Jenny Lee Lindberg is all about opposites. She loves traveling the world, but hates flying. She feels cramped up in a tour bus, but loves spending time in her tiny bunk (she calls it her “cozy coffin”). She plays a Rickenbacker bass, but opts for a deep, low tone, rather than its signature treble-heavy sound. And on her band Warpaint’s upbeat album Heads Up, she unleashes brooding and contemplative bass lines instead of succumbing to the radio-friendly pop creations of her genre contemporaries.
A lot of her confidence to experiment and write boldly on Warpaint’s third album came from her experience in releasing her first solo record, 2015’s Right On!, during a break from the band. Taking on a different role as the sole songwriter brought out an independent creativeness that stuck. Perhaps because she felt inspired and more grounded in her musical identity than ever, Heads Up is the band’s most poised and bass-driven album yet. Her entrancing rhythms, interesting chord choices, and airy vocals very much put her in the lead of a talented quartet that isn’t interested in playing it safe.
How did creating your solo record impact your mentality going into Heads Up?
It showed me that I am capable of doing things on my own, which is really important being a bass player in a band. I showed myself that I can do it and that I can be fully in charge, direct other musicians, and produce songs. It was extremely liberating and empowering, and when I came back to work with the girls on this record, I was able to relinquish more control than I had in the past because it wasn’t my only outlet to express myself.
Instead of the classic bright and punchy Rickenbacker tone, you get a deep, warm sound.
I like a big, well-rounded tone. I don’t want any type of pluck sound in what I’m doing. I play with my fingers, and I keep my fingernails really short because I don’t like the sound of them on the strings. I personally don’t like using picks because of that. I like a lot of bottom end, but not to where it’s too muddy. A chorus pedal is a big component of my sound. I leave it on most of the time, which started as an accident because I had one built into an amp I used to use. Then when I got a new amp, I had to go out and get a chorus pedal.
How and when did you first start playing bass?
I had just moved to L.A. when I was 18, and I wanted to start playing an instrument, but I didn’t want to play the guitar. Randomly a friend said they had a bass and an amp to give me, and they taught me a few songs so that I could play on my own. It gave me a boost of confidence, and then I started writing my own bass lines nonstop for years. I absolutely loved it. It was really natural for me, but I had to work hard at getting decent on it. It can be an easy instrument to learn, but a hard instrument to get really good at.
Why do you love the bass guitar?
Whether I’m playing bass or not, it gets my bottom half moving and it always makes me dance. It’s very grounding when I hear it, and even more so when I play it. It just hits you right in the root chakra and gets you going.
Warpaint, Heads Up [2016, Rough Trade]; Jenny Lee Lindberg, Right On! [2015, Rough Trade]
Bass 1978 Rickenbacker 4001, 1950s Kay bass
Rig Fender Bassman, Fender Bassman 610Neo, Ampeg SVT-CL, Ampeg SVT-810E
Pedals Boss CE-2 Chorus, Boss OC-3 Super Octave, Boss DD-6 Digital Delay, Way Huge Pork Loin Overdrive, EHX Holy Grail, Pro Co Turbo Rat
Strings D’Addario Medium Roundwounds