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Warpaint are back with hypnotic new song ‘Lilys’ – and they told us all about it
Guitarist and singer Theresa Wayman reflects on the state of the world and shares what to expect from the band’s next album
Warpaint are back with ‘Lilys’, their first piece of new music in five years – listen to the new track below and read on for the band’s guitarist and singer Theresa ‘TT’ Wayman telling us about the song and their next album.
‘Lilys’ arrives after featuring in the new HBO series Made For Love, its inclusion in which sped up the LA band’s return.
“The HBO show wanted to use it and so that made us finish it faster,” Wayman explained to NME. “And then the label heard it and were like, ‘Actually, we want to put this out not just have it be on the show’. It wasn’t like we started writing our album and were like, ‘OK this song is going to be the one we come out with’, but I’m happy that it’s the one leading the way. The song is asserting itself.”
Just as the four-piece didn’t intend for ‘Lilys’ to serve as their reintroduction to the world, the song initially wasn’t intended to be a song at all. It started life as the group experimenting with synths, trying to create some new musical textures, but soon grew into the compelling, hypnotic track it is today.
“It’s one of those ones that came out of the woodwork and showed itself,” Wayman said. “We weren’t digging for it. We threw together this rough edit of an arrangement and that worked. Our manager and our co-producer [Sam Petts-Davies] for the album heard it and were like, ‘There’s something in this’. Once they started shining a light on it, I tried some vocals and those came out really quickly and the lyrics fell together really quickly. It felt really good.”
Lyrically, ‘Lilys’ tackles society’s habit of dividing itself for the sake of being what we each perceive as right, posing the question: “Would you rather be happy or rather be right?”
“Would you rather fight for your stance or opinion on how things should be, or would you rather not have to hold on so tightly to your opinion and just be happy and let other people think what they think?” the guitarist asked. “We all don’t really actually know what’s going on or why we even exist – the mystery of life – and we seem to have a lot of walls up to each other and part of those walls are our opinions.”
Although the song’s chorus was written before the pandemic, Wayman said the events of the last year made their way into the track as she finished it off.
‘Lilys’, like much of the band’s fourth album, was started in the studio, but finished remotely after the pandemic hit and separated the group. Drummer Stella Mozgawa is still in Australia, bassist and singer Jenny Lee Lindberg in Utah and guitarist and singer Emily Kokal in Joshua Tree, while Wayman remains in LA.
“We got really lucky because the foundation of what we’ve recorded was recorded together,” Wayman explained. “It would feel really disjointed if we had to write it from scratch from afar. It’s actually been amazing that we’ve been separate and had time to record the top layers and we can get even more considered with them. It’s really helping us that there are no time pressures and money constraints.”
Although Warpaint are releasing ‘Lilys’ now, don’t expect the new record to follow quickly. The band are in the process of mixing it at the moment, with some parts still to be recorded, and are aiming to release it in Spring 2022. When it does arrive, though, Wayman said it will include “even more of a variety of feels” to its tracks than on their past records.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about lyrics and so I’ve been thinking about Dylan a lot and how he strings a story together,” she said. “He finds these perfect ways to say something that is so normal, it’s something that everyone experiences, but he unlocks this great metaphor for it.”
She also added that she had also been listening to Fela Kuti, Miles Davis and things that made her feel like “I just want to be in a band and play”, as well as Karen Dalton, who has inspired a guitar-led song that could become a last-minute inclusion on Warpaint’s new album.
The subject matter on the new record will also be similarly diverse. “There’s a song from my higher self to my lower self on there, and a song about not needing to have anchors to anything,” Wayman said.
“Em wrote a song called ‘Trouble’ that’s really cool. She’s like [sings], ‘I’m in trouble again’. It’s about always feeling like you’re doing something wrong. It reminds me of when I was young and it was Saturday morning and my mum would wake me up because she didn’t want me to sleep in and waste my day. It made me feel guilty for the rest of my life. Em also wrote a song about the band and our relationship and trying to evolve or grow with people who you’ve known for so long.”
Having been together for 17 years, the four musicians now find themselves moving into different phases in their lives. Kokal recently gave birth to a baby, while Wayman is the mother to a 15-year-old, and Lindberg and Mozgawa have their own needs that are changing too. “We have to come to terms with the fact that we will be growing apart in some ways,” Wayman told NME. “We need to reconfigure because of that.”
The events of the last year have also altered the band’s mindset, allowing them to break free from the typical cycle of making an album, touring, then making another album. “It’s really hard to stop and think about how you really want to do things [when you’re in that] and you start compromising,” the guitarist explained. “Now we’ve had time to look at that, we don’t want to compromise anymore.”
Warpaint’s latest album, ‘Heads Up’, was released in 2016. It followed their 2010 debut ‘The Fool’ and their second record ‘Warpaint’ (2014).
Separately, the members of Warpaint have released or contributed their own music over the years including Wayman’s debut solo record as TT (‘LoveLaws’, 2018) and Lindberg’s first album as Jennylee (‘Right On!’ 2015). Drummer Stella Mozgawa, meanwhile, has collaborated with acts including Jagwar Ma and more recently Josh Homme for Vol 11/12 of ‘The Desert Sessions’, while guitarist/vocalist Emily Kokal has worked with acts including Saul Williams.
The band also recently released a cover of ‘Paralysed’ by Gang Of Four, taken from the upcoming tribute album ‘The Problem Of Leisure: A Celebration Of Andy Gill’ – released on May 28 and also featuring the likes of La Roux, Everything Everything, Gary Numan IDLES, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and John Frusciante and a collaboration between Tom Morello and Serj Tankian.