Warpaint's Theresa Wayman discusses the unlikely marriage of rock stardom and motherhood
“At the beginning of Warpaint, we were doing a lot of brainstorming for the name of the band. We had this moment where we kind of went into outer space, and thought, “What about star names?” I thought Sirius B was such a pretty name but realised quickly that it wouldn’t be right for our band. ‘B’ is actually for beta, because there is Sirius Alpha, and Sirius Beta, which is how they name stars. Also there was a little bit of a story to that star, which is that you can’t see it; we didn’t discover it for a long time but it was supposedly known about and documented by other cultures thousands of years ago. I found that out later. But at the time, I thought, “If I ever have a kid, I’ll name him Sirius B” and then I found out two weeks later that I was pregnant.
I am really lucky, because I have my mother, who moved down to LA and she helps me with my son. So he’s got his grandma, which is a big deal, and they’re really close. What my mum and I really focus on is making sure that he has structure and discipline in his life, as well as fun, party times. I realised that human beings need structure and discipline and they thrive off of it. I always thought that was kind of a man-made thing, you know, ‘mind your p’s and q’s’ and ‘have an early bedtime’. When I was growing up, I really hated those things and I wanted to rebel against them; I thought that they were just social structures placed upon people to be boring. Then after having a kid, I realised that my son is such a happy, well-adjusted, interesting, fun, and funny little guy when he has all his ducks in a row, when he has enough sleep regularly, and when he has codes of conduct to live by.
"I thought, “If I ever have a kid, I’ll name him Sirius B” and then I found out two weeks later that I was pregnant" — Theresa Wayman
Music has always been a part of his life. Something that people don’t do with kids often enough – as far as music lessons go – is to get them to improvise. When they get to do that during their piano lessons, that’s the part they love the most. It’s really inventive, and it does connect directly to their imagination and the world of make-believe. When I was pregnant, the music that I was playing with Vincent [Gallo’s band] was really soothing music, so I knew it wasn’t going to be too disturbing for the baby. I just thought, this is going to be really nice for the baby to be hearing this stuff, feeling its vibrations. Because the baby is in liquid, it is probably getting an even stronger sense of the music. After he was born, he was still really young and I happened to go into my friend’s shop one day and they were playing that album – the album that we had toured – and honestly, it was like his ears perked up and he was all of a sudden paying attention to the music. I didn’t realise for a second why he was acting like that, and then it totally hit me and I thought, ‘Oh my god, maybe I do believe it.’ There are so many 'mama' songs. The main one that came to mind was Tupac's ‘Dear Mama’ but they're honestly everywhere, everyone from Elvis to Kanye to Metallica has done one. So I guess it's in my son's hands to eventually write a song for me. Or maybe I should write one for my mother. She certainly deserves it.”
Childhood friends Theresa Wayman and Emily Kokal formed Warpaint on Valentine’s Day in 2004, a fittingly romantic springboard for the lush and sometimes lovelorn music they make. Ten years later, alongside bandmates Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa, they are now on the road following the release earlier this year of their critically lauded, eponymous second album. Of the swooning, expansive songs on the record, the last, Son, was loosely penned for guitarist and vocalist Theresa Wayman’s 8-and-a-half-year-old son, Sirius B. Warpaint was still in its infancy when she became pregnant, and Sirius B – named after the fainter component of the Sirius Binary star system, considered the brightest in the sky – has grown up with music all around him, ever since he was in the womb; Wayman was playing in Vincent Gallo’s band up until she was eight months pregnant. Indeed, her son’s name was one of many possibles initially thought up for Warpaint.
Having a child and being a touring musician hasn’t been easy, and Wayman is disarmingly open and pragmatic about the experience. “It has made me value my time really intensely,” she says. “All of a sudden, your life has become about somebody else. I think for anyone at any age that’s really difficult, but when you’re younger and you’re still developing and figuring out what your role is in life… I had to get really serious about structuring my life and my time, so that I could do what I wanted to do for myself and do what I needed to do for my kid.”
Text by Laura Allsop