Warpaint

The most important element of Warpaint’s second, self-titled album is space. The hauntingly lovely sounds that comprise its 12 songs are punctuated by a distinct absence of sound, one that elevates the band’s music to a new place of depth and emotional poignancy. For the Los Angeles rock band crafting a second album offered an opportunity to expand the ethereal, hypnotic songs on their 2010 debut The Fool and to mirror their extensive live experience on a recording while allowing for the inclusion of more room.

The group, formed in 2004 by Kokal, Wayman and Lindberg, toured on The Fool for two and half years, solidifying the bond between the musicians over the course of numerous performances around the world. The new album represents Mozgawa’s first full collaboration with Warpaint since she jointed shortly before the band recorded The Fool in late 2009, something that augmented the experience this time for everyone involved. The initial work on Warpaint began at a house in Joshua Tree in March of 2012, where the four musicians decamped to write and demo early ideas for the new songs. There was no immediate vision or goal, instead the band wanted to create a meditative place in which to channel inspiration.

“We could come from any direction we wanted,” Kokal says. “Here we’d been playing the same songs over and over again on tour and being in Joshua Tree it was like a dam was released and all this water started flowing out. Recording and writing this album, we really started to play and interact with each other in a new kind of way. It was the natural next level of getting to know each other and discover our album. I think the element of space became kind of a band member, and we were very conscious of not trying to fill in every silent moment anymore.”

The musicians spent a month in Joshua Tree before returning to Los Angeles, where they continued to write and demo before going into the studio with Flood in January of 2013. The producer, the only person on the band’s producer wishlist, joined the group at Five Star Studios in Echo Park for six weeks. The band was drawn to Flood’s ability to balance the lo-fi aesthetic of a raw demo with hi-fi production, a sensibility they hoped to embrace when recording the new tracks. In fact, several of the demo pieces made their way onto the final tracks on Warpaint.

“I could hear in Flood’s work with PJ Harvey that he was comfortable with having a demo-type feeling to the music sometimes but able to translate that on to a greater level of professional sound,” Wayman says. “He’s got so much experience under his belt and he’s really talented at creating things, making them sound big and luscious. We used a lot of mood-enhancing atmospheric stuff, like synths and electronic drums. We all love hip-hop and trip-hop, which is really mood and rhythm based. That influenced us here.”

“We wanted to make a sexy record,” Lindberg adds. “Something a little more minimal than The Fool. We had so much to express – and still do – but have learned the magic of less is more and truly went in with that frame of mind. We were more mindful and wanted to make room for one another.”

The resulting album, self-titled because this it the truest expression of Warpaint to date, is vast and beautiful, collecting lush, compelling songs that embody otherworldly tones and hushed pauses. There is a hazy sense of abstraction that pervades, leaving each song lingering as the next begins. “Hi,” which Kokal calls “a really beautiful and dark twist to a very conventional songwriting structure,” shimmers with sparse emotional verve while “Keep It Healthy” explores a meditative groove. “Love Is To Die,” a number that emerged almost directly from a jam session, balances soaring melodies with ambient beats. The album finds all four musicians playing in tandem, and indeed much of the album was recorded live in the studio. It merges disparate influences and sensibilities while eventually landing on a cohesive – and unexpected – thematic thread.

“Without sounding trite, the subliminal theme of the album is love,” Mozgawa says. “It's a record that meditates on different forms of love in a poetic manner. This wasn't a preconceived theme – it's just one powerful prevalent thread.”

The musicians have found a cohesion between this new album, The Fool and their 2009 EP Exquisite Corpse, a sort of evolving symbiosis that always comes back to the strong connection between the four players. The album art, created by Chris Cunningham, reflects the collaborative strength and inherent friendship heard in the songs. Cunningham, who is married to Lindberg, is presently working on a multimedia documentary about the group, which he started while the band was in Joshua Tree last year.

