Photo by Marco Hernandez

“Get Lost” with L.A. Witch

The band talks their new album and upcoming Desert Daze Festival
By Julia Peschel

There’s undeniably a dash of magic up the sleeve of the fierce trio that is L.A. Witch. These bad ass chick rockers will beckon you with their hypnotic vocals, fuzzy guitar and dark desert twang. Anticipating the release of their self-titled debut album this September, L.A. Witch opens up to us about thriving in the legendary L.A. underground, life on the road, tarot cards and playing the Desert Daze Festival in Joshua Tree, CA.

The enchantresses that make up this all-girl gang include vocalist and guitarist Sade Sanchez, bassist Irita Pai and drummer Ellie English. Pai had been jamming with girlfriends and was on the hunt for other musicians to play with when she was introduced to Sanchez by a mutual friend. Their first show was four months later. “We didn’t even have a band name yet,” recalls Pai. About five years ago when L.A. Witch lost their original drummer, Sanchez reconnected with English — a former bandmate from high school. The redhead was the perfect ingredient for this punk tinged Mazzy Star-esque brew, and today’s L.A. Witch was born.

Before L.A. Witch was tearing up festivals, they had to make their way through the Los Angeles underground like many notable artists. But for them, fame and fortune took a backseat to the authenticity they hoped to bring to the scene.

“When we first started playing around, it was such a great time to be in a band in L.A.,” says Pai. “There were so many shows happening — DIY spots, free shows, free residencies. We never got paid, we just wanted to play music.”

“It was pretty exciting,” says Sanchez. “We met so many people and made a lot of friends. Everything felt very DIY. The music communities that helped us build our way were all very new and young. We were all just trying to have a good time.”

The band played venues like The Smell — an experimental punk venue known for its homegrown ethos, and SilverLake Lounge — one of the most storied venues in the area with early performances by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Silversun Pickups.

“[We] haven’t been home much over the last few years but it seems like a lot of DIY spots have been shutting down since then, which really has a huge, detrimental effect on the music scene,” says Pai.

Set for release via Suicide Squeeze Records, L.A. Witch’s debut album is dripping with reverb, sultry vocals and a rawness that grabs ahold of your soul. This multifaceted record fuses punk, surf guitar and 60s psych rock that tell a narrative of tumultuous romance.

“They are mostly love songs,” says Sanchez. “Most of them were written after a tough breakup with one of my first serious relationships.”

The opening tune “Kill My Baby Tonight” is a dark and powerful ballad charged with Pai’s thumping bass and Sanchez’s haunting, hazy moans. In “You Love Nothing,” Sanchez is guided by English’s booming tom hits and transports us into her dreamy guitar passage as she shouts, “You want nothing, why do I want you?”

There is a melancholy that carries throughout the album, but singles “Untitled” and “Get Lost” offer bouncier rhythms and beachy, reverb heavy melodies perfect for a cruise on a sizzling summer day. Though their melting pot of a sound is completely their own, L.A. Witch’s bluesy twang could almost be descendant of Link Wray’s iconic “Rumble” heard in Pulp Fiction.

Last year, L.A. Witch opened for the Coathangers — another untamed, all-girl trio whom they admire — on their Nosebleed Summer Tour. “Not only are [they] label family, but they are just super lovely, talented people,” says Sanchez. “Seeing them live is such a cool experience. They write such great songs. Definitely one of my [favorites].”

This fall, L.A. Witch embark on a stretch of shows in Europe to premiere their album, along with a trip down under in Australia and a stop at the familiar Desert Daze Festival in Joshua Tree — an eccentric desert gathering of which the girls express their fondness.

“I’m always excited for Desert Daze,” says English. “Phil [Pirrone] does a really great job with the line up. I’ve gotten to see some of my favorite bands every year.”

The three day bohemian campout is set for October 12th — 15th at the Institute of Mentalphysics and also includes performances by Spiritualized, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, Eagles of Death Metal, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Allah-Las, Black Moth Super Rainbow and Panda Bear of Animal Collective.

“Desert Daze is one of my favorite festivals,” says Pai. “It has a really intimate vibe, well-curated lineups, and when you’re backstage it feels like being at a family reunion. We’ve been lucky enough to have played the last few years and it’s been amazing to see the festival grow and yet maintain that DIY, community aspect.”

When on the road, the girls make sure to have a little fun in between shows and still preserve some of that DIY upbringing themselves — from their artistic hobbies all the way down to the toes of their bold, shadowy wardrobes.

“We hit a lot of thrift stores and antique shops on the road,” says Sanchez. “I’ve found some really cool stuff on the road. We love shopping. It’s like treasure hunting to us. Everything you find is actually affordable for the most part and you can’t find it anywhere else.”

Fans also get an aesthetically vintage peek into their travels, as these rockers are usually armed with 35mm film cameras. Pai’s Instagram account is layered with dreamy shots of classic Americana and crude behind-the-scenes shenanigans.

“There’s a certain magic to the way film captures light — it’s really beautiful and nostalgic,” says Pai.

English says that L.A. Witch seems to be “pretty much always touring,” but the band has recently aquired a little downtime to soak up the streets of the City of Angels.

“Usually we don’t have time to prep [for tours], but this time we do,” says Sanchez with excitement. “[I’ve] been sleeping a lot and [focusing] on things that I normally don’t get the chance to, like skating or riding my moto around my new neighborhood.”

When they’re not working on new material, the girls like to put on their favorite tunes — English’s including Talking Heads, The Troggs and T. Rex — or hang out at social events together. “We just got our tarot cards read together!” shares Pai.

There’s much to look forward to on L.A. Witch’s spellbinding debut LP — dropping September 8th.

Catch them before then for a free show on August 4th at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, or at Desert Daze Festival this October.

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DESERT DAZE TICKETS: desertdaze.org