“We want our music to be universal, something people can be in the mood for at any point in time”.
A personal, spiritual connection to a piece of music is a difficult bond to break. A shared one is something else. For the hundreds piled into Brixton’s O2 Academy in October, many were reminded of Warpaint’s effortless ability to spark numinosity, stimulated by their brand of dark, atmospheric music. The LA quartet’s writing has always been about creating a mood – albeit an indefinable one – but one that swallows you whole and makes you feel connected to anyone else similarly wired into their music. The air floating amongst Brixton’s high ceilings that autumn night hung heavy with an unusual, spiritual feeling of shared emotion.
“That was a really big moment for us”, says Warpaint bassist/vocalist Jenny Lee Lindberg down the phone. “We were excited to play our new songs and I was so shocked by the reaction. I felt a strange sense of comfort which was the opposite of what I expected.”
Though the nature of the band’s signature erratic sound can be unnerving, Warpaint’s songs are frequently comforted by walls of warm ambience, the latter thread that bound their 2010 debut, The Fool, so well together. Of course, this unity between songs has the potential to soothe many a heart and ear, perhaps a “universal” sound Lindberg so desires. ”If evokes any kind of emotion that people enjoy, then I’m happy”, she says.
But Warpaint’s beautifully perplexing musical dichotomy of repulsion and attraction will always lend itself to healthy discussion. The nub of everything, actually, is: what is it that makes them so special? Perhaps it’s their own worldly-wise understanding of who they are, how they sound and how they work together as a group. As Lindberg explains, it’s not like they care too much about what people think.
“I do not read reviews, there’s nothing you can do change what you’ve done. I don’t want to care, though obviously I do a bit, because I’m human. But really we just want to make our art.” Indeed, Warpaint just want to get on with it.
This strength of conviction can in part be attributed to the band’s longevity in the face of adversity. Formed in LA in 2004 after Lindberg’s sister, actress/drummer Shannon Sossamon, invited childhood friends Emily Kokal (guitarist/vocalist) and Theresa Wayman (guitarist/vocalist) to start a new band, it took just a few line-up jumps to delay their first album by half a decade. After various drummer changes following Sossamon’s departure for her acting career, the stars at last aligned when Australian drummer Stella Mozgawa stepped-in for The Fool in 2009.
These ambitions, meetings and uprootings to LA were a blessing, particularly for Lindberg who had left home in Nevada with little idea of what to do next.
“I was 19 when I moved to LA. My sister was modelling and acting there and then I did a bit of modelling too. I just dabbled. I had a lot of energy when I was growing up – I had ADD. My mom would say ‘try something new’ and I would and most things just did not resonate with me. I’d never thought about playing bass before.
“I definitely listened to music by myself a lot, though. I’d sit in my room, write my journal and listen to bands like The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and Kate Bush.”
Just before The Fool came out, the girls worked in cafes or on artistic projects. Lindberg worked at a vegan cafe and as a vintage clothes buyer/maker. Kokal worked in cafes and babysat. Theresa made and sold raw chocolate, as well as helping her boyfriend with his clothing designs.