Whatever Happened To is a series where we dig into the history and happenings of music’s biggest disappearing acts. Today, we’re going on a search to find She Wants Revenge, the California darkwave duo.
In 2006, few new bands were as buzzed about as She Wants Revenge. In January of that year, the duo of singer/guitarist Justin Warfield and multi-instrumentalist Adam Bravin released a self-titled album that evoked the darkwave post-punk of the early ‘80s. The single “Tear You Apart” was a top 10 hit on alternative radio, moody and ominous enough to stand out on playlists dominated by Weezer and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The L.A. band’s Geffen debut album received mixed reviews, including a Pitchfork pan that derided the band as a poor man’s Interpol. But it sold nearly 300,000 copies, amassing a fanbase that included a few celebrities. Joaquin Phoenix directed the video for “Tear You Apart” and Garbage’s Shirley Manson appeared in the video for the follow-up single “These Things.” And the band toured with heroes and influences like Depeche Mode and, later, Peter Murphy of Bauhaus.
The breakthrough of She Wants Revenge was just the most high profile moment in Warfield’s long, unusually varied career, however. A decade before Warfield was a rock frontman whose vocals were compared to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, he was a rapper whose voice was often likened to A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip.
His father, Maurice Warfield, had been an Epic Records executive, instrumental in the careers of R&B stars like Luther Vandross and Barry White. And in 1991, a 17-year-old Justin Warfield released “Season of the Vic,” a minor rap radio hit produced by another music industry scion, QD III aka Quincy Jones III, son of the legendary Quincy Jones.
Warfield performed on Soul Train, got video airtime on BET, played concerts with Tha Pharcyde and Cypress Hill, and signed to the elder Quincy Jones’s Warner Bros. imprint Qwest Records. He was even an extra on Saved By the Bell. But by the time Warfield released his debut album My Field Trip To Planet 9 in 1993, the excitement around “Season of the Vic” had dissipated, and the Native Tongues-influenced sound of the Prince Paul-produced album was falling out of vogue. The album received glowing reviews but little commercial success, with Warner Bros. devoting its promotional budget to its more established hip-hop acts like Naughty By Nature.
Warfield’s guest appearance on Bomb The Bass’s 1994 dance track “Bug Powder Dust,” a Top 40 hit in the UK, gave him name recognition in England, and over the next few years he rapped on songs by Cornershop, Placebo, and the Chemical Brothers. But his focus was drifting towards singing and playing guitar, and Warfield formed two bands with bassist Gianni Garofalo. The Justin Warfield Supernaut released a self-titled album on Qwest in 1995. And One Inch Punch’s 1996 album The Tao of One Inch Punch was released in Europe by EMI, with their song “Pretty Piece of Flesh” appearing on the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack alongside hits by Garbage and The Cardigans.