THROUGH THE fusion of dream pop and grunge, and flying a flag for 1990s indie virtues, while pointing new ways forward, Warpaint have reinvigorated alternative rock, and shown that guitar bands should not be the sole preserve of men.
Warpaint are Emily Kokal (vocals/guitar ), Theresa Wayman (guitar/vocals ), Jenny Lee Lindberg (bass/vocals ), and Stella Mozgawa (drums ). Although based in Los Angeles, and described as an ‘LA band’, its members actually hail from across the USA and beyond.
Emily Kokal was born in northern California but moved to Eugene, Oregon, with her parents at age 12. However Ireland was as much an influence on Kokal as was her Pacific Northwest surroundings.
“My mom is half-Irish and I grew up around a lot of Irish music; Clannad, Shepherd Moons, all the early U2,” she told Hotpress. “They were pretty much the only music I must have heard. ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, stuff like that, it educated me about things that were going on in the world. Ireland has loomed large for me ever since.”
Living next door to the newly arrived Kokals was the Wayman family whose daughter Theresa soon became close friends with Emily.
“We walked to school together. Basically, we did mostly everything together,” Emily says, “we still do. We moved to New York together when we turned 18. We travelled around Asia together. And we went to LA together.”
In 2004 Emily and Theresa decided to form a band and put together the first incarnation of Warpaint along with bass player Jenny Lee Lindberg and her sister, the actress and model Shannyn Sossamon. Shannyn left the following year and the band decided to call it a day.
“Shannyn figured it was too hard to have a child whilst still exploring her acting career, so she stopped,” Theresa told altmusic.com “Then Jen and Emily wanted to stop, too. I was pregnant at the time, but I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t stop. I ended up playing with Vincent [Gallo] up until I was eight months pregnant. I think part of that was that I was still heartbroken that Warpaint had stopped.”
However by the time Theresa’s son was four months old, it was decided to revive Warpaint and start again. “I was ready to come back,” said Theresa, “and they were ready to come back. Everyone agreed it was time.”
Having a child was also something Theresa found inspiring and liberating.
“There’s a lot of time in a day that gets wasted. If you have a kid, you just can’t live with yourself if you do that,” she told altmusic.com “You have to organise your days really well if you want to give all this energy to your child that you love so much, and then also be able to give that energy back to yourself. I almost get more done than the people around me that don’t have any restrictions. I also feel like I’m more inspired, and my life is more rich in a certain sense.”
The fledgling band was also gaining valuable advice and support from Emily’s former boyfriend, the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s John Fruscante, who played drums on and mixed their 2008 debut EP Exquisite Corpse.
“I learned a lot [from John] in terms of what to do or not to do,” Emily told Hotpress.
The positive critical reaction to Exquisite Corpse and strong sales in California led the band to sign with Rough Trae while Australian Stella Mozgawa became the fourth member of the group, taking up the drum stool.
By the end of 2010 Warpaint’s debut album The Fool was released, and met with much critical acclaim and healthy sales, marking their arrival as the coolest band in the indie/alternative scene.
Warpaint’s music draws on dream pop and shoegaze, delivering songs that are, by turns, haunting and hypnotic, but there is also an underlying grit and toughness, especially as the influence of grunge, particularly Nirvana, is discernible on songs like the great ‘Undertow’.
Indeed Warpaint acknowledged their debt to Kurt Cobain on the song with the ‘What’s the matter/You hurt yourself?’ line clearly echoing ‘Polly’. The Beatles are also referenced in the powerful and sinister ballad ‘Baby’ where Emily quotes from George Harrison’s ‘Long Long Long’.
Far from being magpies though, these influences coalesce to deliver songs that acknowledges their roots and look forward to show a band well on its way to finding its own signature sound.
Although Warpaint have a tendency to let songs meander and sometimes lose direction, the four women display enough strength, creativity, and potential on The Fool to justify the hype around them and offer strong promise of great things for the future.
Warpaint are also unique in being an all-female guitar rock band, something that is still a rarity and still seen as a novelty. Theresa Wayman is hopeful though that Warpaint will be an inspiration to young women to take up electric guitars and form bands.
“Being in an all-girl band doesn’t have to be so rare,” she told the Dallas Observer. “It doesn’t have to be so rare. I’m sure more and more women and girls will feel more confident to follow suit after seeing others do it.”
She also told www.dailytarheel.com: “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.”
It is, and Warpaint are clearly leading the way.
Warpaint make their Galway debut when they play Strange Brew at the Róisín Dubh on Thursday August 25 at 9pm. Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and www.roisindubh.net