Californian goth-grunge band L.A. Witch
It’s overstuffed with churning guitars and garage noise; yet fuelled by an undercurrent of fuzzy bliss. We are talking about Los Angeles’ goth-grunge band L.A. Witch, who take us through the dark brooding tales of mischief and romance with their bewitching tunes. From vocalist Sade Sanchez’s sultry vocals to the jingly jangly tambourine, the Californian trio certainly reminds you of their hometown treasure from the 90s, Mazzy Star (with a touch of Poison Ivy’s punk-rockabilly guitar).
L.A. Witch’s 2017 self-titled debut album is a heady cocktail of soft grunge and classic Rock ‘n’ Roll. Having met each other at Downtown Rehearsal in Los Angeles in 2012 – which was their former drummer Crystal Nava’s boyfriend’s band hangout spot – the band now comprises of guitarist/vocalist Sade Sanchez, bassist Irita Pai and drummer Ellie English. “From the first night I think we all knew that we really liked hanging out with each other, and just playing music without any pressure or pretensions or self-consciousness. It was a fun and very creative time,” said bassist Irita.
Having just released their groovy new single ‘I Wanna Lose’, L.A. Witch also announced their forthcoming album Play with Fire due 21 August through Suicide Sqeeze Records (Death Valley Girls, SadGirl). We sat down with the members of L.A. Witch to talk about growing up in the City of Angels (and Palm Trees), their obsession with leather jackets and the one album they will carry to a desert island.
An interview with L.A. Witch
What are the pre-requisites of becoming a member of L.A. Witch?
Irita: You have to know your astrological sign (birth chart preferred).
Ellie: We definitely talk a lot about astrology!
Sade: MUST LOVE DOGS!
What do you think about the alternative music scene in Los Angeles, considering it’s the center of mainstream entertainment?
Irita: I think every counter-culture movement comes as a reaction to whatever the mainstream is doing. As a kid growing up in LA, you definitely have more access to things so you have a lot of different things you can get inspired by. I used to go to shows all the time, when I was underage, I got a fake ID at MacArthur Park and it was totally scannable but was literally the worst looking ID ever. I think my photo was crooked. I never realized how good we had it until I went to London for school, and there was this kid who was so excited that he could see all these bands live because he was from some small town in Northern California.
Sade: I think we’re all really lucky to live and grow up in LA. It’s the centre of all types of entertainment and cultures for a reason. It’s got everything from beaches to mountains and the best tacos. It’s like all the previous generations left their footprint and energy, and you can feel it. Lots of history. It’s heavy. The vibes are heavy and that’s why we have all these creative people wanting to be here. They are inspired by it.
Do you think there is still a stigma in the music industry for an all-female band?
Irita: Less and less every day. When we first started out, we didn’t set out to be an all-female band or anything. We were just friends who enjoyed playing music together, regardless of gender. A lot of the other all-female or female-fronted bands were doing the bedroom pop, dreamy girl rock thing and that just wasn’t something we really thought about or were into.
Sade: If there is, I don’t feel it. It’s definitely more of a common thing now to be a girl in a band. I never really put myself in that category to begin with though, you know? I never felt like I was a part of any group. We’ve always just seen ourselves as people playing music, not women or girls playing music. We never thought of ourselves as an all-female band. We never thought of it as a category or group or anything like that. I’m sure that “guy bands” feel the same way. I wonder if they think of themselves as an all-male band. I get the feeling they don’t. But what do I know (laughs)?
Which song on your self-titled debut album is your proudest work?
Irita: To be completely honest, I was proud of the whole album. We had tried to record it (unsuccessfully) for 4 years, with different people and at different studios. We even recorded a version with the guy who did ‘Appetite for Destruction’ by Guns N’ Roses. The fact that it finally came out when it did, under Suicide Squeeze Records, was a really proud moment for all of us. It was a physical manifestation of the blood, sweat and tears we put into years of touring and being away from home, and all the craziness that comes with it.
Ellie: When I first joined the band, ‘Kill My Baby’ and ‘Drive Your Car’ were the first songs we wrote together, so they’re very special to me.
Sade: What Irita said!
Not to mention the cover art is fascinating, it’s very “West Coast”. What inspired the aesthetic?
Irita: Palm trees, car culture and those wallet-sized glam photos you used to take with your friends in school.
Sade: That’s LA, baby!
Your forthcoming record Play with Fire is set to be released in August, what is your vision of it?
Irita: With this whole COVID-19 pandemic, I really don’t know what to expect. We can’t really do the things we would normally do when releasing an album, like playing live shows, touring, filming music videos and taking press photos together. We have to adapt to this new world order. But being restricted I think really forces you to be more creative and come up with something you never would have even thought of or thought possible.
Sade: I’m just hoping that it will give people hope and inspiration. I especially had younger generations in mind while writing a lot of it. They are the future that will carry on the torch and man, I hope they continue to evolve and expand the horizons of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Punk Rock. We live in a time where people need instant gratification, and no one wants to take the time to learn to play an instrument anymore. A lot of stuff feels watered down now. I just hope to spark a new flame.
I can tell that L.A. Witch are 80% leather jackets and leather boots, how would you describe your style?
Irita: I have a huge leather collection, comprised solely of vintage pieces or leather that was gifted to us (one of my favorites of all-time is a cropped moto jacket from Deadwood, this amazing shop in Sotckholm, Sweden). I’ve recently been making clothing from old vintage leather pieces and recycling them into something new and different.
Ellie: Those Deadwood jackets are pretty cool!
Sade: Yep, leather, lots of leather. I ride a motorbike, so I got plenty of it. Fishnets are my other favorite. Vinyl too, even though it sticks to you after playing a show and it’s hard to take off. Also, good accessories like silver rings and chains or gold is good if you can afford it. A good leather belt with some studs can come in handy for other things too! I like feeling like my own weird version of one of the warriors or something. Like I’m dressing up for some battle and I got to be ready to throw it down. I love classic prints like leopard too. I love motorcycle culture and biker style like in Kenneth Angers, Scorpio Rising or Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin in the Wild One. Always loved how bikers were so DIY with their style and customised all their things. I take a lot from that.
If you all were to carry only one album to a desert island, what would they be?
Irita: Let it Bleed by Rolling Stones
Ellie: Live! by Fela Kuti and The Africa 70 with Ginger Baker
Sade: I hate this question (laughs)! Okay, how about some Air. Give me Moon Safari, Talkie Walkie or Pocket Symphony for the rest of my life and I’m fine. I will never get tired of those fools.
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