BEING A MUSICIAN MIGHT SEEM LIKE AN ENDLESS RUN OF PARTYING TO THE REST OF US, BUT IN REALITY, IT CAN BE QUITE A DISLOCATING EXPERIENCE. AS PART OF MARSHALL’S LIFE IN STEREO SERIES, WE CATCH UP WITH THERESA WAYMAN FROM WARPAINT AND YUKI TSUJII OF BO NINGEN TO FIND OUT HOW THEIR FRIENDSHIP FORGED ON THE ROAD, SUSTAINS THEM IN THEIR LIFE AND WORK.
Yuki Tsujii believes the connections between his band, Bo Ningen, and his friend Theresa Wayman's Warpaint are a kind of intangible magic. "It’s not obvious and you probably can’t see it”, he says. "It’s something that we only share with each other." Bo Ningen and Warpaint play guitar music from two sides of the same coin, both bands loading their love of the form with experimental flair. The London-based, Japanese four-piece Bo Ningen deal in far-out, heavy psychedelia, while the American Warpaint mix it up with sophisticated pop.
Yuki is full of enthusiasm when reminiscing about the first time he saw Warpaint play live at Coachella Festival. "It was the perfect time too, just before the sunset, and they did such a banging jam towards the end of their set, it was mind blowing," he enthuses. Theresa, meanwhile, was introduced to the music of Bo Ningen by her tour manager and was similarly, instantly impressed. "I thought they were amazing and kind of untouchable," she says. "It seemed like they were onto something that really meant something, like that's the way to be if you're gonna be making music." Like many, she was also taken with just how terrific Bo Ningen look in photos and onstage. "They were so striking with their long black hair flying around and the red clothes - I was very impressed." Interestingly, she now reflects that their appearance meant that they seemed like such other-worldly creatures and it might be hard to find some kind of personal connection. Adding that encountering someone's music before you meet in real life might create an expectation of how they are in real life. "The art they make projects a persona," she says. "I thought Bo Ningen would be as I thought their music was, untouchable and maybe in such a world of their own that I wouldn't relate."
Thankfully, when Yuki and Theresa did finally meet, they hit it off right away. With the seeds of mutual admiration sown, it wasn't long before the currents of life in successful bands bumped the two together at a gig at the London Roundhouse. Even though the meeting was a fleeting one, both came away with the feeling of a special connection.
Since then, they've hung out whenever coinciding tour schedules allow. Yuki recalls a particularly thirsty occasion in Japan. "We had a bit of a boozy bender when Warpaint played in Osaka, near my home town," he says. It was completely the wrong way of drinking sake." Partying aside, will there ever be a Bo Ningen and Warpaint collaboration? Well, Yuki has already played with Theresa when she visited London to perform an intimate solo set. "I did a more atmospheric type of sound through the set and it worked really well," he explains. "After the show, I said ‘did you know that I can actually play guitar?’ Because I normally play more intensely with Bo Ningen, treating the guitar like a noise generator and she looked surprised and said ‘yeah! You should do it more!’” That special moment for Yuki is part of what Theresa sees as the unique bond that can be found in a creative collaboration. "Working with someone creatively is an intimate thing and expedites the process of getting to know each other," she says. "When creating something, you're exposing parts of yourself, your ideas and emotions."
This exposure is the joy of creativity, but it can also leave artists vulnerable to struggles with mental health, issues that are then exacerbated by the pressures of life on the road. Both Yuki and Theresa agree that solidarity between bands is a huge help when dealing with the strange loneliness and extremes of emotion. There's the constant see-sawing of emotion between the adrenaline and excitement of a gig, contrasted with the boredom of travel and waiting around. "I think the friendships help us survive the creative life," says Theresa, "the feeling of having a worldwide family is also really nice and worth the lack of sleep. Friends that experience the same things make you feel safe and not alone!" Yuki goes one further, saying that for him, treasured friendships help him cope with anxiety at the state of things. "Living through this dubious, tough world as a creative is quite harsh," he says. "Life is ugly, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find any beauty in it. Friendship is one of these rare beauties."
WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE EACH OTHER, AND WHAT DID YOU DO?
Theresa: I was in London, in May, for my first ever TT (Theresa's solo project) show at the Pickle Factory. Yuki and some other friends came. It was really fun...we celebrated after at a bar close by and then at our Airbnb. I taught Yuki how to braid hair but I'm not sure he got it. I also discovered Bugsy Malone for the first time and listened to Tomorrow over and over! It was a wild night.
WHY DO YOU THINK YOU FOUND THAT INSTANT CONNECTION WHEN YOU MET AT THE LONDON VENUE ROUNDHOUSE?
Theresa: I think the fact that we had mutual friends helped us connect but I don't think that's why it was easy to become friends. We have a lot in common and I think we live similar lives even though we live in different parts of the world. I guess we're kindred spirits!
Yuki: I remember I got introduced by Warpaint’s tour manager Robin, who’s a good friend of mine, at the afterparty. It was quite brief, but I don’t know, it was just the feeling I think. Theresa gave me her contact details and I sent her Bo Ningen’s last album.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SHARED MEMORY? DO YOU THINK YOU FOUND THAT INSTANT CONNECTION WHEN YOU MET AT THE LONDON VENUE ROUNDHOUSE?
Theresa: Hanging out on the Warpaint bus after our Glastonbury show... we had just headlined the Park Stage but we had to leave, as we usually do, to play a show in France or somewhere the next day. Yuki and a few other friends came on the bus with us, just to the port, and caught a ride back to London from there.
THERESA DISCUSSES OUTKAST AS A KEY INSPIRATION IN THE FILM - YUKI, WHAT ARE YOURS?
Yuki: I don’t get much inspiration from specific artists or musicians these days, I get more influenced from certain sequences from some films and books. It’s more about imagining if I could put a sound or track on the scene, so soundtracks are also an important inspirational factor. Jackie by Mica Levi, Phantom Thread by Jonny Greenwood and Rikyu by Toru Takemitsu, to name a few.
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU BOND OVER?
Yuki: Bjork, for sure.
Theresa: We bond over our love of all kinds of music.
WHAT’S THE MOST USEFUL OR KINDEST THING YOU’VE EVER SAID TO ONE ANOTHER?
Theresa: Can I get you another beer?
IF YOU HAD AN AFTERNOON SPARE AND MONEY IS NO OBJECT, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM FRIEND DATE?
Yuki: Maybe we would just get some Prosecco, go to the park and chill.
Theresa: Probably setting up a music studio out in a cabana on a tropical island somewhere... make music, swim, drink beer and eat fresh fish! I think that'd be such an inspiring environment.
WHAT IS YUKI'S BEST ATTRIBUTE?
Theresa: His sense of humour.
WHAT DO YOU USUALLY DO WHEN YOU HANG OUT?
Theresa: Make memories...
WHAT’S THE BEST MUSIC YUKI HAS RECOMMENDED TO YOU?
Theresa: Tirzah - Devotion
IF THERESA WAS A SONG, WHAT SONG WOULD SHE BE?
Yuki: Colour Green by Sibylle Baier
WHAT IS HER BEST ATTRIBUTE?
Yuki: Her presence on stage, the way being confident and serious but kind of calm and happy at the same time.
WHAT DO YOU USUALLY DO WHEN YOU HANG OUT?
Yuki: We often see each other at gigs, so we basically hang for an alcoholic beverage a lot.
WHAT’S THE BEST MUSIC THERESA HAS RECOMMENDED TO YOU?
Yuki: The album Red by Black Uhuru because I love anything to do with red.
AUTHOR LUKE TURNER PHOTOGRAPHER LIBBY BURKE WILDE