War Paint Resources
Fans of War Paint
While they’ve gone through several drummers and countless sonic shifts since their West Coast start six years ago, one thing’s remained certain about Warpaint: the goose bump-producing power of their live show, which has reduced many rooms to rubble in recent years. Or at the very least, left just about everyone in attendance wondering where their jaw went. (We’ve been there before and can safely say it’s on the floor.)
Which leads us to The Fool (out 10/25 on Rough Trade), the album Warpaint’s threatened to make all along. More than just a simple long-awaited debut LP, it’s a statement of purpose—a warning shot to anyone who doubted the potential of their buzz-stirring EP, 2008’s Exquisite Corpse (see: such fan favorites as “Elephants” and “Billie Holiday”). And a staggering one at that, bolstered by the incomparable chemistry of three longtime friends (vocalists/guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman, bassist/vocalist Jenny Lee Lindberg) and the piston-like drummer (Stella Mozgawa) that got the group to proclaim “where’ve you been all our lives?” after a rehearsal or two.
The catch? Stella didn’t become Warpaint’s steady drummer until The Fool’s final demo stages. And even then, it wasn’t clear how everything would turn out. Not when they had less than a month before the album’s proper studio sessions with producer Tom Biller (Beck, Liars, Karen O).
“Our first month together was inspiring and exciting, but it also felt like we were walking on a tightrope,” explains Theresa. “Like, ‘Can we pull this off?’”
“It was really impressive watching Stella personalize her parts so quickly,” adds Emily. “She never got intimidated or overwhelmed, either. She was a champ, and like any great drummer, our backbone in every sense.”
No wonder why Warpaint now sounds like a well-oiled war machine, as illustrated by how far their older tracks have come. Take the song they named after the band, for instance. According to Theresa, it started with a drum machine, then passed through five different drummers as guitar parts switched to synths (and vice versa) and vocals were dialed up and down.
“We even played it with a full string ensemble once,” she adds. “Actually, that part’s not true, but it has gone through the wringer several times.”
“Shadows” is significant for another reason: it’s the first time someone (Theresa, in this case) came to the table with a fully-arranged composition, leaving Warpaint’s other members to color outside the lines with such experimental touches as upturned snare drums, floor-bound cymbals, and overdriven water bottles. “Baby” started out as a solo piece as well, but instead of fleshing Emily’s spare, subtle songwriting out with alien instruments, the quartet stuck to one lonesome guitar and vaporous vocals that skim your speakers like clouds on a clear day.
“What’s been special about us from the beginning is the intuition between our members,” explains Jenny. “That, and our patience with one another, which offers us the opportunity to explore different ideas diplomatically and nurture everyone’s eclectic tastes.”
Every last detail makes perfect sense, too. Or as Emily puts it, “If we played on acoustic guitars with a pillow and a pair of drumsticks, you’d still notice how much is going on.”
The proof’s in the push-and-pull dynamics of every last note, starting with The Fool’s leadoff single, “Undertow.” A spine-scraping blend of subterranean bass lines, creeping chords, and melancholic melodies, it captures the very essence of what makes Warpaint’s music so damn special—the inescapable sense that you’re watching something very personal unfold. Something that’s almost too intimate.
And yet, The Fool is not about how Warpaint feels. It’s about how we all feel, the extremes that govern our everyday lives, and whether or not a twisted pop tune has the power to heal. As hippie-ish as that may sound, it makes perfect sense once you let the band’s slow-burning hooks and otherworldly harmonies sink in, from the synth-shocked power balladry of “Majesty” to the galloping grooves and patient, explosive denouement of “Set Your Arms Down.”“While our lyrics are often part of a personal dialogue,” explains vocalist/guitarist Emily Kokal, “they address a collective ‘you’. I’ve always been attracted to music where the author and the audience feel unified; where a performance becomes a cathartic and rewarding experience for everyone.” That’s funny—so have we.