Warpaint on Music Videos, the Beastie Boys, and Falling in Love with Being in a Band

Categories: Interviews

Warpaint.jpg
Courtesy the artist
Ten years ago this past Valentine's Day, Warpaint formed and slowly but surely the music world got hip to this psychedelic dream-pop quartet from Los Angeles. Critical acclaim poured in from all corners for their debut EP, Exquisite Corpse, in 2007, and the band's 2010 full-length debut, The Fool, continued the trend.

Fast forward to 2014 and the band, fronted by dual guitarist-vocalists Emily Kokal and Therese Wayman, is riding high on the success of their new self-titled full-length record, which is a hypnotic blend of danceable dream pop and undeniably sexy indie rock. Their touring schedule saw them complete multiple sets at Coachella and will see them hit the festival circuit throughout the U.S. and Europe through the end of the summer.

Drummer Stella Mozgawa, who joined the band in 2009, recently took time to speak with DC9 at Night about the making of the new record, how the band's creative process has evolved in the past few years, and how The Beastie Boys inspired them to make the video they just released for "Disco//very" and "Keep it Healthy."

DC9 at Night: What was the band's mindset heading into the making of Warpaint?

Mozgawa: The mindset was pretty much feeling excited about making something new, since we'd been on the road for a long time. We'd basically been on tour for two and a half years and it was definitely high time for us to do something new. So pretty much just this anxiety over getting this thing out and making enough time to do something that we would be proud of.

Warpaint moves into more rock and roll territory than your previous releases, and feels more musically adventurous. Was that the plan from the start?

We generally don't really verbalize what we're going for in a song. We'll definitely verbalize specific things like whether there's going to be a change in the song's structure or something, but generally we don't say, "Oh, okay, let's explore this new sonic territory." All of that comes pretty naturally. It's difficult to say if we were really wholly conscious of doing the album that way because we just wanted to make music we would enjoy listening to.

Did you approach the creative process differently this time around as opposed to The Fool?

I came into the band like about three or four weeks before we started tracking The Fool, and that was the first time I actually played my first note with the girls. So I was absent for that first really creative experimental period that you have even in pre-preproduction, where you're writing the songs and everyone puts in their two cents. [This time] we had been touring with each other for a while, and I feel like we became the band that we are now when we were on tour... It's like that cliché about the first and second albums: the first album can take you seven years, and then the next album, you have to finish it in a few months.

Coming into the band so shortly before recording The Fool, how did you manage to get up to speed so quickly? How did you gradually become more comfortable as time went by, and how did that translate into the part you then played in recording Warpaint?

The way I see it now is that it just all happened so quickly and naturally. The overriding thing in terms of when we first started and I came into the band was I was essentially a session musician. I'd been in bands before, but I was used to the sensation of walking into a room with a group of people and immediately getting creative and putting something to tape, so that was something I knew I was capable of doing. So it wasn't intimidating to come into this room with these people I half knew.

The combination must have clicked though.

I was coming from that world, and the girls were coming from a world of wanting somebody to be in the band, so it was like... You know when two people fall in love, or when you're in a relationship, you know that you and your partner are both in a position where you want to fall in love, and you're open to that experience and you're waiting for that experience? That's a clumsy analogy for what happened, but it was like they were looking for a drummer and I was looking to be somebody's drummer, so we just kind of went for it.

When you look back on the Warpaint experience, is there anything about it that surprises you?

There were some songs I didn't expect would make it onto the record, but then there were other songs where I totally thought there was no way in hell that it wouldn't be a single on this record, but they didn't end up as singles... Sometimes you have to take those initial ideas of what you thought the album was going to be and then just let them go, let them be. I think that was something that surprised me with some of the songs.

You just debuted a video that combines both "Disco//very," and "Keep it Healthy" together. How did that come about and what was the idea there?

We had this idea months back when we were in New York and were just walking down the street. I remember [bassist] Jenny [Lee Linberg], Emily and I were all talking about old Beastie Boys videos where they are literally just walking down the street and looking amazing and having fun... It was fun and easy. You didn't have to request 45 treatments from different directors and figure out a budget and have to do all these in-camera tricks and there's going to be CGI and whatever.

Half of the video takes places during the day, and the other half happens at night. How did you decide to make one video with both songs instead of just picking one of the songs to do that same treatment for?

A couple of weird things factored into it. We weren't going to have time to film a video for "Disco//very" and then do another one the next day for "Keep it Healthy." "Disco//very" is actually the single in the U.K., and "Keep It Healthy" is the single in the US. It was just like a time crunch. There was no point bickering over two different videos when we could use that limitation creatively and do something that solves the problem.

What makes Warpaint so different from bands you've worked with before and what keeps you coming back for more?

Every musician occasionally has these thoughts about what we would do if we weren't in this band. I think there's some kind of chemical magic that happens when we all play together, because what's unique about this band is that there's no one or two lead singers with the other two people simply being session musicians or collaborating with these people who have a strong vision. All four of us have a strong vision, individually, so it's always like four lead singers fronting the band, which sounds insane--and it is insane--but that's the thing that creates our band.

WARPAINT plays Trees this Saturday, April 26th with James Supercave. $16. 7 p.m. 2709 Elm St. 214-741-1122.


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