Sandwiched between surf punk and stoner pop in the state of California, WARPAINT are standing out in a rather sedated manner. The all-female quartet aren’t smitten about controversy as they let their soft-spoken characters prevail, painting raw emotion with enrapturing melodies that dance with frail yet moving voices. The actions seem natural, but it’s tiring, even for musicians feeding off excitement.
“You’ll have to excuse me, I’m pretty exhausted from the bus ride over here,” says bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg. Keeping her tanned skin wrapped a ragged layers of clothing and a knit cap outside the Pantages Hotel & Spa in Downtown Toronto, she calmly puffs a cigarette. “We’re all pretty tired so I do apologize”. The road seems to be all Warpaint have known in 2010. Overlook their current run with British prodigies The xx and the group have visited Toronto twice, in between small tours and slots in Bonnaroo, Reading Festival and Lollapalooza. Not to mention polishing a Rough Trade studio debut which has only pushed them into the spotlight, attracting genre-labeling debates and comparisons to reborn hippies.
“People like to say our music is psychedelic. Its not like we’re trying to be a grunge band or a punk band, we’re just doing what we feel and it tends to go with everything,” claims Lindberg. The nonchalant approach is working. It’s steered Warpaint through moments with a budding film actress (Shannon Sossamon) and a Red Hot Chili Peppers (Josh Klinghoffer) inductee as their drummer, helping them find a permanent replacement behind the kit in Stella Mozgawa, the last piece to moving on from their first EP.
Mixed and mastered by John Frusciante, Exquisite Corpse exhibited bare tenderness and a battle between the delicate songbird voices of guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman (“With them, it’s kind of like a conversation about relationships and waking up in the morning,” says Lindberg). Complex, yet alluring; a combination even the late Heath Ledger admired. Years later, Warpaint have created The Fool, a disc bound by friendship and the oblivious fact learning from mistakes is natural and not everyone’s meant to succeed.
“The fool is who we all are as people and who we try to be. It’s a state of mind we all go through,” discloses Lindberg. Her cheerful persona latches onto you, as if she’s a childhood friend who’s been inspiring for years with her subtle, intellectual outbursts. “The songwriting isn’t case-specific like ‘I walk my dog on the street’. It’s very ambiguous and could relate to you, to me or to a five-year-old child as its open for interpretation,” she says.
She couldn’t be more spot-on. As Lindberg explained, Warpaint’s music is simple but deep. The songwriting doesn’t address a straight hook to your face, but it romances you and touches the depths of your emotions, almost in true Radiohead fashion. “Don’t you call anyone else baby, because I’m your baby still,” sings one of the leading ladies on a new track. Is it a cry about an old flame or is it much more personal than that?
“We’re really not trying to tell things in a specific way. Our music is just based off feelings,” says Lindberg. Then how do you describe the experiences that manufacture those emotions? She pauses, finishing the last drag of her cigarette. Lindberg then notes she’s found the answer and starts to recite lines from a new song titled “Bees”. “All the time it took you to get yourself straight, it’s too late so work harder for the things you made mad in me.”
As a writer for the Los Angeles Times publication put it, it isn’t important for Warpaint to describe the world they’re wrapped in.
Instead, we should abandon judgement and simply desire to be there.