In the ghostly " Billie Holiday," the L.A. quartet Warpaint floats an elegiac version of the Mary Wells hit "My Guy" between narcotic, name-spelling mantras in honor of the grand jazz dame. It's one of the hypnotic, unexpected strokes that got Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg and recently added drummer Stella Mozgawa signed to Rough Trade Records, which will release Warpaint's debut full-length in summer 2010.
The band's six-song EP "Exquisite Corpse," which arrived this fall from local visionaries Manimal Vinyl, was mixed by former Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante, who might seem an unlikely mentor at first. But as much as the Chili Peppers built tranced-out temples with their roiling funk, Warpaint aims to do the same but with a different set of arrows in their quiver.
Combining the dense, shadowy mood of some early Cure with the sonic drift of Mazzy Star and Cat Power's more hazy vocal work, Warpaint occupies a challenging space where the mood can vary from deep woods come-down to fierce primal ritual. It hits an especially sweet spot live, where the ladies sometimes swap instruments or hone in on those spine-tingling harmonies. In February, they'll tour with Akron/Family and they'll also perform at SXSW in March.
The biggest challenge for the band as they grow beyond the loving arms of L.A. hipsterdom will be expanding their palette without losing the haunting aura of their sound.
-- Margaret Wappler
Photo: Lauren Dukoff