Painting by numbers: Warpaint’s steps toward cohesion

They’ve been together since 2004, but the members of Warpaint feel like they’re in a brand new band again.

Warpaint weaves together trippy soundscapes and haunting charm.

Robin Laananen

Warpaint weaves together trippy soundscapes and haunting charm.

by Joe Kellen

For Warpaint, the best way to create a strong record is to fall in love with your bandmates.

The psyched-out dream rock quartet released their first record in four years this January, and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg said it’s only appropriate the album is self-titled.

“In a way, we’ve raised one another, especially musically,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a common understanding like this with any other group of people.”

On 2014’s “Warpaint,” the band experiments with a sound that’s more pared down than their 2010 debut, “The Fool.” They layer voices to achieve a towering choral effect, swaying and heaving over drum machines that churn out beats for dancing and entrancing.

Along with the electronic instruments, every member of the band plays analog. Their live shows are known for improvisation — Lindberg said it’s always been important for them to take musical risks in a performance setting.

“We’re up for the challenge. You gotta be on your toes in Warpaint,” she said. “You have to listen and trust and be a unit. The more we do that with each other, the closer it makes us as a band.”

But Warpaint didn’t reach this level of comfort overnight.

Lindberg’s sister, Shannyn Sossamon, is a drummer and suggested to Lindberg they should start a band in 2004. Lindberg, Sossamon, Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman,  who are all musicians friendly with one another in the Los Angeles scene, promptly fulfilled Sossamon’s suggestion.

After gigging for several years and releasing an EP, Sossamon departed in 2008. The drummer left to focus on acting, leaving Warpaint in dire need of someone to sit behind the kit.

Cycling through percussionist after percussionist, the band finally singled out Stella Mozgawa in 2009. Lindberg said this was one of Warpaint’s biggest steps toward becoming the band they are today.

“She has this sort of sensitivity, even though Stella plays harder than most dudes,” Lindberg said. “And when she joined the band, it felt like we were creating a sound that reminded me of the energy we wanted from the very beginning.”

The energy on “Warpaint” is ethereal. Each song takes on a ghostly atmosphere, generously implementing reverb and buzzing synth hypnosis. Lindberg said the band has been inspired by everyone from Jay Z to the Smiths, and it’s clear on tracks such as “Hi” and “Keep It Healthy” — two songs that effortlessly combine trip-hop rhythms and expansive guitar work.

“Warpaint” is the cohesive record the band was looking to create. Lindberg said this came from their dedication to democratic decision-making.

“We make it a rule that we all have to like what we’re doing,” she said. “It takes more time, for sure, but it’s starting to take less, because we’re learning how to work with each other.”

As they embark on a huge year filled with festival dates and more touring, Warpaint is focused on moving forward.

“We always want to keep the feeling like we’re playing songs for the first time,” Lindberg said. “It feels like nothing can go wrong because we’re so excited. You can’t fake that.”


What: Warpaint with Cate Le Bon
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: First Avenue Mainroom, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $16-18
Age: 18+