Long Beach, CA multi-cultural groove/world/indie rock collective WARGIRL is gearing up for the April 19 release of their self-titled debut full-length, which will be released on April 19 via Clouds Hill.
Whilst nearby Los Angeles is where dreams are shattered, in Long Beach people are getting on with their lives. It’s got a strong working-class community and is known for its ethnic diversity – even delights in it. Add to that the sunshine and the almost nice beach. “Really,” Matt Wignall says, “Long Beach is kind of the opposite of LA, it’s a very real place where you can actually become a part of the creative community” Wignall has been there his whole life, it’s where he runs a studio and seeks out old equipment to repair. He prides himself in making it sound better than it ever did before. He produces bands, such as Cold War Kids. With them, Wignall has recorded tracks such as “Hang Me Out to Dry” and “Hospital Beds” with a sound that is to die for. Also there’s Mando Diao, whose album “GiveMeFire!” he co-produced, engineered and even created the artwork for. So the interesting question is: Why does a musician who has such an understanding of sound and such awesome equipment not have his own band?
And now he has got one: WARGIRL. After brilliant first gigs, including an appearance at Germany's Clouds Hill Festival, and the release of debut their fantastic debut EP “Arbolita”, Clouds Hill
out of Hamburg (Omar Rodriguez, Pete Doherty) is now releasing the band's first album, eponymously named WARGIRL.
“The idea of being in some band where there’s four guys playing and one of them singing lead just seemed incredibly boring to me,” Wignall says. What he wanted was an awesome collective that would do justice to the sound of his hometown. The Sound of Long Beach, that means Santana’s early records, afrobeat recordings by Fela Kuti, the psychedelic masterpiece “Forever Changes” by Love, the 70s psych funk masters War (who happen to also be from Long Beach!), as well as reggae, disco, garage rock and post-punk. “One day the thought occurred to me that really what I should do was to get to know people and set up a band with them that would combine all of these aspects.” So he went out, into town, down to the beach – and realised: Actually, I already know all of these people, I just need to ask them.
The singer is Samantha Park. She is the daughter of James Lafayette Parks, the leader of the 70s funk band Bull & The Matadors, but above all she is a gifted vocalist who manages both to sing sensually and to drive the sound forwards. Tamara Raye plays bass in a way that is unusually demanding and that grooves like Tina Weymouth’s (of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club). Enya Preston plays the keyboards. There are also, very importantly, two percussionists: Erick Diego Nieto and Jeff Suri blend disco with funk, latin with afro, pop with rock – but always to the point, never just to show off. Matt Wignall plays guitar, “not at all as a lead instrument but as an additional driver.”
This team recorded the tracks on WARGIRL live apart from a very few overdubs. “We sit around in a circle, without headphones, look each other in the eyes and try to feel the music,” Wignall explains. They play for the moment, not for the recording. And that is exactly what makes their music special. Some of the tracks were recorded in Costa Rica, with Mats Björke of Mando Diao present and helping. On location was also a horn section made up entirely of women musicians. “I like the feminine touch in our music,” Wignall says.
The basis of the songs is usually the beat: sometimes it sounds like post-punk disco as in the single “Poison”; sometimes as in “How You Feel” it’s like Phil Spector in a California funk club. In “Last Time” the rhythm has a mysterious and tropical vibe whilst “Voice Of The Mountain” is in a wonderful way both African American and Latin American, which, although they are not mutually exclusive, is quite a feat to pull off.
“Our thinking is completely without borders,” Wignall states. The role model is records like The Clash’s album “Sandinista!”: The real legacy of punk is not the image and slogans but the certainty that you can play whatever you want.
“No matter whether you see us or hear us, we always come across as a diverse bunch: ethnically as well as in terms of gender and preferences. However, whilst this may be considered colourful elsewhere, in Long Beach it is totally normal,” Matt Wignall points out. “Nobody else sounds like us, and yet we sound like the environment we come from.” WARGIRL is thus also an appeal for diversity and openness, for identity within heterogeneity. It is therefore an album the world today sorely needs. Because diverse doesn’t just look better – it also sounds better.