A live session from LA indie band Warpaint
WeTransfer has partnered with Nigel Godrich's iconic music series From The Basement to bring you six new performances from some of the world's most extraordinary artists and bands. Here you can see a show by Los Angeles indie band Warpaint. Speaking to the four-piece, writer Lucy Bourton discovered the role of connection, equilibrium and trust in their creative process.
Nigel Godrich describes his relationship with Warpaint as “a sort of extended family affair.” And yet neither Godrich, nor the band’s members—Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa—can remember exactly the moment they met. “I remember meeting them, I want to say 20 years ago now,” Godrich says. “I can’t believe that’s possible.”
Though Godrich mixed a handful of tracks on the band’s eponymous 2014 album, the group had never come together in one room solely to create. From The Basement’s return has finally offered the producer an opportunity to fully collaborate with a band he believes to be a true gem.
Since the band’s official formation in 2004, Warpaint has always existed as a separate entity in the field of popular indie rock. Rising to prominence in a period dominated by male-fronted bands, Warpaint’s all-female lineup cut through with a DIY mentality and songwriting that leaned into “melody and references,” as Godrich puts it.
“Playing guitar can be a very macho thing, a totem, and all the clichés that go along with it are for good reason,” he says. As “a bunch of ballsy women,” Warpaint presents a much welcome alternative, devised on the band’s own terms. “Warpaint are clear about the things that they love, and they do it their way,” he adds.
In session, Warpaint’s performance is hypnotic to observe. Even on film, the friendship between them is palpable – there’s a constant energy exchange between each musician. Look out for the way guitarists Wayman and Kokal begin to sway in time with one another without realizing; the looks of encouragement drummer Mozgawa shoots her bandmates; and even how melodies are sung by all four with eyes tightly shut, as if tuning into the familiarity of one another’s voices. “I think it’s quite an interesting dynamic because they are all as important to each other,” Godrich says. “[The band] is a democratic entity, which makes it a bit harder sometimes, but you end up with a much more level partnership.”
Heading into Godrich’s studio just days after the release of Warpaint’s fourth record, “Radiate Like This,” Kokal recalls being “just so curious to see what it’s like to work with Nigel.” But in general, Warpaint aren’t huge fans of taped recordings—particularly on live television, where performances are often rushed. In previous instances, Mozgawa has been hampered by thoughts of “how many people could potentially see this performance, and then imagining that amount of people in front of you.”
“It’s so terrifying that I sometimes get a physiological reaction which I call ‘hot veins,’ where I feel every vein in my arms,” she explains. “In particular, I start to grip my drumsticks like a monkey.”
Aware of the nerves cameras and crews can generate, Godrich’s designed the From The Basement space to put artists at ease. “It makes sense that Nigel would find this really industrial space which has so much charm and character,” Kokal says. “It’s really homey, like how the control room is a nook in the corner…It has a quality of just serving the music.”
Wayman adds: “The room itself, the way the space was just extremely beautiful, it made you feel like you were part of something….”
“Ancient. Part of something ancient,” Lindberg interjects, finishing Wayman’s sentence.
That’s not to say it's a relaxed operation, though. “He’s very careful with the way things are printed to tape, the way they are recorded, the velocity of instruments, using the nicest mics available to an engineer,” Mozgawa says.
The equilibrium between technical rigor and looseness is a mindset Warpaint returns to often in conversation. As Wayman describes, “It’s this amazing perfect combination of all sides of music. [A recording session] has to be both things.”
It’s also a quality Warpaint sees in their own output. After over a decade of friendship, they are four individuals in tune with each other—which is especially noticeable on this recording, as they slip between songs released just a few months ago to those penned in 2010.
This level of understanding is expected of anyone coming near their process. “I think something that will always serve us is somebody who has a lot of trust and faith in us—who knows how to bring out the best of our individual and collective abilities, rather than imposing any kind of will. We are so wilful that they will fail,” laughs Kokal.
Mozgawa adds: “Every time.”