Warpaint’s bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg has had a hell of a year. She released her debut solo album Right On! eight months ago. She's finished Warpaint's third album, Heads Up, which dropped on September 23rd, and, currently, she's on tour with the band she helped found in 2004.
Though Lindberg is commonly referred to as Warpaint’s bassist, with Stella Mozgawa the drummer, and Theresa Wayman and Emily Kokal the guitarists, in reality all four members are multi-instrumentalists, vocalists, and songwriters. The four-piece is a mainstay of the Los Angeles rock and roll scene. Their influences are vast, drawing as much from artists like Kate Bush and Sharon Van Etten as Aphex Twin and Kendrick Lamar.
Their first two records, Fool and Warpaint, earned them a reputation for being versatile, technically skilled musicians with a penchant for dark tones and brainy songwriting. After the release of their self-titled sophomore effort, Wayman formed BOSS with Hot Chip’s Sarah Jones and Guro Gikling, releasing a 7” called "I’m Down With That" on Rough Trade. Mozgawa recorded with Kurt Vile. Kokal teamed up with Paul Bergmann. Taking the time to pursue individual projects made regrouping to do Heads Up together a return to the familiar.
They recorded in downtown L.A., writing in pairs and then joining forces to finalize the album cuts. The result is a tight, 11-track collection that clocks in under 60 minutes. The vocals are more pronounced than ever before, and the music feels lighter, with danceable cuts like “New Song,” and “So Good,” alongside the more sentimental “By Your Side,” and “Dre.” It feels like a Cardigans album with 2016 electronic and R&B references woven in.
Complex spoke with Lindberg about the album, how more than ten years as friends and bandmates has changed for the group over time, and what taking some time apart meant for their collaboration process.
What’s with the rap references? Why call a song "Dre"?
It’s funny—honestly, whenever we’re making a record, I don’t listen to anything. One, because you’re there all day in the studio. And also, it makes it easier to get your head in the game. I really listened to what we were doing, and the editing. The song “Dre” has nothing to do with Dr. Dre. When we’re coming up with song titles, it’s always a working title. Theresa started playing that beat on her pad. We were like, “Oh that’s so amazing, let’s start with that.” I think someone said, “Oh, that’s some Dre shit.” And I was spelling it D-R-E-Y, because you don’t think about it.
Same thing with our the song "Biggy" on our last album, it had nothing to do with Biggie.
How did the ideas that make up this album come together?
For the most part we’re pretty easygoing about allowing the songs to flow. It’s pretty natural with the process. I don’t want to say “letting the songs write themselves,” but we were very easygoing. We had a lot of time with the producer. We had a lot of the time in the room together.
It’s great when you have the time to execute everyone’s ideas for something, but a lot of the time it’s counterproductive and can work against us more than for us. There’s a lot more freedom on this album, which I think you can hear. It’s a lot less heady.
You put out a solo project this year. Did having something that was just your own make the collaboration process with Warpaint feel different?
Yes it did. I was super excited to collaborate. I think it was really good for all of us to step away from this project to make our own art. We were so much more open with one another than we have been in so long.
Going away to make my own thing, with my own voice, and knowing that I was capable of standing on my own two feet—it makes you stronger. We rely on each other so much and it’s not a crutch, but we depend on each other. We know it’s not just all on one of us, there’s more people and more support to pick up slack where it needs to be picked up. Putting out your own project is so vulnerable and so exposed. Coming back, I felt focused and I was excited to hear what the girls had been working on.
What are you listening to now that the album’s done?
We’re on the bus right now. There’s this new Mike and Rich, Michael Paradinas [µ-Ziq] and Richard D. James [Aphex Twin]. They just re-released Expert Knob Twiddlers. Emily was playing that. We were listening to Kate Bush. Some Tears for Fears. In the parking lot the other day after a show we were listening to Kendrick Lamar.
How have your friendships changed over the course of the last 12 years?
I think it changes. It goes in phases. We all started out as friends. Stella came into the band and we didn’t really know her super well. We weren’t really friends with her beforehand. She was an acquaintance, we had met her a few times. Emily and Theresa grew up together, they’ve been best friends since they were eleven. I met them after and instantly fell in love with them. Over the years, collaborating, working on relationships in general can be super challenging. I think creative relationships, with others or just yourself, and dealing with the internal dialogue that comes with being an artist is pretty complicated. You might take things a little more personally, it’s not just a work relationship, it’s also a friendship. There are two sides to that. It can work against us, but because we’re friends we want to talk through it and work it out. Where you might just brush past it alone, we have to figure out how to communicate about it. No one is okay with not feeling close. It’s been great for us now, it’s really on point.
We do get in arguments, we do get in fights, there might be a bit of yelling, but at least it's over.I think we’ve gotten a lot better about not holding things in. We want to be good to one another, and love each other. We want our jobs to be fun.
You should enjoy your life, you should enjoy your job and the people you’re surrounded by. You also have to take care of yourself and make sure that you’re feeling happy, and you’re having compassion for yourself.
The results of a recent study on what young people are afraid of most didn’t point to the obvious—elections, war—but to loneliness. Lyrically you guys talk a lot about not being alone, getting through conflict, feeling love. How do you picture people listening to this album? What would you say to someone who doesn’t have a built-in group like a band?
Often when we’re writing lyrics, it might not be about what we’re experiencing, but it’s about what we want to experience. I think not being alone—obviously “By Your Side” is about a moment in time when we’re all together. Those girls could be anyone.
This record to me is very emotional. The vocals are a little bit more at the forefront, more clear, and they’ve got a little bit more conviction behind them, so you can actually hear what’s going on. I hope that it inspires people. I hope people listen to it start to finish. Coming up with the sequence and order and wanting the right flow is always a bit tricky and challenging. It’s never really about one specific thing.
Are there any easter eggs in the album people should listen for?
I can’t remember if it’s “Dre” or “By Your Side.” It’s Theresa and her brother talking—it got picked up. It sounds like this deep voice that got picked up. It sounds like “Bitch I Got You” but it doesn’t actually say that. It’s kind of subliminal—I went it and overdubbed it to make it sounds more like “Bitch I Got You,” and it happens like four times.