I swear bands used to make their debut records more quickly. All it took was 24 hours in someone’s shed with nothing more than that heady mix of cheap cider and ambition to fuel that creative fire. Well, not so for Los Angeles’ four-piece, Warpaint. It has taken them a staggering six years to record their debut album. You’ll be glad to hear though that The Fool’s bruised alt-country is a triumph: all post-punk groove and psychedelia shimmer. It still begs the question: what took them so long? I caught up with Warpaint’s singer and guitarist, Emily Kokal, to find out why.
It was during this formative period that friend and producer of 2008’s Exquisite Corpse EP, Jake Bercovici, let Warpaint in on a secret: If they wanted to become a truly great band then they’d need to play at least a hundred shows. Warpaint set about doing just that, performing night after night in Los Angeles. So how did such relentless gigging help the band develop? “All that time in LA was great,” Emily recalls. “Because you’re playing for the same people a lot, you have to bring a new flavour. As things evolve, you have that challenge of playing a new show…After a while, we had played so many shows in LA that we just had to move forward.”
It appears that these LA shows gave Warpaint the time and space necessary to explore the full depths of their sound and in turn develop a complete mastery of their music. But when it came to recording a full length album, the band didn’t want to rush things. With a number of line-up changes, including four different drummers, it wasn’t until Stella Mozgawa joined on drums that the band felt ready to record an LP. “She comes with a ferocious energy and she brings that to a lot of the songs,” enthuses Emily. “They still have that ethereal, beautiful quality but it’s a little bit more full spectrum.” The band’s tortoise and hare philosophy has clearly worked; The Fool’s sprawling compositions intricately combine elements of post-rock with the innovative country stylings of bands like Mojave Three.
Having immersed themselves in the Los Angeles music scene for so long, it’s hard to imagine that the city didn’t in some way influence The Fool’s sound. “LA is a lot of things to a lot of people…The geography and all those differences have been a huge learning experience for me coming from a place that is so different, like Oregon. LA has so much going on; you have to find your niche,” Emily explains. “It’s been an interesting backdrop: a lot about growing up in your twenties in Los Angeles and not trying to be somebody.”
But it seems that in terms of Warpaint’s creative output, LA has had little influence. Emily states, “For a while, people were always making associations because we lived in Los Angeles. I feel like LA has had a very small influence on how we write and play music. It’s very funny that we live in Los Angeles. Even though I love it and call it home, we really don’t embody that archetype.”
With an extensive European tour planned in October to coincide with the album’s release, Warpaint are finally making their move. For a band that like doing things at their own speed, there must be a feeling of trepidation as things gather pace. “We are all learning, especially as it gets more intense, that we need to take care of ourselves and stay healthy. The time we spend together on the road has actually been really great for our relationship,” Emily states. “I think it’s really important for all of us to be grateful. We’re doing something together as the four of us, creating something that people can enjoy. To be unified in that is a complete blessing, and makes this the greatest job in the world.”
Illustration by Philip Dennis