Warpaint at SXSW: ‘We don’t have any rules’

Warpaint are, from left, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg, Emily Kokal, Stella Mozgawa and a second instance of Theresa Wayman,  who wanted to run to the other side of the panoramic photo to be included twice.
Warpaint are, from left, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg, Emily Kokal, Stella Mozgawa and a second instance of Theresa Wayman, who wanted to run to the other side of the panoramic photo to be included twice.

When the members of Warpaint sit down in the lobby café of the Omni Hotel in Austin, Texas, half of them order beers. It’s quarter past noon. This anecdote is a little misleading though; the band are taking it easy compared to when they played the SXSW Music Conference in 2011, when they played 13 shows in four days.

“When you start touring and you start playing festivals, you realize, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to meet all of these artists that we love and we’re actually contemporaries and part of this whole movement and culture’ and it’s just the most exciting thing,” says Theresa Wayman, who sings and plays guitar for the band.

“It’s kind of debaucherous,” chimes in Emily Kokal, who also sings and plays guitar. “You enjoy it in a different way each time. We don’t have any rules. It’s just what feels good. We’ve gotten better at listening to ourselves and figuring out what we want.”

Warpaint are only playing six SXSW shows this year, giving themselves a little bit of a break, and they all seem eager to take in sets by some of those contemporaries and new performers.

Wayman mentions the R&B singer BANKS.

“There’s this one song that is really amazing,” she says. “It’s called, ‘This Is What It Feels Like.’”

She produces her phone and plays a snippet of the song for her bandmates to hear. They all nod along. The conversation turns to En Vogue, the ’90s vocal group who Wayman says she used to watch video footage of repeatedly as a kid. Although the influence is not immediately apparent on Warpaint’s self-titled second album, which came out earlier this year, it makes sense. On most of the songs, the vocal notes are drawn out in a way that it’s easy to forget that they’re words delivering meaning and not just sounds, and the wispy harmonies float above as the instruments drive and dirge like classic alternative rock. Basically the sound is somewhere between En Vogue and The Cure.

“Soul is embedded in all of us,” says Kokal, “just like a lot of different musical stylings, but it’s not illuminated that we all like to dance. That’s something that ties us all together.”

Fellowship of the ring

Towards the end of the conversation, a girl approaches with a question.

“Have you guys seen a ring that looks just like this,” she asks, holding up her finger. After a moment she finds the ring that had fallen off when she had been sitting there. She says thank you and exits.

Wayman giggles as she reveals the girl who had lost the ring is the singer she’s most excited to hear play SXSW. “That’s BANKS!”

“She was really upset and cute,” says Kokal. “That song is amazing.”


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