Artist You Should Know: WARGIRL

WARGIRL just made their debut with “Mess Around” and “PEOPLE” on Stereogum and it’s impossible not to get hooked on their signature groovy, danceable sound. We chatted with the Long Beach, CA-based band made up of members of Cold War Kids and revolving guest musicians about their debut, backstory, and more.

Give us a breakdown of everyone in the band.
The band is made up of core members and revolving guest musicians. The original batch of recordings were a collaboration between half of the current WARGIRL lineup and half of the Cold War Kids. Once we started gigging it very naturally evolved into the band we have now with the odd guest appearances. Matt Wignall was the inception point for the band, he runs analog studio Tackyland in Long Beach and has strong central american expat tendencies. Drummer Erick Nieto was a long time collaborator with Wignall, he came from Ecuador to America when he was young, and spent two decades trying to become a citizen while playing percussion and futbol to pass the time. Jeff Suri is the other drummer, a PHD chemist who invented a device that tests blood sugar without drawing blood. Tamara Raye is the bass player, she rides triumph motorcycles and we have to deal with her bass amp because it doesn’t fit on the bike. Enya Preston is the keyboard player and the youngest member at maybe 20? She speaks Japanese and seems to be really good at everything, probably home schooled judging by the hint of social awkwardness. On vocals is Marika Dahlin. She lives in a tiny two story garden shed art studio near LAX, and we are not sure how she makes money. Also singing is Anne Dereaux, a Nashville to LA transplant and architect.

How did you all meet?
Matt and the drummers had been playing together in Southern California for years and they regularly appear on tracks Matt produces like J.Roddy Walston, Cold War Kids, Deep Sea Diver etc. Anne was acquaintances with Matt Maust and Nate Willet of the Cold War Kids and they suggested her as a cool singer. Tamara was a 6’ tall girl around town on a motorcycle who played bass… hard to miss, and Marika and Wignall had met through a charity Water Wells For Africa.

You just made your debut with “Mess Around” and “PEOPLE,” boasting groovy, danceable garage soaked rhythms over subversive lyrics and social commentary. What was the inspiration behind both tracks?
Seeing the performances of songs like “Soul Sacrafice” from Santana or “Higher” from Sly Stone at Woodstock made a profound impression on many of the band members at a young age. WARGIRL jams are all written in a circle in a small funky garage in Long Beach where, coincidentally, the band WAR came from, we strive to tap into that energy that we saw from those bands that inspired us and that seemed to care about the state of affairs in the world. We believe in the transportative quality of music, we believe that music and art effects culture, we think that music should have a groove and it at it best it should also say something. We are 15 years into never ending wars sustained by both political parties. Congress just passed a law allowing corporations to not label genetically modified food, every black kid in the country needs to think twice and look over their shoulder before pulling out a cell phone… music can be positive force of social commentary, it can bring people together. Without thinking about it too much, that’s where our lyrics and collective intent have been going.

We read that Matt Wignall met vocalist Marika Dahlin while he was photographing and making field recordings of the Malawian tribal villages, where Dahlin’s parents operate the charity Water Wells For Africa. That’s pretty rad! Why was Matt making field recordings? How did the topic of music come about? Tell us a little about the encounter and overall experience in Malwai.
Matt did most of the photography for the Cold War Kids in their first several years, the singer, Nate, was dating one of the Dahlin girls who’s parents ran Water Wells For Africa. They saw Matt’s photographs and met him through Nate and asked him if he would like to go to Malawi and shoot his style of imagery to help promote the charity. Matt brought along a field recorder, and several film cameras and spent over two weeks out in the bush shooting remote villages with no electricity or running water. Marika is one of 5 sisters who grew up being dragged to Malawi by her broke eccentric parents who put much of their lives into partnering with locals to put wells into the poorest villages in southern Malawi. The singing and rhythms of this place were another piece of the puzzle that would eventually influence WARGIRL. The live set includes songs played to percussive loops recorded by Matt in Malawi.

What are you guys currently working on?
We are working towards a full length album. Our singles will be releasing on a indie label in Sweden, and independently here in America. We want to play the music live wherever we can. We feel like Swedish people would especially like it, we have no particular reasoning behind this feeling.

Describe the vibe of your recording studio, Tackyland.
Tackyland is funky little converted garage in Long Beach CA with a hardwood floor and wood paneled walls. It is kind of dark, like an old Irish bar, and the walls are covered in art and contributions from people who have recorded there. It is furnished with a hot rodded british TAC console which runs at 24v, and a 16 track 1” tape machine, and then lots of spring reverbs and esoteric nearly broken to actually broken gear. There is something about the space that always pulls the best out of a performance, and it opens its warm embrace to everyone who is able to slow down and become a part of it.

Your songs are filled with social commentary metaphors – where do you draw inspiration from?
Wignall and Anne penned lyrics together for an upcoming song (Start A) Fire. We were in the studio the day after Bree Newsome climbed the flagpole in South Carolina and took down the confederate flag. For Anne, it was a particularly moving event.  Anne has a black mother and white father and grew up in Tennessee, so we talked about the event and the ongoing civil rights battles just under the surface in this country, and the lyrics just found their way into the song. I’d say that’s how it is with most of our songs. There is a groove, that comes first, the music has to have a vibe…  and then what’s happening in the world today, this month, this week? How can we write something meaningful? And if it’s fun at face value is there some underlying idea we can sneak in there for anyone who is really listening?

Thanks for chatting with us! Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for giving us an opportunity to put WARGIRL out there! Come see it live. That’s where it’s at.

Listen to their debut singles here.

MikeArtist You Should Know: WARGIRL

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