Exuding understated cool and a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude, Warpaint have been nonchalantly seducing us since the release of their 2008 EP, Exquisite Corpse. With their off-kilter rhythms, disregard for structure and songs hitting the five to six minute mark, it was clear from the start that they weren’t interested in following rules.
In 2010, the all-girl band released much raved-about album The Fool, which built on their gift for creating eerie, dreamlike soundscapes. Stripped down and lo-fi one minute, gorgeously layered and complex the next, Warpaint nod discreetly to bands like Pixies and The xx, then stroll on past them to a place where they can only be compared to themselves.
Unusually, they’ve chosen to release the next single from Exquisite Corpse rather than put out new material. ‘Billie Holiday’ is a re-imagining 1960 hit ‘My Guy’ for the cynical and jilted generation, a mournful, spaced-out tale of obsession worn thin to become an apathetic, pointless, yet inescapable compulsion. i-D online caught-up with drummer and newest member of the band, Stella Mozgawa, who offers some insight in to the new single, the irrelevance of genres, and the power of subliminal messaging…
It’s quite unusual that you’ve chosen to release a song from a previous EP rather than new material. What influenced this decision? It wasn’t initially the idea, it was a track that was going to be released as part of a deluxe package. I think when we’re ready to do something else we’ll have another song that we record, but this belongs to that period of time – we don’t want to get it too confused.
So is the new material going to be radically different? Not exceptionally, it’s still gonna be the same group of people, the same minds and we all have the same idea about what attracts us musically so in that sense we’re not going to stray a great deal. It’s not like, ‘we’re so fed up with that style’… we just create the way we like to create naturally, and whatever happens is gonna happen. The experimental phase is coming now!
You’ve had every genre under the sun thrown at you – do you think labels are helpful or do they cloud what you’re trying to do? I don’t think they are one way or another. It would be different if we were a band who were obsessed with that culture – like, we have to be giving this kind of message or be this kind of band. If there was that obsession, the labels would have made a huge impact, but instead it’s just part and parcel, it’s how someone else describes our music. We know the things we like in the moment and things we want to bring to the table as opposed to, ‘oh we have to find our sound’.
You do seem to have quite a 90’s aesthetic… A lot of people say 80’s, and other people say we don’t really belong to any historical musical period. We’re not more influenced by one decade than another and we’re not obsessed with the revivalist movement of 90’s music that’s happening now.
The new single borrows heavily from the song ‘My Guy’, which is almost insanely optimistic. Your version feels very different. What are you trying to say with your take on the song? Both the Billie Holiday aspect of the song and the ‘My Guy’ aspect were not conscious… I remember Emily saying that they were playing this one song over and over again, and there was this picture of Billie Holiday in the rehearsal room and she just started spelling out whatever would fit… it wasn’t like this huge homage to Billie Holiday, it was subliminal influences and with the song [My Guy] as well, it just felt right to go in to that.
So Billie Holiday isn’t a massive heroine of yours? I think that we appreciate her music but I can’t say that Warpaint are huge Billie Holiday fans and we felt compelled to write a song about her specifically.
Speaking of female singers, do you locate yourself within the context of all-female bands and artists? Not actively. We don’t feel that we’re in a scene or part of a movement at all. The movement’s happening within all of us just trying to create with each other. I think that’s what we focus on as opposed to what’s happening on the periphery, and not out of disrespect… in a respectful way, we’re in our own bubble.
So are there any bands that you do identify with or are inspired by? We definitely have an affinity with The xx – we appreciate the way they approach music and the way they are as people… I think we’re attracted to people who mean what they do, in the same way that you listen to your favourite record and it inspires you to do your best.
Your music is really atmospheric – would you like to write the score for a film, and if so what kind of film? Shit, I love so many directors… something with depth, maybe…I would love to have scored a late 60’s early 70’s Roman Polanski film. Something like Rosemary’s Baby, something that has a dark edge to it. Something precarious.
Warpaint will be releasing Billie Holiday on September 26th accompanied by the reissuing of album, The Fool.
Text: Theresa Heath
Photography: Ronald Dick for The Livin’ Loud Issue