Radiating a positive message
by Daniel Moor
What’s completely new for Warpaint on Radiate Like This?
What was completely new is that the second half of the recording process was done in remotely. So the majority of the instrumentation was recorded together and then a lot of the vocals and a couple of overdubs was done in very intimate settings. I think you can hear that when listening to the vocal performances: there is a lot more richness to it, there is a lot more time that has put into it. I think that contributes to the record in a positive way.
Let’s take for example the first track and first single Champion. We find the pop and more immediate melodic side of Warpaint, but translated in a new a dimension and in a new atmosphere. Definitely less darky, with the beat that is like a relaxed breathing which immerses itself in an endless space. How did this song come about and what is its meaning?
Theresa had a demo of the song and she brought it into one of our first session together while we were writing and recording ideas in my studio in Joshua Tree and we all started to work on it. It got pretty far along in that initial session with all of us. We were all excited to hear it and we all had ideas immediately, we put down those ideas and we just continued to work on it.
In terms of the meaning, I can’t really speak for the meaning in terms of Theresa’s point of view. But I definitely think it has a really positive warmth energy and a positive and warmth message. It’s just having this self confidence and understanding of how beautiful and fragile it is to be a human.
I think that the album cover conveys well this brighter and positive message of the record. Did you choose it for this reason?
I think we were all attracted to how beautiful it looked just as a work of art or as a picture on its own, without the context of an album cover. Just seemed like something that you want to look at: It has a natural and relaxing quality to it. It really tied the room together when we were choosing the record cover. It immediately felt correct.
I really love the song Melting and its arrangement!
Could you tell me more about it?
That song took a while to get into its final arrangement. We tried a few different ways. We did an initial session with John Congleton in Los Angeles and we kind of continue to built on that idea. There were differing opinions of how dark versus how light the song is, but I think that the final form is a nice blend of both light and dark, kind of a bittersweet, but also a really positive message.
You extracted the album title from a line of this song. Why ‘radiate like this’?
Again, like the front cover, it felt right. I think is always nice when an album is named after a lyric in one of the songs. It gives that song or that moment in that song this power that wouldn’t otherwise have and people can focus for the rest of the album on this message or this intention that the band has. And that [lyric] felt positive, outwarded, extroverted, it felt all the things that we felt like hopefully the album was successful in communicating to the world.
I think it will be a success! I really loved the old ones, but I think this one could become my favourite of yours. And I think that the overall reception is going to be good!
Thank you, awesome! This is great to hear!
Proof is another really powerful song (and your drumming there is perfect as usual). It’s impossible to hold back from dancing or headbanging! What did inspire this song and how did you approach it as a drummer?
Thank you! That was definitely one of my favourite songs, so I’m glad you mentioned it. We have a rehearsal / sometime recording space where we recorded most of our previous album in. We were doing a lot of more live demos of the tracks for the record in that space. So we had a version of Proof that we were happy with, but the bass wasn’t fully locked in, and the drums weren’t as bold on the original version. Sam, our producer, pushed me to do a bolder performance with a lot more fills and things like that and it [the song] got a lot bigger, a lot more forceful and a lot more colourful in that process. We sat on that song for a little while, but it was a really fun one to make.
I read that your previous album, Heads Up,has been composed and recorded very quickly, but this album took a while. Do you think that there are substantial differences in your music due to this new approach during the writing and recording phase?
The majority of the writing as a band was done before the pandemic. A lot of the vocal performances was done in isolation. So generally speaking when you have a deadline and you looking to make that deadline and there is nothing like a pandemic that is slowing you down necessarily. But with the extra time you can work with intimate and final details and start to add them to make this richer picture of what the album should sound like. As opposed to cutting corners which often a lot of people have to do because they are paying for an expensive studio or they’re paying for someone’s else time. It’s a lot harder to go deeper with those things unless you are doing yourself.
In the future we are lucky that we have this technique now, especially Theresa and Emily have gotten a lot better on self-engineering their vocals and finding things that they feel comfortable with and really digging into that. I think that it allows the music to develop this whole other layer of musical interest because of that extra time that’s taken.
We talked about this positive message and the brighter atmosphere in the album, but there is a recent darker song, Lilys. How did this song come about and why did you decide not to put it on the record?
