaint, so from here, it’s just about evolution and trying to see what and how far we can take it without dumbing down or anything. It’ll be interesting for us to see what is possible within ourselves.

More indie sirens at www.warpaintwarpaint.com.