Atmospheric art rockers Warpaint have been kicking around Los Angeles since 2004 but still manage to sound fresh and vibrant. CHRIS HAVERCROFT spoke to the band’s drummer STELLA MOZGAWA ahead of their Australian tour. Warpaint play Chevron Festival Gardens on February 19 as part of the Perth International Arts Festival.
Warpaint are touring on the back of their third album Heads Up. It is a record that came on the back of the band almost breaking up, and sees them push the boundaries of their sound even further than before. This is no small effort for a band who are known for their musical experimentation and sass.
“When that happens in a band it is not always a unanimous decision,” suggests Mozgawa of Warpaint nearly calling it quits. “I was not in that frame of mind where I thought that breaking up would be on the cards so that was a surprise to me. I do honour and respect how everybody in this band feels, because if we don’t listen to each other, then it will stop being fun and Warpaint as a band won’t survive.”
“It was an interesting period (and we have all been there individually at different times), but that was just a point of exhaustion. Basically because we toured the first record for two and a half years and for (the self-titled second) record we tried to cram in the same amount of touring into 18 months. It was exhausting. It affects peoples relationships with themselves, their partners, their families and their sense of stability. Touring is really important to the quality of life and making money, but it is a really taxing experience also.”
This reaffirming of their commitment to Warpaint has paid dividends on Heads Up. The approach to making this record was different to anything that the band had previously done. Instead of working the songs up as a group in a rehearsal room, each member would present demos to the other band members so they had a blueprint to work from. It has lead to a record that is full of haunting vocal harmonies, driving bass and bewitching sensuality.
“We used a lot of the stuff that people had worked on individually for the starting points for the new songs. Those demos were built upon, which allowed everyone to spread their wings a bit more, and that made for a much quicker process. There were a lot of demos that were pretty fleshed out by the time that they came to the band and that was a new and exciting way for us to record an album.”
Mozgawa is genuinely exciting about being able to play the songs from Heads Up live, and the opportunity that it provides the musicians to learn new skills. When writing these songs, there was a commitment to remain respectful of the intent and mood of the demos that other band members presented. This has lead to the most surprising song of Warpaint’s career – the effervescent slice of pop, New Song.
“I think it was a really good experiment for us to be able to make a song without being too judgemental about it,” reflects Mozgawa about New Song. It is still a song that feels like us and is indicative of who we are. Sometimes being honest is being a little bit silly and a little bit dumb. We don’t always have to be deeply emotional or shrouded in metaphor. It can be lighter too.”
Mozgawa says that Warpaint have a lot more material to draw from since their last appearance in Perth. The drummer is keen to show off the bands new skills and textures as they tackle their most recent batch of songs without relying too heavily on technology.
“We are trying to play these songs as live as possible and are avoiding playing to a track. We are trying to stay true to the soul of Warpaint whilst adding in some other elements. We want it to still be spontaneous and enjoyable to us and the crowd.”