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Interview: Warpaint

Photographed for GRAIN by Robbie Atkin

It’s been 3 years since LA based quartet Warpaint set foot in Australia. Now with their recently released album Heads Up, they are back to embark on the Australian leg of their oncoming world tour. Over the last 13 years the girls have made a highly reputable mark throughout the world with their high-energy performances and a discography that varies from dreamy warm minimalistic songs to highly contagious pop-infused dance tracks. I was lucky enough to chat to Warpaint's bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and ask a few questions before their highly anticipated show later that night.


Firstly, congratulations on the new album. How different was it working with Jake Bercovici in the studio in comparison to previous releases such as 'The Fool' and 'Warpaint', and how involved were you all in defining the new sounds we can hear in 'Heads Up'? We worked with Jake on our EP, so he was the first person we ever recorded with. In a way it was very familiar and it felt like home. This recording experience was pretty different compared to the others because the four of us weren't really in the room at the same time. He would come in and we would be writing… Whenever we would go in we would all just have the time of our life, he just makes us laugh really hard and it felt really comfortable for everyone to be able to express themselves. Not to say that we haven't had that in other records, just not as much. In terms of being involved in the sounds, we were very much and we are in everything that we record. You guys have more layering and samples present in the new album. How has this effected live performances which are usually high energy and somewhat improvised? It hasn't much, I mean Stella put things in her SPDS pad that are really crucial to the song but we haven't played with backing tracks or anything. I have always wanted to, and I can only speak for myself but I always wanted to write the songs, get familiar with them and then go in and record them live just because of the energy we bring to our live performances. I feel like that sometimes lacks in the recordings. I feel like the song would be just as good, if not better live. Tonight is the first night of your Australian tour before continuing overseas where you will be playing multiple festivals. How do you find the difference in dynamics between playing a festival slot to playing a headline show on tour? With festivals slots, there are usually a lot more people there but there are a lot of people that are not necessarily there to see us. Maybe they are just curious to see what you're about so they're not giving you so much energy. Looking out into a sea of people, that I think is pretty exciting. Energetically on our side it's pretty exciting. Our headlining shows are obviously people who want to come and see us and so the energy exchange with the audience is a little bit more exciting because the people are more excited. Would you say you prefer playing headline shows over festival slots? I think they're just a little bit different, and often time’s festivals are outside which I love. Even playing in the daytime I love. So it just depends, it's always changing. I do love playing festivals, and you get to go and see other bands and get to see your friends. It feels like its not so intimate with just us and our crew who we are with all the time, and its nice to bring in some other energy.

You once stated that your last record 'Warpaint' was written in quite a short amount of time. Despite the three-year gap between releases, was this also the case for 'Heads Up'?

Definitely. I think we did this record in the shortest amount of time that we have ever done anything. A lot of the songs were written in the studio. Someone would bring in an idea and then we would build on it in the studio. A lot of the songs were written and recorded that way. It's exciting because you just have to commit and you're like cool, okay, and you just follow your instincts. Whereas in the past we had so much time to second guess ourselves, change the song 17 times, and we will always go back to the first day we wrote it and listen and think, oh god we had it. It takes on a new life form but that’s okay but I like just getting it done. Just go with your instincts and then write another song.

When it came to write this album, how did the songs come together and how did you balance the roles of instrumentation?

Everybody plays a little bit of everything, we always have. Not always do we change on stage. I predominantly play the bass. There are a few tracks on this record where I am playing guitar and bass, or playing guitar and Theresa is playing bass. On the other records Stella played bass on some songs. We definitely change around and allow for freedom cause otherwise it’s kind of boring. We allow one another to express ourselves creatively and if it's on the cello, then it’s on the cello.

Aside from doing Warpaint, you are all involved in lots of other projects such as acting, collaborations and composing. How do you balance it all?

Good question, I don’t know. I think when Warpaint takes a break that’s when everyone dives into something else. In between these two records there was a good break, we needed a break. We had been touring nonstop for about 7-8 weeks at a time. We got burnt out a bit. We played maybe a gig a month just because its also the way that we make money, but there was no tours and there was no "let's get in the studio and start writing," it was like let's just breathe for a second. In that time I recorded and did my solo record, which was really fun. Theresa was working on some stuff, and Emily, and Stella's always working on something. She's a busy body. You have two days off and she's already recording on like 7 different albums and then goes back on tour. She's really good at juggling her time. I think it's important that we go out and we do other things because you come back to this and you have a bit of a fresh perspective.

What would you be doing if Warpaint hadn't come about?

I really like to paint. Maybe that or like animals, or hair. I really like hair. I like psychology. I don’t know I would probably just do whatever.

You are all such a huge inspiration for many female orientated bands or artists, myself included. Who were your role models at the beginning of Warpaint's career and has that changed between then and now?

It's always changing. It's hard for me to say it's just these bands but there have been a few bands that I still love as much as I loved them when I was like 14. I really love The Cure, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, Suzy and the Banshees as far as that genre of music goes. In the 90's I loved the Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana. God what did I listen to in high school. Portishead, Bjork, Radiohead, Blonde Redhead, Talking heads. The girls probably more so than me really like hip hop and old school RnB. I'm trying to pick bands that we all sort of agreed on because when we were first a band and first got together, what made our sound, or even to this day, is that we were kind of coming from different backgrounds of music. Like the first bands that I just mentioned were kind of what I grew up with. It was sort of a little bit darker. When we came together we were all sort of bringing in what inspires us and it was a little bit different but it somehow made this weird little sound that is us.


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