I walk into Café Marie-Jeanne on a rainy day and situate myself at a table. While Billie Holiday croons over the speakers, I await the arrival of Chicago’s own experimental crooner Malik Lemon, who performs under the moniker Warik — along with its variations such as Warik the Weatherman and Warik the Weeping Willow Tree.
[Listen while you read]
The 21-year-old Chicago native’s sound (and personality, for that matter) is nothing like the raincloud that hung over that cafe that day, but more of a free-form ray of energy shooting in multiple directions. As such, it’s difficult to brand a label onto Warik’s sound — though he’ll tell you about being misleadingly billed as a folk act with a laugh.
“They saw a picture of me with an acoustic guitar, maybe,” he explains.
In truth, Warik’s sound more occupies a space between lo-fi art-rock, experimental pop, and freedom-from-form songwriting.
Lemon’s a self-taught musician who cut his teeth playing at house parties with his high school garage band. But it wasn’t until 2014 that Lemon began writing and recording his own material more seriously.
He forged the name Warik through the experimental doodling and letter-rearranging of a middle school-aged Malik during class – Malik backwards and upside down, more or less.
Warik the Weatherman – or any such variant – is solely for the sake of alliteration. This laissez-faire attitude radiates from Lemon and is positively addictive. His larger fan base after the release of WARIK’S TAPE in summer 2016 can attest to that.
With a somewhat mysterious online presence, Warik remains half-shrouded until experienced in his eclectic stage presence — an experience that pushes against the grain of what a musical performance can be.
For example, at his performance at a recent Sofar Sounds show, a vintage podium with a built-in speaker sat on stage, primed for what promised to be some weird vocal manipulation.
To the right of that sat a tube-television with Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX for the Nintendo 64 queued and ready for play as Warik stood in the center of stage amongst the vines of patch cords connected to various pedals.
Indeed, it’s impressive that in a world filled with constant innovation, Warik finds a way to push his craft sonically, maintaining a brand of analog music that incorporates vocal and instrumental effects that give depth and layers of resonance to classic pop-rock music.
According to him, his “philosophy to writing is to keep the music true and to enjoy the freedoms of artistic and emotional expression of music in fun pop format.” His hope is for his songs to positively impact the lives of its listeners — encouraging them to “stay conscious and to stay current.”
On structured music and recording Lemon remarks “clean is nice, but my aesthetic has to do with affected tone, modulation, dialing it in right.”
On WARIK TAPES, he says, “It was just an experiment to be honest. I like it when it sucks, when the music is not right and I mess up. I clearly mess up on the WARIK’S TAPE. It is personal and funny. I take it upon myself to create organically. Getting to the root – enjoying it. That’s the crucial part. I practice hard, but don’t prepare.”
Regarding his influences, he mentions a performance by King Krule at Pitchfork Music Festival that inspired his decision to seriously write music. He also noted a Lincoln Hall show two years later where the guitarist for Montreal rock band TOPS (opening for Krule) noticed Lemon shredding his air guitar and passed him the actual axe for a guest solo in front of his idol.
Every show mentioned throughout the interview is accompanied by Lemon’s recall of who opened and each act listed on the bill — causing me to remark on his seemingly superhuman memory.
“No,” Lemon replies in jest, “I just remember shows. Like if we hang out and I come over, I will forget my hat.” I glance with envy at his BlkJuptr Smino hat.
From house parties to live shows, Warik is now focusing on his next release. The artist is recording and finalizing, and will hopefully be dropping music in May – within a year of his well-received WARIK’S TAPE.
While the next tape will be Warik only, Lemon looks forward to releasing more collaborations in the future, commenting on the comradery of collaboration.
Recent studio sessions with the Burns Twins and “…having ten people in the studio was interesting, everyone brings something else to the table, I don’t even know how to quantize!”
Keep your eyes peeled for news of upcoming shows and releases from Warik. Until then you may expect to see him performing at Stix Jams nights, playing in the venue with Grammy performing musicians.