Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa Talks Gaga, Van Smells, Hip-Hop and the Band's New Album
The Los Angeles four-piece Warpaint crafts haunting dreampsych with iridescent harmonies and filmy reverb, but don't label them as an all-girl band: The quartet comes from the Thurston Moore school of rocking out. Warpaint's hypnotic post-whatever sound has drawn a legion of celebrity devotees, from the band's collective idol, RZA -- they're all big, big Wu-Tang fans -- to the late Heath Ledger (may he rest), and Shannyn Sossamon, vocalist/bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg's sister (and Warpaint's drummer before Stella Mozgawa). We caught up with the charming, hilarious Mozgawa earlier this week as she was relaxing at a friend's house. Our conversation topics ranged from dating musicians, her intense fascination with Lady Gaga and an undying love for sake bombs and hip-hop. Warpaint's at the Luminary Center for the Arts Tonight with Javelin. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 8 p.m.
LA's Warpaint play tonight at the Luminary Center for the Arts. From left, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg, Stella Mogzawa, Emily Kokal(front).
Diana Benanti: What do you do to relax in your down time, besides hanging out at friend's houses?
Stella Mozgawa: That's an important ingredient in relaxation. I took some time off and went to Joshua Tree and the Sequoia National Forest, that was my way of relaxing. But usually I get really nervous about downtime. I think everyone that tours can relate to post-tour depression, or PTD. Basically being inactive after being active for a long time is nerve wracking. When I'm back in town, I make music with the girls or rehearse or write with other people and play. You know, just keep playing music.
How did you guys get hooked up with The xx for the fall tour?
That actually happened through our booking agent. We just got an email saying, "Here's the routing for the tour -- do you guys want to do it? We got an offer." And we said of course. I'd heard a lot about them, and we listened to their album when we were on tour in Europe. Seeing them live was really very important, it demystified all the ideas I had about them as a band. Just seeing them physically and the way they interact on stage; it's very endearing and very earnest. There's not a lot of music like that right now. Heart on your sleeve, you know?"
What can you tell me about the full length album coming out on Rough Trade?
We started working on it January, few of the songs were written prior to that. We did it with a fellow called Tom Biller. We recorded twelve or thirteen tracks, and we're whittling it down now. I guess it's hopefully an evolution from what the EP was. I don't know how it differs in the production because I just joined the band last year. But as anyone will tell you in a band, it's multidimensional or multifaceted, hopefully. There's a few different styles and aesthetics that are presented on it, I suppose that's a pretentious response [laughs]. We finished it a while ago, but now we've been in the post production process for what seems like an eternity, and it will be out in October."
How many tracks on the new album were you involved in writing?
I guess all of them in some respects. Even if there was an origin of an idea, we all expand on that and try and make it a collaborative, democratic process where everyone feels comfortable with what they're doing, and feels that they've expressed themselves if they have an idea about the way that a song should be arranged or any changes or moods. We're all open to listening to each others points of view.
Do you have a favorite track off the new album?
Hmm, yeah, I probably have two. One of them is called "Bees," which is a song we've been doing live a fair bit since the beginning of the year. And there's another song hopefully people will like as well called "Shadow."
Do you think you've been pigeonholed as a band after that brilliant EP?
Perhaps, I think initially when a new band comes into your consciousness, you want to categorize them as a listener and a consumer -- "Oh, this would go really well with this half of my record collection, or I could listen to this on a mix with these other bands..." I supposed in some way every band gets pigeonholed, even if they're eclectic they're going to be pigeonholed as an eclectic band. I think there's definitely a film of frequency on the EP that people relate to. It's very reverb-y and submerged. I think to have control of you environment as a music lover, you have a natural tendency to say, "Oh this sounds a lot like this band or that band." I feel like every band naturally goes through that, you shouldn't be irate about that in any way. Once you put something out in the world it's going to be critiqued and minimized into something people can understand.
What did you learn from playing with your fellow Austrailians The Temper Trap?
"We only had one show with them, one got rained out and the other one we played in St. Louis. And that was great, we have a few mutual friends. I guess we just learned that Australians share a common sense of humor, a darkness to their comedy. They're a really hard-working band. They've received all that they deserve and I hear they're doing very well in the U.K. It's nice to see them branch out.
Did you have a chance to check out St. Louis when you were in town with Temper Trap?
We did actually. We went to a bar on top of a hotel after the show, and there was a really nice view of the Arch and someone told us lots of stories about the Arch and how people perished in the building of it, and little factoids about it. I guess we didn't really venture out too much, but we met a few locals who were very kind, everyone seems very generous and lovely and attractive in St. Louis. I hope we'll have a repeat of that, if not an evolution of that in a few days. That's actually where we start our tour, on the fifth.