Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint: “We’re still learning from our mistakes”

stella mozgawa

PLAYING new songs live for the first time never gets any easier, explains Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa.

“We played our first show in New York two nights ago and it was pretty nerve-wracking,” she says. “There were definitely a few band members ready to throw up at the drop of a hat. There’s always anxiety, but we survived, and we’re still learning from our mistakes, so this time around we know how much preparation goes into executing something like that.”

Warpaint’s excellent new self-titled album – only the Los Angeles quartet’s second since their 2004 formation – sees the band’s sound evolving in unexpected ways.

“It’s a little bit different to our last record,” says Mozgawa. “We weren’t really a fully functioning live band when we recorded before. We spent about two-and-a-half years promoting that record and performing live, and finding out the type of band that we actually were, just naturally throughout that process. I think during the whole process of touring the last album and then working out what we would want to do for the next one we realised that we wanted more space in our music.”

“I feel that the first record has a lot of excitement in it, but it’s a lot of teenage excitement and it’s not very measured. When we wrote the new songs they kind of went somewhere else, and we wanted to maintain the focus, but it’s hard to say what they’re like stylistically, as every song is a bit different. The album is just the most natural expression of who we are as a band at this very moment. It’s been called minimalist, and that was intentional I guess; to do things a bit differently, but I don’t think there was necessarily a strong, overriding theme of minimalism. That’s just what we found worked at the time, but we are still a band very conscious of not being over-produced and still having that natural element. Minimalism certainly has a lot to do with how we operate. We recorded it in Echo Park, Los Angeles, at a studio called Fivestar, and we mixed the majority at Assault and Battery in London, which is our producer’s home studio.”

Despite the clear vision the band had for the album, they found that one final ingredient was missing. Enter English producer Nigel Godrich, sometimes referred to as the “sixth member” of Radiohead.

“I think we got to a point towards the end of the mixing process with two songs – ‘Love Is To Die’ and ‘Feeling Alright’ – where we really needed some kind of objectivity, as we had been living with the album for many, many months,” says Mozgawa. “We needed someone who could see it from another angle, and we were really lucky to have Nigel available to us to do that. He’s really much more of an artist than a producer, and he made a real difference to those two songs.”

Not satisfied with simply releasing an album and embarking on a world tour at the same time, an upcoming documentary will accompany the album, which Mozgawa says will show the band in a new light.

“There are little pieces of it being released systematically over the next few months. It will tie in to the different elements; from the single release onwards. Eventually it will be a fully-formed piece. It’s being done by Chris Cunningham, who doesn’t do things in an obvious way, ever. It’s going to be more of an art-form that a conventional documentary; quite personal and something a little bit different.”

As part of their world tour, the band will make the trip to Australia to vie for audience attention as part of a stellar indie-rock Laneway Festival line-up, among the likes of Lorde, Haim, Kurt Vile and The Jezabels.

“We played Laneway three years ago and came back in July of that year as well, and we’re a different band in many ways,” she says. “We’ll be playing new songs as well as old, and hopefully people will have heard the new album before we come.”

WARPAINT PLAY LANEWAY FESTIVAL, RNA SHOWGROUNDS FRI 31 JAN. WARPAINT IS OUT NOW.

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