Marking their ten-year anniversary as a band, 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for Los Angeles-based indie rockers Warpaint.
Before embarking on a jetlag-inducing tour that touches four continents, they’ll finally be releasing their second album later this month after a recording process that began over two years ago. And fans of their majestic 2010 debut The Fool should brace themselves for something of a change. While the murky, hypnotic mood remains, the stunning vocal harmonies and layers of reverb that defined songs like ‘Undertow’ and ‘Shadows’ are used much more sparingly on their self-titled follow-up.
Bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg explains that the change in sound is due to a desire to step out of their comfort zone and embrace a ‘less is more’ mantra. “We put the last record out and we toured it for two and a half years, so I think naturally, not that we got tired of that sound, but I think that we were excited to do something a little bit different.”
While the change in direction on Warpaint may not be entirely noticeable on lead single ‘Love Is To Die’, deeper cuts such as ‘Disco//Very’ and ‘Drive’ display the shifting style of the band. “I think these songs are, I want to say a little more minimalist, maybe a little bit more dancey, maybe a little darker than things that we’ve done before,” says Lindberg.
After spending months rehearsing and demoing their new songs at Joshua Tree in the Californian desert, Warpaint enlisted superproducer Flood to work on the album. With a string of credits from Nick Cave and Depeche Mode to U2 and Sigur Rós, Flood surprised the band with his willingness to let them control their own sound. “What I really loved about him was that he didn’t just come in and control the situation, he was very open to allowing us to find what it was he wanted us to find, or hear us out, or kind of let us take control,” says Lindberg. “But I think the really special thing was that we would get to a place where we had written a song and we’d maybe been around the ringer with that song, and we finally got to a place where we were really happy with, and thought there was nothing else we could do to that song – and he would come in and push us even further and say, ‘You know, I don’t think that you found it, I think you can dig deeper,’ and you do, and you end up liking it even more.”
Significantly, Warpaint is also the first album written and recorded by the band as a complete unit. Current drummer (and Sydney native) Stella Mozgawa joined only just before the release of The Fool, after Lindberg’s sister Shannyn Sossamon departed to focus on her acting career. According to Lindberg, the involvement of Mozgawa was a significant influence on the band’s shifting sound.
“Stella wasn’t really a part of the writing process when we were developing the songs that we put on the last record, they were already written and she just came in and put the drums over them. This time round we all had time to get in there with each other and write things from scratch. Just her being a part of the process changed things a lot.”
In a piece of good luck, Australian fans will be among the first to see the group play live after their album release, with the band touring in February as part of the Laneway Festival. With a connection to the country through Mozgawa, Warpaint are keen visitors to Australia, much to the delight of their bassist.
“I think that Australia’s a wonderful place, it’s beautiful, I love it. I love the air, it’ll be summertime, and I love the people. I always have fun; I think it’s my favourite place to go,” says Lindberg. “And then hanging out with Stella’s parents and staying at her house where she grew up in is also really nice.”
Warpaint are no strangers to the Laneway set-up, having toured in the 2011 edition and more recently played Laneway’s American debut in Detroit. But according to Lindberg, the one-off American festival was a poor substitute for the more tour-oriented nature of the Australian Laneway.
“The American version of Laneway was kind of a typical festival, there wasn’t really anything I guess unique about it,” she says. “But in Australia you travel around with people, there’s a real band camp vibe. You get to be friends with the people in the other bands and you get to see them all the time, and it felt like family.”
And with Warpaint’s reputation for stunning live performances that transcend their studio material, Australian crowds should expect a very different Warpaint live than the band they know from the records. “I would say to expect it to be rather different than the record, much different than listening to it. I think the songs come alive more. I don’t want to say that they translate better, but I think it’s just a different experience. Sometimes bands can nail it and sound exactly like their record, other bands don’t sound like their record at all and it’s kind of strange. I guess what we’re known for is the live experience is much better.”
Image: Mia Kirby