“We came up with the idea of making a long short film, a mixture of the kinks and quirks of Warpaint and his kinky and quirky brain and ideas,” Lindberg says. “It is going to be a medley of things. Chris is such a mindful and respectful guy. It's been so wonderful to have someone with such impeccable taste and an endless amount of creativity witness all stages of this record.”

Ultimately Warpaint reveals the next stage of evolution for the group, a truly collaborative effort that showcases both musical growth and a startling depth of friendship. “We thought about this collection of songs like, this is us,” Wayman says. “This is an expression of who we are.”

Cate Le Bon hails from Carmarthenshire, rural West Wales and is currently a resident of Highland Park, Los Angeles, having relocated across the Pacific, coinciding with the recording of her new album.

Towards the end of 2012, having completed extensive touring for her previous album, Cyrk, Cate returned to Wales to write the songs that would become Mug Museum. The album was informed by a period of taking stock after bereavement. "Following the death of my maternal Grandmother I felt a very palpable shift in the roles that we'd all become accustomed to within the female line of the family which, for the first time, had me mulling over the importance of my placement and purpose within this female chain," says Le Bon. "The album's theme emerged from and circulates around these maternal familial relationships and this period of calm, lengthy, intent consideration in turn drew other relationships into the Mug Museum."

With Le Bon now relocated to California, Mug Museum was recorded at the recently opened Seahorse Sound studios, Los Angeles. Produced by Noah Georgeson (who is perhaps best known for his work with Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart) and Josiah Steinbrick. Mug Museum is an album that lets in the sunlight and space and relocates the West Wales lilt in Le Bon's voice to an equally apposite West Coast setting. In the studio Le Bon assembled a band of friends from both continents.

Accompanying Le Bon on the recording are the multi instrumentalists Sweet Baboo, H. Hawkline and Nick Murray from White Fence. "I flew H. Hawkline and Sweet Baboo over from Wales who I've had the pleasure of playing alongside for years," she says "I saw White Fence play at the Troubadour last year and was mesmerised by the whole show but especially by Nick Murray's drumming and asked him to play on the album immediately after the gig."

As well as describing the personnel involved in Mug Museum, "Welsh - Californian" is a phrase that captures the album's sound: woozily melodic, dreamily confident and wrapped in a hazy psychedelic gauze. This is a record made with the type of clarity that follows a change in perspective and situation. There is a directness and openness across the ten tracks on Mug Museum that suggest everyone involved had discovered the same lightness of touch and sense of purpose.

"I wrote the majority of the record in the home country but a few songs were finished out here in the run up to recording," says Le Bon "I'm sure Los Angeles has bled into the recordings somehow but exactly how I do not know. There was a calm brutality to making decisions - It all happened very quickly and directly, as it should."
Throughout Mug Museum, Le Bon's voice changes register to great dramatic and emotional effect; on "Duke" and "Cuckoo Through The Walls" these shifts occur during the course of the same song.

Perhaps her voice is at its most startling on "I Wish I Knew", a duet with Perfume Genius, one of the album's most atmospheric tracks and one on which two distinctive personalities and voices combine to produce a performance of rare alchemy. "Last April I toured with Perfume Genius," says Le Bon "I watched him play every single night and not once did my attention waive. I was over the moon when he agreed to come and sing on the album."

From the bewitching circular riff of the album's opener "I Can't Help You" to the closing title track that sees Le Bon accompanied by piano and the occasional burst of double-tacked clarinet, Mug Museum's reflective song writing weaves around a richly detailed framework. Like all museums it is a contemplative space, a personal world that is open to everyone. "A place of weighted hauntings and considered reconciliation, where you resolve and tailor your purpose and significance within your relationships" is how Le Bon describes it. As these ten songs attest, Mug Museum is also a unique and dreamlike edifice and one that has been created by an artist at the height of their powers.

$16.00 - $18.00

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Warpaint with Cate Le Bon

Saturday, March 22 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM at Union Transfer

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