It was a long conversation and there were different opinions on whether the song should be on the record, but I think having making space for things that people haven’t heard yet maybe took precedence in that decision. We had a version of the record where Lilys was one of the tracks, but it never really flowed as well as it did without it. We tried so many different tracklists and it always felt like it distorted the picture a little bit too much or felt a little bit out of place even thou we really love that song.
That was a song that Theresa and I put together. It was just loops that I caught up of her playing her synthesizer and they kind of arrange in a sort of musical landscape. And then we recorded some drums and I threw it into a folder that we were sending to Sam before he flew to America. It was on the desktop and it was just an idea that I don’t know If even played to Emily and Jenny yet. Sam liked it and was really keen on us continuing work on it and finish it. Yeah, I’m glad that we did!
Yeah, is a really good song, but I agree with you: it doesn’t fit so well on the record.
No, yeah, it was hard to find a place for it.
You started the European Tour yesterday, right? What was it like to play the news songs live?
It’s really challenging, but also really fun. We’re just doing in-store shows now and a bit of promo. The official tour starts next week. Right now, we’re doing a shorter set, but it’s a really good warm-up for the bigger shows. We’re still figuring out the best way to do the new songs and fit them into the set. It’s exciting!
Now I have a couple of question for you Stella! You are a Cate Le Bon’s long-time collaborator. How was it like to work on her wonderful new record? It was during the lockdown, right?...
I ended up doing a lot of the drums from a studio in Sidney where I was recording Courtney Barnett’s album in. In between the two chunks of Courtney’s session I had about 5 or 6 days in between and the engineers there were kind enough to let me come in very early in the morning. I was waking up like at 5 in the morning and get in the studio at 6.30 and at that point was 9 or 10 pm in Wales. So Samur and Cate were opening bottles of wine while I was still chugging coffee.
Because we are so used to work in a studio together and we are such close friends, we were both nervous about how it would work communicating through laptops screen. I feel so safe with Cate in the studio, and she’s really good at letting know exactly what she wants and I’m hopefully good at interpreting that. We get to where we need to go pretty quickly. Luckily, we have established this wonderful work environment and it’s a lot easier to get things done and also it was fun, even on Google Meet, to just hang out with her in the morning.
And the album is so good! I loved it.
Yeah, she’s just the best! Apart from being my friends and apart from working with her on some of her last few albums, I still am such a huge fan of what she does and every time I hear the finished product of her record I just feel so lucky to be a part of it, because she is really special.
You just announced a self-title debut album with your other project Belief. What could we expect from this record?
It’s an electronic project with myself and Bryan Hollon, who works under the Boom Bip. It is in the spirit of early Warp record stuffs. We are influenced by LFO, Aphex Twin and the music in that kind of environment is a huge inspiration for this record. We released a couple of singles and we were always excited about what was coming next. Yeah, it’s an exciting project.
It was a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you for your time and good luck for the tour and the album release! I hope to see you all play sometime in Italy or in Switzerland!
Thank you so much! I’m not sure for playing in Italy for this tour but I’m definitely gonna be over there with Courtney Barnett in June. So, yeah, I’ll be somewhere in Italy in the next two months.
The marriage of the head and the heart
by Giulia Polvara, Luca Pasi, Stefano Macchi
This is definitely not the first time we hear about Warpaint. The all-girl quartet already has behind them numerous EP's, including one from 2008, Exquisite Corpse, mixed by no less than John Frusciante, and a debut album, The Fool, which won over critics worldwide, gaining them the title of legit successors to Siouxsie And The Banshees. Now that only a couple of weeks separate us from the release of their sophomore album, Warpaint, we thought it was the right time to have a chat with Stella Mozgawa, the Australian drummer who joined the band back in 2009. We talked about the great producer Flood, the importance of reconciling the head and the heart when making music, and, somehow, even Tom Jones came up. The whole interview was constantly marked, much to my embarassment, by the screams of my cockatiel, Betty.
Alright, let's start with the questions. Where did you record the new album and which approach did you use in comparison to the last one, “The Fool”?
Well, we recorded it in LA, mostly, with Flood, when we started the recording process. We also rented out a house in Joshua Tree for a month, March 2012. And so that month, the stuff that happened there was kind of the genesis for a lot of the album. There was one song in particular that was recorded in Joshua Tree, almost entirely, then a lot of demos which we still used, that we recorded in our space; things like “Feeling alright” comes from a demo that Therese and I recorded in our rehearsing space downtown. Then when Flood came in we re-recorded some of the songs.
