The Verge: Warpaint

Welcome to The Verge: a column dedicated to music on the edge of a breakthrough. Enjoy past Verge features like the Dum Dum Girls and Screaming Females? Then check out Warpaint.

I discovered LA’s Warpaint in a roundabout way: getting caught in the IMDb/Wikipedia feedback loop, looking for more information about The Rules of Attraction. The cast of the 2002 film included both a former and current member of the band: the female lead (Shannyn Sossamon) and a pivotal minor character (Theresa Wayman), respectively. While Sossamon left to focus on acting, Wayman continues to contribute vocals and guitars to the experimental rock act. Coincidentally, the band’s music echoes the themes of the film (and those of Bret Easton Ellis’s brilliant novel): hopelessness, melancholy, and tragic romance.

Warpaint fill their debut Exquisite Corpse EP with atmospheric art rock. Minor-key guitar melodies collide with swirling keys and start-stop rhythms. The vocal harmonies between the band (all four women in the band sing on the EP) add another layer to compositions. Exquisite Corpse was mixed by former Chili Pepper John Frusciante, and the veteran’s steady hand on the boards certainly helps keep the sound cohesive, even as it drifts leftward.

“Elephants” builds on a simple opening riff, piling on a hypnotic bassline and processed-vocals (reminiscent of Bjork, at points), building to a half-time jam that ends the song. The song’s accompanying video perfectly captures its essence.

“Billie Holiday” would fit perfectly on a Saddle Creek release, with it’s singer-songwriter acoustics and vocal counter-point. The song pays tribute to female singers past, with a chorus that alternates between spelling out the titular name and the iconic lyrics from Mary Wells’ Motown classic “My Guy.”

Exquisite Corpse is a captivating debut from yet another female-fronted band on the verge of a breakthrough. Warpaint is working on a follow-up LP, but you can catch the band at DC9 on June 13th with Mini Mansions.