After three Warpaint full-length albums and several EPs, guitarist and vocalists Theresa Wayman felt like she was only just learning to make an album. Wanting the space to experiment and pursue her own ideas - away from the band that has defined her as an artist for almost 15 years - Wayman struck out on her own as TT. Her solo debut LoveLaws was released last month.
The project is personal, featuring stories from Wayman's own failed loves and relationships, made more complicated by her quest to thrive as a single mother in a career traditionally at odds with motherhood. The ten tracks featured are often cinematic baring trip-hop, Bjork and Couteau Twins influences with enticing moods and melodies. "Love Leaks" offers a fleeting glimpse into her interior world with gauzy vocals while "I've Been Fine" is an invitation to linger; a deliberate attempt to witness and share in that post-breakup longing and turmoil without the self-pity. The best of the songs are a studied balance of emotional openness revealed lyrically, catchy hooks and melodies that draw you in, and a sonic landscape that effectively paints the mood.
After several recent, high-profile, Warpaint opening slots for Depeche Mode and Harry Styles, we caught up with the Los Angeles native on the phone in London. She was about to practice with her own TT band and preparing to share a bill with Nick Mulvey. Later this month, she will perform at the MOCA Geffen in L.A., and in July at San Francisco's Popscene before being back with Warpaint for their Desert Daze slot.
Excited about her live shows, Wayman chatted about heartbreak, creating music with her brother and how her instinct to finesse each song - in a manner she has never indulged in with Warpaint's more stream-of-consciousness modus operandi - might influence their future records.
AXS: What was the most important thing for you when making this solo record?
Theresa Wayman: I wanted to be free to experiment in whichever direction I wanted to personally. In relation to Warpaint, to not be limited by what someone else is working on; after this moment we can all feel like there’s more to us than what we are allowed to contribute to in an album with that band. We all need to have space. After so long in the band, I wanted to do whatever I wanted, I think it was warranted. This isn’t defensive you know, I think anyone in the band who wants to do that, should. Jen’s made her own album. Stella’s always collaborating with people and Emily has got tons of music, she just hasn’t made an album yet.
AXS: “Safe” begins with what sounds like children in a playground, then these vocalization exercises. These two scenes seem quite jarring, sort of symbolic of being a mom and being in a band – there’s this push and pull. Similarly when you hear the sort of backward loop of a conversation between a man and woman, again there's a tension. Could you tell us a little about the song?
TW: It wasn’t really intentional but I felt all those things you mentioned needed to be there. There was a sort of subconscious drive to put that sample and scene there before the start of the song. Originally, the scene was from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.” When I first recorded the sample from the film, it matched up perfectly, I just felt like it had to be there. It’s true there is a whole story and you’ve helped tie it all together. There’s the obvious thing of doing the warm-ups and clashing with the children, that’s everything right there; being a musician and a mom, having to remember my child and all those responsibilities. Then there’s the conversation with a man; a fantasy about going away with someone, and not needing to know why you feel this way or not needing it to be ok by everyone else’s standards. Just going with the feeling. How incredible that fantasy is… because you’re thinking of this ideal, it’s funny that you go from real life into this complete dream state – it’s not something that usually happens for people who have kids, you can’t just forget everything.
AXS: “I’ve Been Fine” was particularly raw in its sentiment - that aftermath post-breakup where you are still pining for someone but trying to get over them. Was it hard reliving that heartbreak? How long ago were these songs written?
TW: I think I’m ok with what happened so I’m ok to hear it. I’m not currently feeling that in my life, hence, I feel a little bit safe from that emotion. I do feel it really captures that moment of feeling that way. I appreciate that about it. That song is a few years old. “The Dream” is sort of new-old; one of the first versions of it I recorded in Ultrabeat which is a drum program I was using in 2010/2011. Before I learned about Geist which is a much better program. I recorded the piano in 2011, then re-did the beat a couple of years later. And had a vocal on, that was there originally. This past year when I was actually doing the album with my brother, I completely re-did the vocals and it was one of the last vocals that I wrote. So that song has a mish-mash of new and old elements.
AXS: What’s the difference between working with your brother compared to the girls?
TW: He has a lot of passion but he’s not as irrationally emotional, I can be a lot more up and down. He balances everything out. I think with the girls sometimes we can all be in those moods, that’s a great thing but not as simple. It was also fun to bring things out of my brother too – he’s a drummer originally but he’s also good with top lines, melodies and arrangements. I like working with him a lot.
TW: I didn’t know what exactly. I just wanted to work with him. He came in towards the end of the project. I wanted to bring these songs to him and see if he thought these songs might need something still – it might be taking something away or adding. Or some production trick he might know that could be really key. Ultimately, what he ended up doing was just playing on top of the songs and just jamming. Making some really beautiful lines that I could then cut and put in places. Things I would never have come up with because we come from such different musical worlds and to help really solidify this sound as different from Warpaint. The electric piano on “Tutorial” and the main line in the chorus of “Love Leaks,” those are things that came from him and really opened my mind to where I could go creatively – I feel those are the sort of things that can happen through collaborations you can start to use different palette and ideas.
AXS: The 'main line' refers to the actual lyrics in the chorus or a production term?
TW: It’s a production term – it refers to the synth line – I took that out of the second chorus and used it as an intro because I loved it so much, I felt like it needed to be highlighted.
AXS: After Money Mark’s contributions, you changed things further unlike in Warpaint where you tend to keep things raw?
TW: Yeah, I had the luxury of thinking about this album a lot, I really appreciated that. I think deadlines can be good and necessary but up to a certain point. I think I’ve been in situations with Warpaint where our release date is already set before the album is finished. I understand that in terms of the music business – XYZ festivals next year in Spring, booking ahead half-a-year or 2 years in advance - I don’t know if I want to play by those rules anymore. I know what it’s like when you’re in the studio and there’s that pressure, it’s too much! It should be about making your art, it’s not about money or other logistics.
AXS: But Warpaint has its own studio?
TW: Yes, but I feel that even though we have our own space when we’ve decided to make our albums we didn’t have that freedom I’m talking about. We hired someone in the studio and we rented microphones, then all of a sudden it feels like you’re spending too much. My biggest goal right now is to learn how to record myself in the best possible way. And we have that studio but I want to do it this time without any help, I want it to just be us, that way we can really tap into what are our creative choices? What do we really want to do? What really sounds good to us – so it’s not in anybody else’s hands.
AXS: You often hear music folks say that mixing is a real art but do you ever have that impulse to take it that far and try and mix your music yourself?
TW: I think I can mix things pretty well but then I also think I don’t have a lot of experience with it. I think it is a real art. It’s a craft that you need a whole lot of time and practice to figure out, I’m going to take things in steps, and mixing - it's a little bit more of an unknown to me. It’s a real art learning how to place things and fade in a song; it’s really difficult. But maybe not? Maybe it’s not something you need to overthink? When you think about what you want to hear maybe it’s not that difficult. When you’re thinking about what other people want to hear or what radio wants to hear? If you’re not trying to fit into any set physical styles, maybe you can? If it’s just your thing, why can’t you do it?
TT West Coast shows:
June 21 - Los Angeles, CA - Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
July 6 - San Francisco, CA - Popscene