Speaking about Flood, how was working with him? He worked with really influential musicians, like PJ Harvey, New Order, Nine Inch Nails. What sort of impact did it have on your music?
Well, the thing about him that is so interesting is that he doesn’t really have his own style. Not in the way that he’s never found his own, or whatever. He has technical things that he’s been doing for years. But when you listen to something like the last PJ Harvey’s record, Let England Shake, I remember when I heard that, I had no idea he produced it, because he hadn’t produced the ones just prior to that. So I wondered, “did she do it, or maybe John Parish did it?” And I just always felt like when I really loved the sound of something or its approach and it almost sounded like it was not produced in a way, when it felt so natural, it always came from him. And he has the ability of making everything you do sound exactly the way you want it to sound, it’s not just with demo, even with a lot of hi-fi stuff. It’s actually a very remarkable abilty, for someone who’s so experienced to have that with a band who isn’t Depeche Mode or U2, to trust what the band wants and go with it. He’s so humble and so hard-working, he’s got so much integrity and he really believes in making the best piece of work and the best album that you can, instead of it being like “oh we need it to sound like this cause it’s what I did with U2” or whatever, or even like “we have to make it sound like this cause it’s what Pitchfork’s really loving at the moment”. He doesn’t give a shit about all that. He only wants to make sure that it’s a good album from start to finish. That’s the only thing he ever said and that’s the only thing he ever cared about.
I read that Billy Corgan said something similar. He truly listens to the bands and just goes with their style.
Yeah, that’s exactly correct, and I think that’s why he’s so successful. There actually very few producers that do that, you know.
And that way you could keep your sound.
Exactly. The only other producer that I can think of and that I’ve worked with on something else who has that kind of approach is Ethan Jones. I feel like they’re two of the coolest, most integral and most honest producers in the world.
What did you work on with Ethan Jones?
Uhm, I played drums on a Tom Jones’ record. Pretty awesome.
Ah, really? When was that?
It came out last year, but it was recorded around October of 2011. That was pretty incredible and he’s an amazing producer. I think it’s very rare, though, to find people like them who have that kind of quality, where they can be almost like a fly on the wall and totally respect the dynamic that’s occurring, instead of going, “Well, I know better, and this is how it should sound.” There was never that kind of energy, it’s basically like you’re inviting another musician into your world.
…Who respects you?
Yeah, who respects you and you respect them and if that relationship is functional and it’s working, then it brings about the best results, I think.
So you think you'll keep working with Flood in the future?
We’ll see. The thing is, it was one of those cosmic things where we wanted to work with each other at the very same time, and he’s very particular about who he works with. He wouldn’t work with a band if he felt like he couldn’t do anything with them, or for them, or if he wasn’t excited about the prospect of working with them. So, we’ll just have to see. It’s difficult to say at this point, cause we’re so much in the world of this current record.
Right, you’re obviously not thinking about the next record just yet...
Yeah, not yet. We couldn’t wait for it to come out and we want to live in its world for a little bit. But Flood’s really happy with the way the record came out, and so are we.
Let’s get back to this record, then. How did you approach the lyrics and what is the writing process like?
Uhm, in terms of lyrics, Emily and Therese write them. So I can’t really say what their routine is like in terms of making the music, but generally, just by working with them, I’ve seen the way things progress, sort of naturally. It’s not so much like, “Oh here’s a poem that I wrote. And here’s a song you guys wrote. So I’m just gonna put the poem together with the music.” It’s almost like a textural, syllabic thing, just sounds that you say in the heat of the moment.
So is it more about the sound rather than the lyrics?
No, I think it starts with sound and then manifests into something that’s meaningful, in some way. If that makes sense. It starts out with something that’s very textural and organic in some ways, and then putting it together in a way that makes sense, trying to understand why that came up in the first place, or the way our tongues was wrapping around those words. It’s almost like speaking in tongues. It always feels like there’s meaningful stuff in there.
You develop lyrics and sound at the same time, it’s like something indefinite, am I right?
Yeah, exactly. I mean, that’s not strictly how it’s done. But that’s very perceptive, it’s kinda what tends to happen, yeah.
How does the new record sound in relation to “The Fool”? Has your sound changed a lot? It felt like the sound spectrum changed quite a bit, can you tell me a little about that? Is there a conscious direction that you’ve taken?
