L.A. Witch is a trio from you can guess where, and the first thing you'll notice is that they certainly do cast a spell with their reverb-drenched, trance-like garage rock. An L.A. Witch song can feel like you're on a midnight's drive, the convertible top down as you glide through foreboding fogs on a moonless night with an ultraviolet glow over the Hollywood horizon beckoning you onward.
Sade Sanchez (guitar and vocals) and Irita Pai (bass) formed the band in their hometown more than five years ago. Drummer Ellie English became their permanent percussionist not long after, and they released an E.P. of '60s garage rock and echo-splashed eerie psychedelic dirges that quickly cultivated a cult following. That following spread quickly because they hit the road with exceptional tenacity — basically touring nonstop for three years up until the release of their breakout self-titled debut LP.
But as more listeners come under the band's aforementioned spell, Pai refutes attempts by journalists to sort them into pithy (and sometimes inane) categories like "beach goth." For L.A. Witch, it was more about following the kind of sonic aesthetic that they each already naturally gravitated to. For starters, she says the band "really loves horror movies. I think the soundtracks of those films really played a huge role, in terms of influencing that — especially early horror movies. I think that kind of sound just feels right. I can't describe it, it's just something you're attracted to."
Pai drops a few names to indicate where her and Sanchez were leaning when they started the band, including fellow West Coast reverb-worshippers like Brian Jonestown Massacre or the wiry psychobilly of the Gun Club. For her, personally, she "had to find music for myself, because my parents were mostly into pop music — the Beatles, '60s rock 'n' roll, even Michael Jackson. But when Napster and the digital revolution came along, I started discovering a lot of the bands that I found to be the most inspiring and that continue to inspire me, like Black Sabbath, or even '80s bands like New Order."
But something special happens when you get out on the road — you realize that while writers may fixate on finding new "goth"-laden descriptors for your album, a deeper connection happens when you're out there, stopping at each unique club along your tour itinerary. "Everyone has their own perspectives and backgrounds when they're coming to a piece of music," says Pai. "We listen to a lot of older music, and I think a lot of people have heard that, that '60s and '70s sound, and that's cool because you're then able to connect with people that you don't even know. They could be in a city halfway around the world, Australia or France, but you still have the same perspectives even if you don't come from the same place."
Speaking of places, they've got fond memories of Detroit. Sort of. That's one thing Pai can attest to when it comes to the touring life — you learn a lot about automotive maintenance. "Our van broke down in Detroit once," she says.
You might think for a band that tours as much as L.A. Witch, the cities would start to blur together. Not so, says Pai. "I actually feel like I do remember each city," she says. "They're all distinct. But I think Detroit, itself, is such a memorable place. It's such a beautiful city. And it seems like the arts scene is just continuing to grow and that's great to see. The first time we came to Detroit, we were so excited. We went to see the Motown Museum and took the tour — it was kind of overwhelming, just all the history that happened there. We were playing at St. Andrew's and that was cool because we knew that's where Eminem had filmed parts of 8 Mile. But then there's also the Stooges and MC5. It's one of our favorite cities — we always talk about how we want to get a house here, one day."
L.A. Witch have been working on new songs for their next release, rehearsing them during their time off from touring this summer in an un-air-conditioned rehearsal space in Los Angeles' 100-degree heat. Pai said we may intuit the influence of that hot-collar swelter in these new tunes because they're faster, nervier, and more in the post-punk realm than the debut's comparatively more jangly garage-rock drifters.
English can bring a punk-rock urgency to songs like "Drive Your Car" but then a tribal plod and pound to "Baby in Blue Jeans." Sanchez, meanwhile, melodically drawls out drawn-out syllables with lyrics charting noir-like narratives of danger and intrigue that push beyond the edges.
For Pai, she says she likes the challenge of creating a fuller sound with just three instruments. "I like the bass to be really loud and really deep," she says. "You can feel it more! It's not something that I'm conscious of, it's just hearing what needs to be filled in. And it's all about how you use that sound."
L.A. Witch perform with Moonwalks and Prude Boys on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at the Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248- 820-559; thelovingtouchferndale.com; Doors at 7 p.m.; Tickets are $13 advance, $15 day of show.
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