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Interview: Theresa Wayman of Warpaint

"I know I just keep saying 'feel, feel, feel,' but we're really feeling based."


Group portrait of female American indie rock group Warpaint
Paul Bergen/Contributor/Redferns/Getty Images

Though their debut LP, The Fool, came out in 2010, Warpaint were formed in 2004, by a pair of childhood pals (guitarist/vocalists Theresa Wayman and Emily Kokal) and a pair of sisters (bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and drummer Shannyn Sossamon). Sossamon left in 2005, and it took five years(!) to settle on Stella Mozgawa behind the kit. Over that period, Warpaint jammed endlessly, coming across their own unique psychedelic-indie-rock sound; first shown on the 2009 EP Exquisite Corpse.

Interview: 24 November 2010

What were your beginnings in sound?
"When I was 10, we bought a piano and my mom taught me how to read sheet music. And, any song that I loved —like 'Für Elise' or 'Moonlight Sonata' or Christmas carols— I'd learn. I dabbled in guitar as a teen; then got really serious about guitar and drums when I was about 21. And even moreso in 2004 when Warpaint started."

Is Warpaint your first band?
"Yeah. This has been my only band, aside from a brief spell when Vincent Gallo hired me to be in his band. This was right when Warpaint split up, in 2005. Shannyn figured it was too hard to have a child whilst still exploring her acting career, so she stopped, and then Jen and Emily wanted to stop, too. I was pregnant at the time, but I didn't want to stop. I didn't stop. I ended up playing with Vincent up until I was eight months pregnant. I was flying long after I just should've been at home. I think part of that was that I was still heartbroken that Warpaint had stopped."

What was it like being in Vincent Gallo's band?
"It was really cool. I was really, really bummed when Warpaint split up, and was really grateful to be able to keep playing. He and I were going to continue playing, but then Warpaint got back together, and I had to go with that. Because Warpaint is my heart and soul."

What brought you back together?
"It just made sense. It wasn't really like we had to reconcile anything. My son was now four months old, and I was ready to come back. And they were ready to come back. Everyone agreed it was time."

How much did having had a child change you as a human-being? And how did that influence the music you were making?
"It hasn't changed me that dramatically; it's not like I used to go and party all the time. When I got pregnant, I didn't think it'd be a problem; I didn't have the feeling that I'd have to forfeit my social life. As a human-being it mostly made me value my free time. There's a lot of time in a day that gets wasted. If you have a kid, you just can't live with yourself if you do that. You have to organize your days really well if you want to give all this energy to your child that you love so much, and then also be able to give that energy back to yourself. I almost get more done than the people around me that don't have any restrictions. I also feel like I'm more inspired, and my life is more rich in a certain sense. Because you see the value of human life, and just how fast time moves along. All of a sudden your son is five years old, and you see just how much has happened in that time. It's a good perspective."

Even though you'd been together for years before The Fool, it was still your introduction to the world. How did you want to introduce yourselves? What did you want to say?
"That this is the music that we want to make; this is what we're feeling right now; this is what we're inspired to put together. We just wanted to share our feelings on life through music. Because that's exactly what all of us value the most about the music that we listen to: that richer experience of life you get when you listen to a song that really hits you, and makes you feel things, whatever the emotion. You're experiencing things on a deeper level, which is why music is so nostalgic, and why people are obsessed with music. It saves lives, sometimes, because people get stuck in situations, or mundane routines, where they're not happy, or unfulfilled. Music can take people out of that, or be an oasis within that. That's what we're attempting with this record: making something that makes us feel that way, and makes others feel that way, too."

What kind of music makes you feel that way?
"Björk was a huge one, for me, in my life; and I feel that way if I listen to Aphex Twin, or 'Naïve Melody' or 'Speaking in Tongues' by Talking Heads. Right now I’m just on a quest to find any song that fulfils that. I can listen to semi-country music, like Dylan LeBlanc's new album, then listen to Clark, this harsh electronic music that changes all the time, and is really hard to grasp, but sometimes it penetrates you so deeply. Even music that is stylistic opposites, it all has the same sort of effect."

When you're playing your own songs, is there the same sort of nostalgic, transportive effect?
"Totally. I wouldn't say I feel that every time, but I don't ever not feel it. And sometimes it's overwhelming. I definitely get transported back to times in which the songs were substantially developed or changed, or that instant in which they first came about. What united these songs on the album was that, when they were in their inception, we all felt that same feeling. When I was playing the piano part for 'Lissie's Heart Murmur' the very first time I was ever playing it, I felt that pull, that nostalgia, that deep emotion connected to my past. That's why that song stuck. Then the piano part with Jen's bassline makes me feel so full. And then Emily's melody comes into it, and it all fits together, and it has this great feeling. I know I just keep saying 'feel, feel, feel,' but we're really feeling based. We're not conceptual. We're not trying to nerd out on an idea. We're not excited by some sort of technical approach that we're trying to take. As of now, it's really feeling based."

What kind of feelings, specifically? Are there emotions that unite the songs on the album?
"I'm reticent to say anything, because, whatever someone's feeling from it is exactly what they're supposed to be feeling; whatever it means for other people is precious. But, the best feeling to talk about with these songs, for me, is the feeling of nostalgia. It's not sadness, it's not happiness, it's not anger. It's just a general feeling of being a human being, that sense of your life passing."

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