Warpaint have quietly gone about their business for more than a decade, impressing and empowering all over the world. With the live music world gearing up for summer shows, the band are back in Europe and back with a new album.
SNACK caught up with Emily Kokal (vocals and guitar) and Theresa Wayman (vocals and guitar) to talk touring, babies, feeling re-energised, and reclaiming your identity.
You’re back on the road and new album Radiate Like This is coming out. How are you doing?
[TW] There’s some jetlag that took place last night! If you go to bed too late, and get some energy by moving on to your old schedule, that’s where I’m at right now. Other than the jetlag, it’s so good to be back. We’ve really missed the UK.
The album recording occurred in two time frames: pre– and during the pandemic. Did the album change much in this time?
[TW] In January 2020, the album wasn’t done, but most of the foundational tracking and a lot of the arrangements were ready. Some top-line stuff and vocals too, but most of that was yet to come. They weren’t ready to be presented to the world, and we were given two years to perfect them from then!
Were there lyrical or theme changes because of the change in the world?
[EK] I had a lot of change because my daughter was born in March 2020, and that changed the way I was working on music. It changed when I was pregnant, but then when she was born there were changes because of how motherhood felt, and literally having a baby sleeping next to me when I was recording changed my working! You had softer tones, in a circumstantial way and a metaphoric way: it’s just the nature of being a mother.
It’s been interesting as we’ve been over here for two days, and we brought her. She tried to take her tiny suitcase, and go find Theresa to spend the night. She’s really excited and that has quelled some of my anxiety.
She’s really stimulated by all the change, and that makes sense, because we’ve all gravitated to this lifestyle. It’s in our nature, and I believe it’s in her nature. It’s just ‘get on the bus, kid’.
The album sounds confident and at ease with itself. Is this a fair reflection on the group, or something you aimed for?
[TW] Having the time to get to know the songs in a way we’ve never been able to before, apart from Exquisite Corpse [the band’s debut EP] and some songs on The Fool [the band’s debut album], songs we were playing for a long time before recording, we haven’t had much time with our music. In that way, knowing them better would make them feel more confident and comfortable.
[EK] That’s really interesting as someone said this album reminded them of Exquisite Corpse or that it felt like some sort of return. I didn’t really relate to that, but the thing it has most in common with that record is the consideration.
Do you think the way you recorded this album is something you’d do again?
[TW] I would like some elements of what happens now, but not have it take as long, and not be so far apart while we’re finishing it. It was nice to have personal and solo journeys with a song, but I think you have to take moments for that while still being together as a group.
[EK:] If we learn anything from this experience, it’s that I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy for the band to be separated, even if some of the music benefitted from the consideration. It’s not the magic.
Did working on the album ensure you all remained connected even though you were far apart?
[EK] For me, my kid was born the day L.A. shut down, the exact moment everything shifted. It felt immediately introspective. The whole experience took me to the bedrock of myself, and how I was capable of balancing it all: the blessing of not having to deal with the outside world, so I could focus on those two things.
I started to come back to a relationship I had with music before I was in a band. I learned how to use Ableton better, be a better engineer, be able to reconsider vocals and not second guess myself or my projections on what people think. That was great, but the flip side is that a band can be really great in helping things move along and keeping perspective. There are plenty of things I erased that someone would have said were great!
While no one is looking for positives from the pandemic, did the break come at the right time for the band?
[TW] It was nice to be out of the album-making tour cycle we’ve been in for over ten years. It was nice to step away from that, be outside of the group, and feel my own impulses again and hear my own thoughts, know what matters to me the most, and reflect on what we’ve been doing mindlessly for the last 10 years. Maybe not mindlessly, but automatically…
I felt it when it was slowly coming back that this is me, not me tied to my band, just me. It was such a refreshing feeling. Now that we’re back together, I sense our individuality more, and I hope we can all retain that. That’s important.
Now that you’re back playing in the same room, have the songs evolved?
[EK] It felt like we were coming together to cover a record. The songs will continue to evolve while being road-tested. Now, we are prepared to play them with a certain degree of newness, reimagining and re-interpreting them for ease. We want to make it the live Warpaint experience that we’ve always done.
How do you go about creating your set list for a new tour?
[TW] We’re playing all our singles; we started there, in terms of new songs to learn. We had ambitions to learn the whole album.
[EK] Playing this album from start to finish would be an incredible experience. I’d love to do that
[TW] One day! So, the singles: we have a version of ‘Melting’ that has really changed for the live set. It was easier for us to pull out this version, and it’s a gorgeous version. We all know which old songs of ours we still love to play, and those get on the list. We came to a consensus really nicely this time around – it was a peaceful experience.
Has it been heated in the past?
[TW] Yeah, setlist decisions can create intense arguments. It seems like nothing, but your setlist is your structure on stage, and when you’re on stage, it can be a vulnerable situation. So you’re fighting for your comfort and when that doesn’t work for someone else, and they want something that makes you feel on edge, it can feel threatening. The setlist conversation can be intense, but we’ve grown past that.
Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
[EK] Find the things that you love that are just for yourself, that sculpt and shape and hone and tend to your inner desires.
[TW] Yeah! Amen. Also, we’re really excited to be here; it’s nice to connect with everyone. It’s only the beginning, and we’re ready to get going again.
Radiate Like This is released on May 6th on Virgin Records