'I was feeling unfulfilled. It was time to do something'
Solo run: Armed with her collection of songs, Warpaint’s Theresa Wayman took the unusual option of recording them with her brother Ivan producing
Theresa Wayman:‘We’re all pretty confident we can do Warpaint and our own projects’
In the lobby of a hotel behind Bond Street in London, the doors of a lift open to reveal the vision that is Theresa Wayman. The last time I saw her in real life, in 2014, she was playing with Warpaint at the Forbidden Fruit Festival. She looks just as model-like this time, dressed down in a baggy jumper, jeans and knee-length boots , but Emily Kokal, Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa aren’t surrounding her. It’s just her in the lift, a fitting entrance to discuss her first solo album, LoveLaws.
An assurance: her solo endeavour doesn’t indicate that Warpaint are winding down, as confirmed by their next Forbidden Fruit appearance this June. Rather, three albums, 14 years and hundreds of shows later, they’re entering a new stage of maturity. Now, the band are secure enough that outside creative endeavours help keep the band together (see also: Radiohead, Animal Collective).
“We’re all pretty confident we can do Warpaint and our own projects.” Theresa says as we settle into the hotel lounge, she leaning in, which makes a welcome change from stand-offish stars. “Jen did her solo album [Right On!], I’m sure Emily will do one, and Stella’s constantly doing things – now she’s getting more into film scores, which is awesome.
Listen out and you’ll catch the shadows of trip-hop, looped beats and new chords weaved into the sleepy-sensual sounds that her band Warpaint made famous
“I have to establish myself as my own musician: what it is I can do and what other directions I can go in, because I’m getting older and I don’t necessarily want to tour forever. I want to build my strengths, like I think I can produce for other people.”
To test her mettle, she drew from a range of styles and influences that overshot her Warpaint remit of singing and guitar-playing: listen out and you’ll catch the shadows of trip-hop, looped beats and new chords weaved into the sleepy-sensual sounds that her band made famous. Lyrically, you’ll hear plenty about grappling with relationships, an aspect of her life affected by Warpaint’s busy schedule as well as being a single mother to her 12-year-old son. (“Much of the year I’m on tour, and when I’m come I want to be with my son, so I don’t have a lot of space to be in a relationship and really build something,” she explains.)
Ultimately, the objective of going solo wasn’t to create a different proposition, but to be the creator and decision-maker from start to finish.
“For each of us in Warpaint, our creativity is a little stunted because it’s a collaboration and we never fully get to go in every direction we want,” she says. “Being creative and sharing my songs is of the things that brings me pure happiness, and I felt like I have haven’t done enough of it since I’ve been on this path with Warpaint. So I was starting to feel really unfulfilled, and it was time to change something.”
Armed with her collection of songs, she took the unusual option of recording them with her brother, Ivan Wayman, producing.
“We actually lived together until recently in LA with my son and my mom. It was a big family affair,” she says. “He’s a producer and an engineer and great all-round. At the time he was making the transition from his old job in lighting, which was keeping him up all night and meant he couldn’t focus on music. So I felt it was a good time to do this project and help him to switch his career.”
But sibling dynamics tend to be pre-defined; how was it to enter the studio with a new relationship?
“At first there were a couple of things to iron out because I was getting into a situation where I’d worry about being bossy,” she explains. “I feel that about anyone I collaborate with, because they’re a human being, not just a slave. But it didn’t take us long to figure it out, and I love what he brought to the table. He’d offer great solutions when I was stuck, so we definitely came to the sound of the album together.”
It’s one thing asserting herself with a family member, but another when it’s a collaborator in an industry that traditionally doesn’t take women’s opinions as seriously as men’s (just ask Bjork or Lilly Allen). While the new wave of feminism has led to a greater understanding that meekness doesn’t equal weakness, there’s still some way to go before the playing field is level. For Theresa, tackling this was just part of the LoveLaws experiment.
“I made a video with my friend, and I had some ideas of what I wanted to do,” she says, referring to the video for album highlight I’ve Been Fine. “We hired a DP [director of photography] who was great and made it look incredible, but also that person and my friend came with a set of opinions.
I found it can be really challenging to stick up for your vision. There’s a couple of things that I still wish were the way that I had envisaged
“I found it can be really challenging to stick up for your vision. Little things happened, and I thought at the time that it didn’t matter or maybe he was right – and these two people happen to be guys. They were more able to express themselves matter-of-factly and cut each other down. I’m having to think about that a lot because in the end, there’s a couple of things that I still wish were the way that I had envisaged.
“I’ve been friends with [film-maker and actor] Vincent Gallo for a really long time, and he’s always told me about how he ends up doing everything,” she continues. “He’s very controlling; he gets everything exactly as he wants it, and in the end he makes incredible art. Even if there’s a hair stylist, he’s the one that’s coming in and actually fixing the hair the way he wants it.”
After the shoot, Wayman went home, asked to borrow her dad’s camera, and continued learning more about film-making. That way, “next time I’ll be able to say that we can try it their way but we have to try it my way too”.
If that’s the learning from this episode, the diplomacy is Wayman all over; I get the impression she’s far too measured to be stubborn. Even when it comes to touring the album, a field in which she’s expected the decision-maker, she welcomes the input of her assembled live band. “I can’t expect them to chime in, but I do want them to feel like it’s their own too,” she explains.
She’ll be touring the album lightly in between Warpaint commitments, but it’s still tbc whether her live show will reach Irish shores. “Warpaint love Ireland, and they love us. We get each other,” she says. ”So I’d love to bring it to Ireland. I’ll probably be back towards the end of the year for my own shows in the UK and Europe.”
And after that?
“I’m definitely thinking about what’s next,” she says. “Warpaint will be writing and that’s not done, but I want to be continuing on this train because . . . I just need to.”
- LoveLaws is out on May 18th