jennylee explores her own breathing space
Jenny Lee Lindberg’s debut solo album right on! begins with blind – a sultry bassline, a distant hum of white noise and ghostly vocals emerging as though from the past: “I got no sun.”
It’s an album with elements of darkness, both musically and lyrically, despite its moments of soothing beauty. This shadowy bent makes sense – the Warpaint bassist’s youth was spent discovering gothically-inclined artists from the late 70s and early 80s, and the lines that can be drawn between tracks such as never never, riot and white devil and acts like The Cure and Joy Division are laser straight. “Somebody asked me the other day, ‘do you think that your teenage self would like this album?’ And I was like, ‘for sure’,” she tells me. “It feels very nostalgic to me.”
During the early stages of right on! (a title picked up from Jenny Lee’s mom, whose language is a little stuck in the 70s), Lindberg’s husband, the British video-artist Chris Cunningham, encouraged her to embrace Ableton software in order to realise more of her vision solo. Her eventual producer and engineer, Norm Block, then took her direction effortlessly over the course of two and a half months in the studio while applying the dexterity of a man with years of guitar-playing under his belt – or “some sprinkles,” as Lindberg terms it.
Having assembled a team that allowed her to augment her bass-driven sound with atmospheric instrumentation, Lindberg – who’s adopted the moniker ‘jennylee’ for the album – had no anxieties about her first lone venture. “I didn’t get super hung up on anything at all,” she says with a tone of laidback confidence. “It wasn’t such a ball-bust. I was ready for the next phase of being a musician, and I was able to pull from all the experiences I’ve had over the last twelve years of being in a band and writing music with other people.”
In her absence from the other members of Warpaint, Lindberg discovered she needed a change in direction. “Just because I’m so used to playing with the girls, I was kind of like, ‘Oh, I’m going to bring in some friends!’ All dudes too. I wanted to change that up. I wanted the record to have a little bit of a masculine feel.”
Although one could (and should) contend that no genre or emotion can be claimed by either gender, there’s something about the propulsive bass driving her new sound that you could argue invokes the traditionally male – a shuddering physicality of those four strings explored across the album’s ten tracks.
However, where there is darkness there is light, and amongst the album’s burning urgency and chilling nocturnes, there’s a lofty spaciousness to be found. It’s doubtful that any of these tracks will be radio hits, despite her obvious affection for disco – Lindberg cites Chic’s Bernard Edwards as one of her bass heroes, for example – but then again, right on!’s decidedly left-of-centre approach suggests that Warpaint-eclipsing popularity is not exactly what Lindberg wants.
She does, however, want to be the focal point of her live show, which she’ll take to New York and London in the weeks following the release. The winter will be spent back with “the girls”, writing what will be Warpaint’s third album. “I’m not going to play bass live,” she confirms. “I’m just going to be singing. I was excited to dance. With Warpaint, I’m always playing and singing at the same time and it’s a little restricting. I didn’t want to do that for this project. I wanted to get rowdy.”
right on! is released 11 December via Rough Trade