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INTERVIEW: Warpaint
Patrick Kilkelly , June 2nd, 2014 13:12

We talk to vocalist and guitarist Theresa Wayman ahead of their set at this weekend's Field Day festival

This Saturday, June 7, L.A. indie collective Warpaint will be playing Field Day. Earlier this year, they released their self-titled second album, which built on the promise of their 2010 debut The Fool. Working with production luminaries Flood and Nigel Godrich, it effortlessly intertwines dusky whispers like 'Teese' and 'Hi' with full-throttle soul-chillers like 'Love Is To Die' and 'Drive'. The band's Theresa Wayman sat down with the Quietus to discuss séances, studio wizardry and English weather.

There's a kind of open, hazy shimmer to songs like 'Keep It Healthy' and 'Drive'. That's always been part of your sound, but did Flood bring that out even more? He was behind so many of those huge, chilly late 80s and early 90s records.

Theresa Wayman: With 'Drive', it feels like this big, dramatic soundscape. There's an undercurrent going on through the whole song, like a roaring river or something. 'Keep It Healthy' just sounds so much like a Warpaint song to me that it's hard to imagine it being compared to anything else. Flood's a wizard! At this point in his career, he just stands back and commands the machines to work for him, and they do, because they love him. They work really well for him.

What kind of specific things did he do to come up with the album's sound?

TW: He was just casting little spells here and there. It's a mystery, really - it just comes out at the end. Only he knows. The biggest surprise was when we were mixing and he put the first song up on the board. He said, "Okay, give me a minute, I'm gonna start this off and get it going, then you guys can come in and tell me what you think." It was amazing when we came in to listen; he'd really given the song life. That's when he's most powerful, I think. In front of the board, mixing, placing the parts of a song in relation to each other within the mix.

You all have your roles on stage, but from what I've read any of you might have been playing anything during recording.

TW: That's true. We like the feeling of someone playing an instrument they don't know very well, or know it technically very well. It allows for a new angle, something different. We like to utilise that, it keeps things fresh. Never falling into a rut.

In some of the live sessions you've done for songs from this album, you're veering off into more freak-out territory…

TW: Well, we've always done that. We've always liked to extend the ends of songs, or do little interludes, or find ways to keep the show fresh and ways to keep it feeling like we're not just playing by the book. We want the audience to experience a moment that no one else has, or will. We used to jam the end of songs for ten minutes, sometimes. I feel like, as a performer, you just have to do what you want to do and not think about standards; enjoy yourself.

I think 'Feeling Alright' is my favourite song on there. It really has that propulsive interplay between the bass and drums.

TW: I actually played the bass line on that one. I always love singing along to drums and bass, and I like writing vocals to bass and drum tracks. I wanted anything else which was put on top of the bass and drums, which were already sounding amazing, not to interfere so the relationship could be heard. I'm sure next time around we'll do more layering - I don't know. We're a really rhythm-based band.

'Disco//very' is quite a spooky song! It sounds like a coven of witches or something.

TW: As you've read in the press, we are satanic. Witchy, hippy freaks. It gets said all the time - that we're sirens.

Do you get sick of that kind of labelling?

TW: No, I don't get sick of it. I think it's funny when that side of us is exacerbated, in a certain sense. I get why it starts in the first place - we're mystical, we're from the desert, we're kind of witchy. I guess! It is a spooky song; it's like a séance or a chant that would be sung in séance… [SINGS]: "Don't you battle/ We'll kill you." It's just meant to be a gang song - it's our group saying, "Don't fuck with us". I think every band should have that, now and then.

'CC', 'Drive' and 'Son' make up this great dark trio towards the end of the album. I think the album really builds towards that end section.

TW: You try to think of the best way to wrap up an album. 'Son' seemed like the best ending - 'Drive' is this really epic, drawn-out, emotional roller coaster. Maybe you don't want that too early on. It's going to put your emotional experience of listening to the album to bed. You go through 'Drive', one of the last purges of emotion, then it starts to go down into something softer and more peaceful. Even though 'Son' can be quite sad, it has a peaceful, easy feeling to me.

What's been a high point of gigging with Warpaint?

TW: We went to Japan, and that was one of the most incredible gigs we've ever played. The venue [Hostess Club in Tokyo] was incredible, the sound was incredible - it was just an all-round good experience. The Japanese people are so attentive and caring, but in a non-intrusive way. That doesn't make it sterile, either - we did a signing and everyone comes up and shakes your hand and tells you how happy they are that you're there. Some of them went out of their way to give us really elaborate gifts. But then we played in Leeds last night, and the audience was really wild.

You were in the UK for a few dates earlier this year, and now you're coming back - being from Oregon you must feel quite at home with the weather here?

TW: Living in Los Angeles is difficult for me. Too much sunshine - it's too bright. Here is just like home. I actually really love it.

Warpaint is out now via Rough Trade. Warpaint play UEA in Norwich on June 4, followed by Field Day in London on June 7 and the Parklife Weekender in Manchester on June 8; head to the band's website for full details and tickets

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