What does a band do when it’s verging on a break up? Warpaint took a break, lived a little and decided to put music they listened to socially – hip-hop, R&B, electronica, house and disco – into their day job. The result is Heads Up, both an ode to the new-found gratitude they have for staying together and an up-tempo exploration of the deep and wide recesses of human emotion. Over funked-up instrumentals, Emily Kokal’s husky vocals and Theresa Wayman’s silkier tones plait into what bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg calls her “boyfriend harmony”. Percussionist Stella Mozgawa may need to become octopod to replicate the recorded sound live, but for all challenges ahead, the group tell The Fifth Sense they are thrilled to tour this record, which has seemingly swooped down into a chasm to save them all. The tracks journey through pulsating desire to sneaking paranoia, from the heartbreak of seeing a loved one conceal their humanity behind a stiff-brittle tough-guy exterior to the exhilaration of new love.
"The act of free singing and harmonising in the studio brings a totally new flavour"
Emily Kolkal, vocals
It was really liberating for me to find my entrance into the music that I’ve always loved in order to make it. After our last tour we all felt exhausted – to be able to find our way back into the band and the music we had to feel gratitude for where we are as a band. Some of the songs I’ve contributed aren’t always about other people, but myself too. The Stall is about someone close to me who I watched go through so much, she created this exterior to protect herself but she wasn’t being vulnerable to what she was really experiencing. I wrote it like a diary entry, a sort of venting, but when I started singing it I realised it applied to myself. When I was recording there were a few times I had to stop because I was crying. There’s a couple of songs that are so full of emotion – Don’t Let Go, Jen wanted us to sing together. So we’re all free singing. The act of free singing and harmonising in the studio brings a totally new flavour, a different feeling and can change the way lyrics feel, this sinister or ethereal quality that brings a whole other dimension to the listener.
"Our music has always been able to be yourself, find your way express yourself"
Theresa Wayman, guitar
After touring so much for a year and a half we actually almost broke up, we were pretty much exhausted and kind of sick of each other. So we all worked on the album in our different ways. We’d bring demos to elaborated on in the studio, but we wouldn’t always need to explain what the songs were to each other, we try to intuit where each other’s coming from. By Your Side is a lot to do with what I went through during our break and what took us to this next phase. We all have a newfound gratitude and appreciation for being in this band. In the studio, we gave nicknames to songs that stick - like Dre isn’t about Dr Dre, it’s just that it sounds maybe a bit like him. I’m actually more excited to play this album live than any other in our career and part of that is because we’ve been creating and working on these songs for ages but we’ve not been playing these songs in a room for months and months. The outside world, in the last six months seems like it’s gotten even crazier, and so I do think it’s important that we create something that could be a little bit of an escape or a little bit of something that feels good when there are so many things to feel bad. We are more personally political if that makes sense as opposed to political-political or worldly-political, our music has always been able to be yourself, find your way express yourself. Everyone has day to day difficulties even if that’s just trying to get along with your mum or your partner or whatever. It’s personal and smaller but it’s coming from the same place.
"It will be really easy not to take ourselves seriously when we’re playing these songs."
Jenny Lee Lindberg, bass
Taking a break from the band was important for us to get our own jujus out and express ourselves and our own visions creatively. When we came back everybody was just a lot more open to hearing everybody’s individual ideas and seeing where we would fit in in the song. I felt like it wasn’t the be-all and end-all that my voice be in there, and I wasn’t fighting so hard because my voice is everyone’s voice and it’s really important to know when to give space, step back and pick your battles. It all happened so naturally and you can see clearly that things are happening the way they’re supposed to. Obviously nobody wants to compromise their creative integrity but it never quite gets to that with us. If I had ideas that no-one else was feeling then that was no big deal. Coming to the studio was a breath of fresh air, especially after recording my own record where I was in charge of everything and all the pressure was on me. It was hands down one of my favourite recording experiences that we’ve had, second only to the first time. It also felt so quick because we hadn’t already played it over and over. This time we couldn’t be petty, we didn't have time to change our minds about things. So we we’d go for first instincts and move on. When recording at a faster BPM, I thought, “Wow, we’ve got to really step it up and deliver!” because people will be like, “Oh no their live show isn’t as good as their album”, so there is a sense of pressure. But it will be really easy not to take ourselves seriously when we’re playing these songs.
"I’d need an extra five or six people to play the drum parts simultaneously
Stella Mozgawa, percussion
We just made the record we wanted to make, creating the songs that appealed to our palate and our tastes. Now we have the challenge of bringing these songs to a live setting. I did a lot of stuff on my computer and my sampling pad – live, I’d need an extra five or six people to play those parts simultaneously, so it’s going to be a really interesting challenge! Incorporating electronica into Warpaint wasn’t restricted, it wasn’t like, “You have to do dark-moody-witchy-LA-whatever record”. When we put out New Song, a nominal amount of people were like, “This sounds terrible, it doesn’t sound like Warpaint anymore they’ve just sold out”, but then others are so along for the ride and say it’s amazing. There’s no money in music, to think that we could make a song like New Song to make money is insane because it’s a money pit, it’s like throwing dollar bills down a toilet. But to make music you don’t believe in? There is no selling out anymore. I really do believe that for the most part bands in our world and our level are really just doing their best to make it worthwhile creatively.