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Q&A: Warpaint's Theresa Wayman

Photo: Q&A Warpaint's Theresa Wayman

Warpaint crafts multi-layered pop that’s both ethereal and accessible. The four-woman group, which hails from southern California, will perform at Kings Barcade in Raleigh this Sunday with PVT and Family Band. Photo courtesy of Rough Trade Records and Mia Kirby.

This week, Diversions staff writer Nina Rajagopalan spoke with Theresa Wayman of Warpaint, a Los Angeles foursome composed of vocalist and guitarist Wayman and Emily Kokal, Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa. The psych rock sirens compose melodies as foamy and flowing as crashing waves, and received a heap of buzz from bloggers and critics alike. Read on for Wayman’s take on cinematic sounds and bringing more women into music.

Diversions: Could you describe Warpaint’s beginnings?

Theresa Wayman: We started in 2004. Shannyn Sossaman is Jen (Lindberg)’s sister and we were together as a band for about a year, played a couple shows, split up for a year and then got back together, but lost Shannyn.

It took a while to find a group and good band formation. With Shannyn, we recorded the Exquisite Corpse EP. We recorded some of that EP with David Orlando doing some drums and also Josh Klinghoffer.

We were playing around Los Angeles probably averaging a show a week. We decided we were ready to branch out and so we met up with Rough Trade Records and signed a record deal. We recorded our first LP, The Fool, in the very beginning of 2010.

Dive: How do you think that LA or Southern California has influenced your sound?

TW: Los Angeles and Southern California have a wide-open sky and you’re free to roam around. It’s not all blocked off as in a city like New York that’s on an intense grid where you’re in closed quarters and people are stacked on each other.

So maybe there’s an expansive quality to our music that reflects the nature of southern California. Other than that I think we pull inspiration from just being human, which is where so many people pull inspiration from. That’s where our sound comes from more than anything else.

Dive: What’s a favorite show or festival that you’ve played?

TW: In Austin we opened for Sonic Youth. That was pretty much an apex moment. And we were just in Australia for the Laneway Festival and that was beyond compare. It was so much fun and so great to be traveling, playing ten different shows in ten different cities with a bunch of bands. It was really inspiring.

Dive: So you’ve worked with actress Shannyn Sossaman and guitarist John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Could you tell me a little bit about those collaborations?

TW: John Frusciante mixed our EP. He’s a great person and insane musician and he’s always been supportive of our band. He had a lot to do with the way our EP ended up sounding because he did a lot of the treatment on our guitars and the overall sound.

Shortly after I moved to LA, Emily and I met Shannyn and her sister Jenny. We all became friends because I think we were cut from the same cloth in a way. There are a lot of people in Los Angeles that are searching for fame and might be shallow and are not on the same wavelength as we are. But there are definitely a lot of great people there too, so you gravitate toward those people when you meet them.

Dive: If you could collaborate with any group or artist, who would it be?

TW: Connan Mockasin is really incredible. I think it’d be interesting to work with somebody like him. We toured with The xx and they became friends of ours. And I always thought it’d be fun to make a song that Romy [Madley Croft] could sing on.

Dive: Was there any particular theme or inspiration for your latest release, The Fool?

TW: There wasn’t really a conscious theme. It was more just us finally getting to put out these songs that we’d had for a while, some of them since the beginning of our band. I guess the main purpose of the album was to give life to these songs, coming from the place that we’re at right now. We just wanted to express the sound of us that we hadn’t really been able to put down yet. That’s always kind of our purpose — to express our feelings and the sounds we want to make.

Dive: What has been your most memorable moment with Warpaint thus far?

TW: In February we played a sold-out show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London and that was a really big, memorable moment. It was the biggest show we’d ever sold out and it was in London. That was pretty amazing.

Dive: Do you get many annoying questions about being an all-female group?

TW: There actually aren’t too many annoying questions about us being a girl band. I think if it’s that relevant an issue that people feel the need to ask then it’s relevant. Why is it that being an all-female band is so rare?

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I think it needs to be brought to people’s attention that music is dominated by the male gender and doesn’t need to be. Women may be amazing vocalists or great songwriters but there aren’t as many who take playing guitar or bass or learning how to produce music or engineer as seriously. And that’s an avenue for change for everyone. I think it’s an exciting opportunity for expansion.

Dive: What’s in the future for Warpaint?

TW: I’ve just been writing little things, songs and ideas, on the computer whenever I can, when I’m at home or on the road even. I think we’re all doing that. We’re going to take the fall off to write so we can record another album in the beginning of January. I’m just compiling ideas and if some of them become songs I’m happy for that. I think it’s fun to just make music all the time.
Right now the main project is touring. We’re not home very much. Touring is all-encompassing at this point. But I would really like to write music for film. I think that would be really, really fun.

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