A band like Warpaint oozes style, in part because it’s what they’re drawn to. The Los Angeles quartet — vocalist and guitarist Emily Kokal, bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg, vocalist and guitarist Theresa Wayman, and drummer Stella Mozgawa craft brooding experimental indie rock. So what drives them to make arguably their cleanest, poppiest record yet, this year’s Heads Up? A rejuvenated pool of creativity that comes from solitude.
The last two years saw Warpaint members split off to pursue solo albums, collaborations, and family life. In the past year, all four members came to the table with ideas they constructed privately during that time. By being open to collaboration and suggestions, they could merge those initial concrete ideas, but it’s not about making quirks stand out. It’s about blending the smooth with the jagged only when it feels right.
“[Time apart] was incredibly important,” Mozgawa says of each member’s recent solo paths. “Our confidence grew by expressing ourselves privately.”
They’ve got eyes all over their heads. When asked what’s overlooked in music, the band list honesty, integrity, and innovation. It’s a beautiful response if you listen to their music — Heads Up songs swirl creepy production with the catchy loops of pop — that articulates what they’re bringing that music nowadays lacks.
“There were a lot of last minute ideas on this one,” explains Mozgawa, noting “Above Control” — one of the first songs they started and one of the last to finish — in particular. “Something might seem unconventional but could suit the mood or complement a pre-existing song. It’s just about picking what’s tasteful and exciting; not being weird for weird’s sake.”
They each have their stylistic tool. Combined, it lights Warpaint with a cool green ember. For Lindberg, it’s rounded bass notes that groove in an inconspicuous way. For Mozgawa, it’s establishing and cementing a feel through the hi-hats. “They feel so expressive to me,” she says. “It’s definitely not ‘my’ thing exclusively, but I do think I gravitate to them as a stylistic tool.”
The innovation Warpaint sprouts is, unfortunately, rare to find because of the industry’s sharp fangs. “It’s rare these days to see a new band with exorbitant sponsorships from major labels — the bigger pop artists out there today have invested a great deal of thought into their careers. As a new artist, you kind of have to make To Pimp A Butterfly to get noticed,” explains Mozgawa. “Of course, there will always be bottom feeding, copycat drivel, but there is a lot more innovation happening on the top layer that is very positive. Ideally, the inability to make as much money quickly will breed more long term thinking.”
Dip your fingers into the color of paint you dream to bear. Wipe it across your cheeks. Pick up your instrument and let the pressure to perfect everything subside. Warpaint’s looking for fellow creatives to up the game, and most of us have the potential to fulfill that.
“If nothing is coming, the worst thing you can do is stress yourself out and feel the burden of what you ‘should be’ doing,” says Mozgawa. “I’m still learning how to get this one right myself!”
WARPAINT. THU 10/6. PARADISE ROCK CLUB, 967 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. 8PM/18+/$22. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM.