Interview // WARGIRL
“We want to face truth, and we want music to heal us and other people”, Wargirl discuss the process of working on their second album, Dancing Gold.
Have we ever introduced you to the Southern Californian ‘World Garage Rock Disco’ six-piece going under the name of Wargirl? You might have heard of them around the release of their self-titled debut album last year, or you might have caught one of their recent startling singles in a Spotify playlist. A fusing outfit of like-minded people all from different backgrounds and cultures who create something so distinctive and divergent that manages to derive from everything else we’ve recently listened to.
This week sees the band arriving with their sophomore Mark Neill-produced effort, Dancing Gold, and they put forward everything they stand for. With three groovy singles already released, Dancing Gold, Hang On and 2069, the record promises for a vigorously cross-genre upbeat and cohesive collection of ten tracks, setting the bar high.
Ahead of the album’s release date (June 12th), we had the pleasure of chatting with guitarist and producer Matt Wignall about an album “that feels like it comes from a spirit of friendship and truth and love.”
Can you explain the main themes/ideas behind your new album Dancing Gold?
Dancing Gold is taken from the sun dancing on the ocean at sunset. It’s the idea that we are all kind of magical just based on the fact that we are alive and a part of this crazy life. It’s a reminder to find the beauty in life even in the midst of adversity. I think the whole album echoes this theme, it’s all approached very live with a lot of spontaneity, both the lyrics and music.
Were there any surprises during the recording process, whether pleasant or unpleasant?
We are always kind of surprised while recording because we do some much of it live. You hear it back and go, wow, that’s how we sound? For some reason our sound only happens when most of us are playing it live facing each other.
What is a message you would like your listeners to take from your music?
When you listen to an artist like Bob Marley it can easily feel like this world is so screwed and awful, and then one song later you feel like everything is alright and life is beautiful and worth living. That is the truth of life. We try and be honest and tackle these ideas. We want to face truth, and we want music to heal us and other people. We want to bring happiness into life, but we also want to criticize in areas where the world is so obviously backwards. Not that we have the answer, but thinking about it all is half the battle. Hearing songs about Marcus Garvey or Nelson Mandela as a kid was part of growing up asking questions. Hopefully some of that makes its way into our music.
Your song Hang On is deeply personal. Do you find it difficult to talk about personal matters and pouring your heart out publicly?
For us it is very natural to pour out our souls. We fight with lyrics. We really push to say something honest that we believe and that hopefully people can relate to. Having said that, we maybe keep the most personal things to ourselves and paint in the broader strokes on songs.
What was it like working with legendary producer Mark Neill on your new album?
Mark is a big presence. If he works on your music there is going to be a huge Mark Neill sonic signature. I’ve been mentored by Mark as an engineer over the year and have been trying to emulate him for a long time so when I thought of having Mark work on it, we all thought it made sense. There are not many other people we would so easily jump at working with.
What’s a motto you live by?
How about love is all you need? And some money to keep the bills paid.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
We are all such big fans of music since childhood, and some of us are big readers, film buffs, anime, I think all these things factor in to our perspectives on music. Also growing up in Long Beach which is such a melting pot both creatively and culturally. It’s always attracted a lot of artists who couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. That give it a certain edge and desperation, it also leads to a lot of positive artistic expression.
When did you know music is what you were destined for?
All of us were making music as children. It’s all we can remember. We were playing in bands by early high school, it’s almost as if we didn’t have a choice.
Do you have any role models in music?
Too many to list them all! It depends on who you ask, Aretha, Tom Waits, Keith Richards is Tammi’s hero, The Clash, Bob Marley, whoever made the Zelda soundtrack, people who more or less have a cult are always interesting like Fela Kuti. We love all the talented outliers musically who weren’t specifically just trying to be famous but were writing from the heart.
You visited the UK earlier this year; what was your favourite thing/place about the UK?
There are so many things to like for us. It’s always very romantic to visit a place like Manchester where so much great music has come from. It’s a trip to walk over the river from London Calling. It’s kind of surreal to go to Brighton and think of Nick Cave or a Morrissey song like “Every Day Is Like Sunday”. I suppose the opposite could be true for people from the UK visiting Topanga or Laurel Canyon or New York City. These are all kind of holy places for musicians. The places many of the greatest songs in the world have come from.
One of the reasons your sonics are so unique is your remarkable ability to blend in various genres into one. If you could create your own distinctive genre, how would you name it?
We call it “World Garage Rock” because we have always played in someone’s garage having never been able to afford a proper rehearsal space, and we have a bit of that punk/garage rock quality to our approach, but then we throw so many cultural influences into the mix that it becomes something uniquely us. We don’t want to fit into a genre. We are too diverse for that both physically and mentally.
What are your favourite activities/hobbies to get through the quarantine days?
Yoga, assorted series shows, writing and playing music, catching up on reading, face time calls with friends, and cooking!
And finally, what does music mean to you?
Music is something special, it is different than anything else in life. From “David’s secret chord” that calmed king Saul in the Bible, to Fela Kuti calling to change a country, to Bob Marley talking about social injustice and racism, music is a unique voice. You watch a movie once or twice, but a song stays with you forever and becomes the soundtrack for every time you are in a certain place or mood. Music is kind of the ultimate poetry in life. It is the sound living beings make when we organize and spill over the edges.