Uhm, not so much conscious, but I think it all came from that period in Joshua Tree, where we were able to do whatever we wanted to do and it had nothing to do with anything, we just thought of what was exciting us at that moment, the ideas that we had for a while or that we just came up with. It was very much about exploring new things that we hadn’t necessarily explored before. Because we had the chance and the time to actually sit down and experiment with one another, and we’d never really had that before. I joined the band a few weeks before we recorded “The Fool”. We never really had a time to sit down and just write music together. So this was a new experience for the four of us and it was very exciting for all of us, more than anything else. I don’t think we were inhibiting ourselves in any way with this new record. We didn’t plan to, you know, try something a bit more electronic or whatever. I know it sounds weird, but we never have those kind of conversations as a band. You know, fuck that, we just make music that feels really good to us and that we’re excited about playing, because we know for a fact that when you go out and play that song, if you’re not feeling that song then the crowd isn’t gonna feel it either and you’re be fucking miserable. Because you’ll have to play that song that you never really liked for two years of your life and you have to look like you mean it. So the most important thing to us is to make sure that we mean it.
It feels like everything related to your music is instinctive, which I think is one of the best feature of your whole discography. From what you told me so far it sounds like is nothing conscious or coming from thoughts.
Good point, actually. There is a lot of talking between us in terms of like “do this or try that,” that’s really vocal. But it’s never like, “oh, let’s sit down and figure stuff out”…
That kind of kills the music, in my opinion…
Well, you know what? I can’t judge, because for some people that really works, which is awesome for them. Everyone has to find their method of doing something, and I think that’s really important. With us, it just feels really unnatural. The girls, or Ethan, years before I was even in the band, they never really worked like that. So it would be weird for us to start doing that now. We’re really particular about things, but that’s one thing that we never really talk about.
What about the last song of the record, “Son”, what’s the story behind it?
That is a song that Theresa wrote, there were a few things involved over the time we were making the album. It’s about her son and about resolving the cards that you’ve been dealt in your life. Having to go on tour and all that stuff and also being a mum…it’s pretty crazy. I love that song, I think it’s one of my favorites.
How did you meet the girls?
When I moved to LA, I came over here to make the record with Flea, from Red Hot Chili Peppers. He knows the girls, they have a lot of mutual friends, we realized we also have lots of mutual friends. And it was during that time I decided I wasn’t going to be a touring musician, they were looking for a drummer. It was this serendipitous thing, really. It was good timing.
I read that Godrich, who also worked with Radiohead, mixed two of the tracks…How was that?
Yeah, it was “Feeling Alright” and “Love Is To Die”. It was actually just him, my manager and myself…I was the only one in London at the time. He did it all by himself, it wasn’t really like an event or anything. But he kinda saved the day for us. We had been mixing with the Flood for the past month, and there still were two songs that the mixes weren’t really finished for and it was time for someone else to give it a shot. And you couldn’t get any better than that, you know, Nigel and Flood. We were incredibly lucky. To be honest, I don’t think we deserve it.
I mean, I think it’s gonna make us want to be really good and deserve it. We’ll spend the next two years playing this new album with a sense of humility and gratitude for the experience with those people.
Your tour doesn’t contemplate any stops in Italy at the moment.
Oh really?! We’re gonna get over there. I can’t really announce it just yet. But there’s no chance in hell that we’re not coming to Italy. They’re just announcing things bit by bit. But it will happen.
Do you think our country is cut off from the “indie” circuit?
I don’t think so, actually. Everytime we’ve been in Italy, especially in Milan, it was awesome. We played at a small festival [Living Room] with Dinosaur Jr. and a bunch of other cool bands, about a year and a half ago. But we played there once before, or we went there for print or something.
What about Primavera Sound 2014? Are you gonna be in the line-up?
? [She wouldn't give away anything.]
What kind of music inspires you?
For me, I think it’s just music that sounds like it’s made from the heart. Also, if it’s made from the head then it has a lot of heart in it. A record can be very intellectual, but very sensual and meaningful at the same time. For me, personally, it’s a combination of those two things. The marriage of the head and the heart. But bands we all agree on are like Talking Heads, Aphex Twin, a lot of electronic music and stuff like that.
Are you guys still in touch with John Frusciante?
Not so much, no. But he’s a really important part of bringing the band to life, you know, and he’s a friend.