Thursday 25 May 2017

Warpaint know how to mix rocking tunes with quirky fashion

Warpaint with Theresa Wayman left
Warpaint with Theresa Wayman left

Ailbhe Malone

Warpaint are on the warpath. Well, not quite. They're on tour, and are currently in Poland. Guitarist and vocalist Theresa Wayman is enjoying a rare afternoon off and browsing a local market. She's trying to focus on our chat in order to resist buying crockery, but it's proving difficult: "There's all this stuff I want to buy. I'm tempted, I'm the worst. But then if you ship it, you pay double!"



She's a little frazzled, to say the least. In the past few days they've flown -- and played -- around the world. Laughing, she explains: "This tour is pretty stressful. We just had an intense few days. We played a bunch of shows in Australia -- like, a week straight -- and then we went to Japan. We flew to Tokyo Airport and then it was a five-hour drive to Fuji Rocks. So it's 15 hours of travel already. We got there, we had two hours before we had to play, and then we were there for another few hours and had to leave to fly to Singapore. That was really intense. And we had that evening off in Singapore. Played the next day, and then flew 14 hours to Poland. And here I am!"

It's been quite the year for Warpaint. Debut album The Fool came out in October last year and, though it didn't chart particularly well, the critical response was overwhelmingly good. Dark, melancholic and guilty, it sounded like an internal soundtrack of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca -- wearing an American Apparel hoodie. The quartet -- already darlings of the LA music scene -- went global.

It was a swift learning curve. Wayman, reminiscing about an early gig, cringes. "There was a show in New York, where I was pretty sick, and had to choke back puking on stage". Equally, playing festivals was a disorientating experience, she points out.

"At first it was alarming, but now I've got it fine-tuned. You've just got to take it for what it is. You know your sound isn't going to be 100pc. Just have a really good time with it. Take a punk approach where it doesn't matter if your amp sound sucks. Just go with it. We're so excited about Electric Picnic, I've heard it's really nice. We love playing for an Irish crowd. They're the best. They really get into it -- they show love, and they show that they're having a good time. Even though I love playing in London, the Irish show it a lot more."

There has been a different side-effect of their sudden fame apart from being booked for bigger shows, though. Coupled with their indie credentials, their vast vintage wardrobes and enviable bone structures, the band have been targeted with the same fash-pack fan fervour normally reserved for icons such as Alexa Chung and the Olsen twins.

I mention to Wayman that there is a Tumblr devoted to each member of the band -- cataloguing their outfit choices and hairdos. She's amazed. "That's really funny! I haven't seen that yet. It is a bit weird. I'm getting a little bit more used to it now, because there was a bunch of people who had started a Facebook page and fan pages from the very beginning of Warpaint. So, I've gotten used to the idea a little bit.

"I can't be opposed to it! I don't put a lot of thought into things like that, though. I feel that if I put a lot of thought into things like that, or if I get too into things like that, then I would also be really bummed if someone said something mean about me -- which will probably happen as well. It probably happens already! I don't like to put too much emphasis on it in my own mind."

She's incredibly self-aware. While she understands the appeal of street-style sites, and is reluctant to talk down fashion blogs, she's adamant that "the internet isn't why I'm doing what I'm doing -- or why we're doing what we're doing at all. I don't want to think about that. I mean, I have a personal style now and I enjoy dressing up and caring about the way that I look. But I like caring about it as an expression of how I feel inside, and as an expression of who I am. I don't do it for Tumblr or whatever. I feel that if I were to pay too much attention to people and what they say about what I'm doing, then it wouldn't be natural anymore".

However, Wayman takes a far different approach to music criticism online. Rather than refusing point-blank to read anything written about Warpaint, she actively seeks it out "because it's informative, and it helps me figure out what I need to do better".

She points out, "it also helps me figure out what's going well. And from that perspective it's useful. That perspective of how people are receiving you isn't just obsolete, it matters. I just don't want to take it too far -- and have that be the thing that matters most. It definitely has validity and I like listening to people's feedback and taking it from there. I am in this to please people's ears! I'm in it for myself, but I'm also in it for the people that care about the music we're making. I want to be able to be the best that I can be for everyone involved. I think there's some grey area where we can work with each other -- meaning Warpaint and the crowd."

While this amount of level-headedness is to some degree inbuilt, Wayman attributes her zen to songwriting. The group are slowly working on the follow-up to The Fool. She says: "We're working on a new track and we're going to use that to test out how we want to record our next album.

"We don't have a lot of time to write with each other -- that's the first thing we're going to do once we're finished with this tour in September. But we all jam out at soundchecks, and sometimes things will happen and we'll be like 'oh my gosh you have to remember that melody' or whatever. So we're logging things. Individually each of us is writing things that we can bring to the table."

Above all, Wayman's not worried about losing the emotional drive of their debut. Giggling, she comments: "I think that there's never a lack of emotion or feeling at all from any of us. We're not worried about losing that.

"We're pretty much always extreme in life in a really emotional way. It's always been a thing that's actually unified us as a band -- we approach music from an emotional standpoint most of the time. It's not tiring -- it's cathartic! It helps to release the emotions that you would otherwise be having pent up. You don't have emotions clogging your perspective, so you can approach other things in a more practical or intellectual kind of way -- rather than being super-charged with emotion all the time."

Warpaint play Electric Picnic on September 2

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