FEATURE: Talking It Out With Theresa Wayman
“Music is the perfect conduit for emotion. It’s made for that. Music is sound and that’s a feeling, a sound is just wavelengths in the air that hit your eardrum, that’s like a physical thing. Emotions are physical, they feel physical. Those two things are very much the same language.”
Words: Kylie O'Connell
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Creating music is a skill, having the ability to clearly communicate human experience via that skill is art. Fortunately for us, Theresa Wayman’s talent falls under the latter. For the last fourteen years she’s been in the spotlight as vocalist and guitarist for psych-rock royals, Warpaint. Today, she releases her stunning solo debut under the moniker TT.
LoveLaws is a collection of love lessons learned over time. It’s raw, alluring and beaming with truth. Whether pining for a lover on ‘I’ve Been Fine’ or reflecting on love lost in ‘Love Leaks’, Wayman doesn’t hold back. “I was trying to be clear with this album’s lyrics, I was trying to be relatable and not too obscured in, not even just metaphor, but in my own way of doing things. I didn’t want to be too far in my own head, I wanted there to be other brains that could understand.”
It’s hard not to be captivated by the poetic and pulsating honesty of this album. Not just in the lyrics, but the spaciousness of the beats and the arrangement of the instrumentals too. Her ability to articulate her emotions on such a dynamic level is rather powerful, “Music is the perfect conduit for emotion. It’s made for that. Music is sound and that’s a feeling, a sound is just wavelengths in the air that hits your eardrum, that’s like a physical thing. Emotions are physical, they feel physical. Those two things are very much the same language.” This informed and unapologetic air of confidence drifts effortlessly above all 10 tracks.
As its title suggests, the album speaks to a topic that everyone can relate to. So, while some of the songs were written many years ago, they still remain relevant to the listener. “I started them a long time ago and they just started as me messing around and experimenting. I mean, ‘The Dream’ is a song that I started in like 2012, but then I reimagined the beat a few times… I had a vocal on there that was there until basically a month before I was done with my album and then I completely changed it.”
It’s this freedom of working solo and the luxury of time that Wayman wasn’t overly used to, “If I felt like I wasn’t done, I didn’t have to be done, and I’ve never had that situation before in Warpaint. There’s always things I want to change when I’m up against deadlines with Warpaint and I’m just not allowed to because it’s time to finish, which I think is actually very weird. But sometimes you need to have deadlines, and if the group has decided on something then you feel more obligated to stay with it. But I think that I kind of know when a song is done to me, I figured that out during this process. I feel like if I know something is unsettling to me, for the most part I probably need to go back and think about it a little bit more.”
Whilst it’s TT’s first official solo endeavour, she did lean upon a few of her nearest and dearest to contribute to her debut. The album was co-produced by her brother Ivan and features guest appearances from bandmates Stella Mozgawa and Jenny Lee Lindberg. You can hear the characteristics of Warpaint shine through - the darkness, the sweeping synth and the sexy groove. Yet there’s a distinct individuality that sees Wayman exploring her own personal vision and utilising her skills as a multi-instrumentalist. Take ‘Safe’ for example, a standout track, “It’s not on the album so you probably didn’t hear this, but originally the talking at the beginning, which is now backwards because I couldn’t use the original sample, was a scene from the movie Rear Window the Alfred Hitchcock film. It’s the first scene where Grace Kelly meets Jimmy Stewart… it’s like this really sexy moment, but also really funny with the dialogue.” From what first appeared to be the perfect fit, eventually wasn’t meant to be, “I would have had to pay like $30,000 dollars to get that sample through. Which is ridiculous.” It’s these little intricacies that make you realise just how much thought and effort has gone into every little moment, not to mention the fun she would’ve had making it.
On a more personal level and as a listener, to me Warpaint have always presented themselves as such a strong female force. They’re not an excellent ‘girl band’, they just an excellent band that happens to be female. Realistically they have inspired a number of women to persist in the music world, often headlining festivals that were (and still often are) largely male. But it’s 2018 now, I was intrigued to see how Theresa felt about the shift of women finally making more noise as compared to the early 2000s. “I think only really, really recently is it changing a lot, but still when you go to venues and you’re on tour, you’re still mostly surrounded by guys. The people working are guys - the people working the venues, the stage… I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say, I don’t see a really big difference, I just see a big difference in people talking about it. I think because people are talking about it a lot it’s going to create a big push, I think maybe next year and the years following there could be a really dramatic shift.”
Her storytelling doesn’t just communicate the gaze of a strong woman, it shares a glimpse into motherhood too – this idea of unconditional love. I asked if her son is yet to realise just how cool his Mum is, “I don’t know, I guess I’m a pretty cool Mum (laughs). He’s 12, so he’s known for a while what I’m doing. I think things like Harry Styles, stuff where it’s big, like Warpaint opening for Harry Styles is a big deal to him, more than Depeche Mode. Not because he’s a Harry Styles fan, but just because he knows the magnitude of his fame.”
Amongst all of the chaos in 2018, the principles of love have changed very little over time, mainly because it’s so out of our control. Other than becoming more fluid and/or accepting, the yearning for human affection doesn’t seem to have subsided. According to Wayman, it's important that we keep this idea of a positive romance alive via music and film, “It’s just so nice to get this feeling of those moments, capture those moments. Like when you first fall in love with someone but you can’t keep it, and how you deal with that. Or the dream of an ideal love. I think it’s so convoluted in everyday life and those moments get lost really easily. We don’t have them all the time. It’s a reflection of how we could feel all the time, in love and awe, that warm fuzzy feeling. We could feel that way about life in general, so maybe it’s important to be reminded of that feeling. Maybe it will help put people in better headspaces.”
At the end of it all, you start to realise that this universal language of love is just a shared experience of highs and lows. On LoveLaws Theresa Wayman stares reality in the face, documents the wins and appears to be completely content with the fact that life isn't a fairytale, “I actually feel like I got stuff out, and now I’m kind of ready to move on from those songs and that place, which is cool. I think that’s kind of the objective of making art in a way, it’s like a therapy.” A therapy for the masses.
The beautiful LoveLaws is out now via Caroline International.
Key Tracks: Safe, Love Leaks and The Dream.