In December, US musician and songwriter Jenny Lee Lindberg released her debut album right on!, her first foray into solo work outside of Warpaint. Under jennylee, Lindberg made a record that holds an instant appeal to fans of Warpaint in the establishment of some dreamy soundscapes, but the songs on right on! have a intimate and comforting denseness to them – they’re great to be enveloped and absorbed by. The 80’s/90’s new wave elements are there, but it’s not a pastiche of the genre and Lindberg’s bass work shines.
For the musician, who spent a lot of 2014 and 2015 promoting Warpaint’s eponymous sophomore album, working on her own material in between tours came surprisingly easily, once she made the decision to actually go ahead with the project.
“We’ve been making music for a very long time, for while. We all have.” Jenny says. “If I was doing anything with it; releasing it, sharing it, for some reason, there’s never been really an option. Or more that, there’s never been something I’ve just decided to do and you know, Chris [Cunningham] was really encouraging of me to do my own thing. He was like, ‘You should do your own thing and put out your own music.’ It was just got me thinking; I guess it’s over the last four years where I just started doing it more seriously. We were touring the last record, Warpaint, and we would come home and we’d have breaks and I decided that during the break, I was going to make my own music.I was like, ‘This is actually pretty fun.’ I started working on it when we were touring and then when we came home and we were finished that tour, there was about five months where we taking a break and that’s when I really decided that I was going to get in there – do it, record it and finish it.”
Working with Norm Block on the 10 track release out of Happy Ending Studios in Silverlake, the recording process of right on! saw Lindberg work with a number of talented musicians in studio, including Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa, Dan Elkan (Broken Bells), Tony Bevilaqua (Spinnerette) and Jonathan Hischke (Dot Hacker). Lindberg remembers the dynamic between the musicians and creatives involved in the process, especially coming from the twelve-odd year relationship that’s existed between herself and her Warpaint bandmates.
“Most of the songs I brought to Norm, who engineered, co-produced and also played drums on the album.” she says. “A lot of the songs were for the most part done, as far as structure. I already had a pretty good idea and I knew how I wanted the record to sound. I knew how I wanted the drums to feel, I knew how I wanted everything to feel and I knew what I wanted, so I think that was a good place to start.”
“When we came into the studio, there were a couple of guitar players and I thought, ‘You know that would be really great…?’, I was really curious to see what they would bring to the table when they would play. As they came, I was there listening and hearing what they were playing; it was a nice collaboration, because they would play something and I would hear something and I’d say, ‘What don’t you try this?’ or, ‘How about a little more like this?’. Or, they would nail it on the nose right away. It was very open and it was nice, because I got to wear like the director’s hat and that was really empowering! It felt really great to go, ‘You know what? I do know what I want!’ It’s exciting to be able to express that and also be comfortable with telling someone what you want, ’cause it’s not always comfortable and it could potentially be confrontational, depending on who you’re dealing with. I always tend to test the waters or be a little bit skittish sometimes when I’m trying to assert myself because I don’t want to make somebody feel powerless.”
“It’s all about your delivery,” she says of the differences in processes. “I think that’s also being in a band for twelve years and knowing the way we communicate with each other and how we are, usually very sensitive to one another and we’re all women. It’s taught me a lot about that but also, working with women, we are generally a little bit more sensitive than men. I feel like that’s just the way that we are, that’s our make up – that’s just how we are. We’re hormonal, whatever.”
“Dealing with four women constantly for the last twelve years is interesting and then to go in this project and be surrounded by men, I felt totally comfortable and confident communicating and expressing what I want and having them [be] completely receptive – it was totally what I wanted. It was like, ‘This is her project and she knows what she wanted.’ I didn’t get pushed around, I never felt like, ‘Oh you don’t know what you’re talking about’. I was treated with such respect and I think that’s just because I was also I was treating myself with respect and I was going to the table with what was certainty in what I wanted to happen.”
As a solo performer, Lindberg has only begun stepping out into that spotlight as well in recent months, with her first shows as jennylee going down well in both New York and LA ahead of the album’s release. Though she admits to having such a tight support network backing her, Lindberg remembers the pangs of nerves she felt in the lead up to her first solo gig and how she wound up overcoming them.
“It was amazing,” Lindberg remembers of the New York show in particular. “It was actually the second show ever that I’ve ever done with my solo stuff. The first show was in LA and it was at a bowling alley and I was just so nervous. I was so nervous for that show, it was crippling. It was so much fun, that show, because it was just friends were there. I didn’t even invite anyone but somehow, a bunch of my friends came; I had so much fun and before I went on stage, I told myself, ‘Being disappointed in yourself or being disappointed from the show is not an option.’ The most important thing you have to do is go out there and you just need to have fun; if that’s all that you are expecting to do, then you’re not really going to get disappointed. You’re not going to really have any room for disappointment, because you’re just going to enjoy yourself.”
“I was amazed at how I really just had such a good time!” she laughs. “I felt so liberated, I felt super supported and loved and I just let myself go and I was over the moon after that show. So when New York came, there was a proper stage, it wasn’t like a house party. I felt a little more on the spot, which never really makes me feel comfortable – I’ve never been comfortable in the spotlight. I don’t really like people staring at me! The lights were all there, there’s a stage, I’m above these people. I wished at ground level at them, I just wanted everyone to have fun and I wanted it to be an experience, where everyone can feel that they’re a part of it and this was different. It was the same [approach] though: just have fun, let yourself go, go for it and own it. Just have a good time. It felt really great, it was just a really amazing feeling, because that’s what I went into the situation thinking and believing.”
Although they were smaller gigs that what she’d be normally be used to, the concept of bringing her fresh material to people who had no inkling of what was ahead, what her creative direction had led her to on right on!, was no less nerve wracking than any full Warpaint show. How people absorb her material and respond to it as a worry Lindberg can’t afford to spend too much time worrying over, though.
“I think that’s also where the terror and the fear comes from.” she says, commenting on the double-edged sword effect playing new material for people brings. “People are there, but they don’t know what they’re there for. They haven’t heard it, they don’t know what to expect, they’ve only heard one song. When you have a show, you get so nervous and you know that people are there. I get super nervous for these shows as well – I always get nervous and I love that, because it means that I’m excited. I think it’s more nerve-wracking when people are there because they’re curious and they don’t know what to expect. You never know. You never know how people are going to respond and that’s another thing that I can’t really care about, because that’s not what really what I’m doing. If people aren’t having a good time, well, it’s none of your business. Only you have control over when you have a good time.”
right on! is out now through Rough Trade/Remote Control Records.
S: That’s excellent because one thing I’ve noticed. Having seen you perform like a few times over the years, but you know, especially with War Paint, that’s one thing that I find such a endearing element to the live show. Everyone is a part of the experience, that you ladies project and that kind of positive energy is so all encompassing. Whether you’re playing in a small club or playing on a festival stage, it still feels like you’ve generated that real kind of intimate comfortable and fun kind of atmosphere so to be able to kind of bottle that still, and project through your own project, where you’re bringing music that nobody’s ever heard before to live stages for the first time. I can’t imagine how awesome that must feel to be able to still do that.