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Rockers Warpaint riding wave of success straight to Hong Kong

Female rockers Warpaint are here to celebrate their 10th birthday, writes Oliver Clasper

 

Before American rockers Warpaint fly to Hong Kong, drummer Stella Mozgawa is straightening out a few misconceptions. Recent magazine articles have focused on the "sexiness" of their recently released sophomore album, but Mozgawa sees it in less clear-cut terms.

"I think that was an adjective taken out of context. We use that term quite liberally," she says. "In terms of sensuality, that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with sex, per se. But I do think it has to do with the music that we're all attracted to, and the sounds we tend to seek out when we listen to music, and, as a result, create for ourselves."

Warpaint emerged from the Los Angeles music scene in the early 2000s, and spent the years leading up to the end of that decade honing their sound, playing gigs, and writing tracks for their 2009 EP, Exquisite Corpse.

Actress Shannyn Sossamon and her sister, Jenny Lee Lindberg, joined founding members Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman. Sossamon then left after the EP and Mozgawa joined.

Mozgawa was invited to drum on Warpaint's debut album, The Fool, "and the rest is history". The Fool was released to near universal critical acclaim in 2010, but Warpaint still hadn't fully bonded as a team.

With Mozgawa on board, the four members travelled to the fabled desert lands of Joshua Tree in southern California to escape, relax and, most importantly, write a new record. It was there the group sensed a growing intimacy and mutual understanding, and the creative juices began to flow.

"And that applies to all of us, not just me integrating into the group, but everyone else feeling comfortable with the intimacy. And that changes how we expressed ourselves artistically. It was very much all of us growing together. It was a collective comfort."

Warpaint grew up in the late 1980s and early '90s. They were adolescents when hip hop, trip hop, grunge and electronica were at their height, and during the secluded writing process they began to listen to some of these sounds again, all of which can be heard on the new album.

Several tracks have a laconic, smoky sound reminiscent of trip hop figures like Tricky or Nightmares on Wax, but overall the new album's mood and atmosphere is significantly different to The Fool's more overtly rock sensibilities.

"Musically, it was a very nostalgic period for us when we were out in Joshua Tree," says Mozgawa. "We were revisiting bands like Deep Forest, early Aphex Twin, and Björk - even Enya - weird stuff like that, and things that reminded us of being in our early teens.

"It was all electronic music, in a way, but that simply didn't register with us at an early age."

For now, Warpaint are basking in the glory of another critically and commercially successful album, helped in no small part by the production skills of Flood and cover art designed by one of music's foremost filmmakers, Chris Cunningham (who is married to bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg).

And, significantly, the upcoming gig in Hong Kong will fall 10 years to the day since the band first formed. Lack of time means there's no chance for confirmation from Mozgawa on this point, but who needs facts when they get in the way of a little romance.

48hours@scmp.com

 

Warpaint and Youth Lagoon, February 14, 8pm, Kitec, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$360, ticketflap.com

 

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