We at The MAT Magazine have been under L.A. Witch’s spell for a few years now. To say that we’re excited to finally hear their long-awaited debut album would be an understatement, really. Click here to pre-order it on limited edition translucent pink vinyl.
I previously gushed that L.A. Witch “[took] the notion of driving music to the next level, transforming it into driving-to-the-desert-to-fuck-shit-up music.” So true. Sure, the Los Angeles trio draws from garage, psych, desert punk, ’60s girl groups and beyond, but what elevates them beyond retro rockers is they’ve reimagined the past and crafted a sound and aesthetic distinctly their own.
To celebrate the upcoming release of their self-titled debut album, we had to go all out. And by all out, I mean out of town. Phillip Gutgesell and I trekked all the way to Pomona’s legendary Glass House, where they gave an enthralling set in support of Mystic Braves. Before the show, we raised all the burning questions, and did I mention the portraits in 35mm? Because that’s how we roll.
Frank Mojica: So, your debut album is finally coming out on Suicide Squeeze. How does it feel?
Sade Sanchez: We’re relieved. We’re very excited. We’re also very lucky to work with Suicide Squeeze because they’re so rad and put out such good stuff. They’re like family to us.
Mojica: Their roster is amazing.
Sanchez: Yeah, we’re really excited about it. A lot of people have been kind of waiting for it, and that makes us feel really good.
Mojica: New stuff?
Sanchez: Yeah, we’ve been working on new stuff for a while, so we’ll probably start working on the second album after we get done touring within the next few months.
Phillip Gutgesell: How long has it been since you first started playing?
Ellie English: I think the touring started two years ago.
Sanchez: Well, we’ve been a band for four years, but we all had jobs. And we also went through a few drummers. Once we had Ellie, we started touring more and getting more serious about it.
Mojica: How did you all meet?
Sanchez: I met Ellie in high school. We had a band together when we were, like, 17, a two-piece band, and then we kind of split up. And Irita and I were introduced to each other through a mutual friend, and we were working at the same company at the time, but different departments. So there were two other members in the band originally that are not in it anymore.
Mojica: Yeah, I’ve seen pictures.
Sanchez: Yeah, we all worked with the same company, so that’s how we met.
Mojica: I wanted to ask about your recording process. Do you write and play songs on the road and then record them in the studio, or vice versa? And if both, how do they differ?
English: It goes both ways.
Irita Pai: Yeah.
Sanchez: Usually, I would say moreso we play and we record it. Just because we don’t really, you know, we’re always touring and it’s hard for us to find the time. And money was kind of a problem for a while. Now it’s different, but the first year of us being a band, we didn’t have any real money to record, so we were always doing it DIY.
Mojica: You went on your first European tour last year and went back again recently. What’s it like touring there versus the states?
Pai: We have so many. Europe is cool. When you play there, they guarantee you a place to sleep and a hot meal. They really take care of the artists, and the audiences are more receptive to music in general.
Mojica: Do they not guarantee hot meals in the U.S.?
Sanchez: It’s rare. There’s a few venues, but for the most part, it’s usually you get paid and that’s about it. Whereas in Europe, the promoters want to meet you. They want to cook you dinner.
English: Give you a place to stay.
Sanchez: Yeah, they want to have a drink with you. They’re just a little bit different.
Mojica: More hospitable, it sounds like.
English: It doesn’t feel like you’re just money to them. It feels like you’re building a community and friends and artists.
Pai: Artists, basically, not just…
Mojica: A commodity?
Gutgesell: How would you describe your band to aliens?
Pai: I don’t know what language they’d speak.
English: I would just play for them.
Mojica: Are aliens real?
Mojica: What about magic? Is magic real?
Pai: Everything’s magic before it’s proven, right?
Mojica: Yeah, just science that people don’t know. On that note, would you rather travel in time or to a parallel earth?
Pai: No Planet of the Apes.
Sanchez: At least when you time travel, you know what you’re going to get. Or you have an idea. Whereas you go to a parallel earth and you’re fucked. You know what I mean?
Mojica: Mmm hmm.
Pai: Depends also what time period. Women’s rights really didn’t come around until early 1900s, so really further back, probably wouldn’t be so lucky.
Gutgesell: They’d be like, “Real witches? Let’s burn them!”
Mojica: Burn them at the stake! So not too far back. Would you rather go to the future or the past?
All: The past.
Mojica: Which part of the past?
Sanchez: I would go with the sixties, seventies maybe, and live through the eighties a little bit. I also wouldn’t mind going to pilgrim days or weird medieval times.
Mojica: I noticed that film is a significant part of the L.A. Witch aesthetic. What is it about film that draws you to it?
Sanchez: Obviously we had access to film cameras before we had access to digital cameras, because digital cameras didn’t exist until…high school, maybe? So that’s what we were already used to, and there’s a warmth about it. More physical. I don’t know how to explain it. You see a digital photo, and you see it on your computer or on your phone. On a screen. Whereas with film photos, there’s something that you can hold and look at and touch. I think also that when you’re taking a film photo, you just don’t know whether it’s going to come out or not. For some reason, you take it a little bit more, because that moment’s so important to you, that you want to capture it with your camera. With your phone, it’s like, yeah, you’re going to catch it.
Mojica: Yeah, fire off a thousand photos, and one will eventually work.
Sanchez: Yeah, and you’ll never see it again, because you have 10,000 photos on a hard drive somewhere.
Mojica: What do you think it says about L.A. Witch?
English: I don’t know if it really says anything about…maybe we just have different tastes, or maybe different aesthetic. Maybe we like old things.
Mojica: For me, I get a different sensation, like a warm and fuzzy feeling, from looking at film photos that I don’t get from digital, regardless of the subject.
Sanchez: There’s a lot of cool experimenting to it.
English: It’s harder to do, which is why it’s so much more fun. It’s not as easy.
Mojica: So speaking of aesthetic, I’ve seen that you’ve played some sets with Mad Alchemy liquid light show. What’s that like? (Click here to check out our photos of one such occasion!)
Sanchez: Lance [Gordon] is a great guy. He’s got a big team now, and we really respect what he does because he’s so passionate about doing it. It really makes such a huge difference when you have a visual thing, you know? Music should be visual, not just something that you listen to. You should be able to incorporate as many senses as possible. And Lance really does that. He puts so much work, and it’s just really cool, you know? We love his work, and he’s been doing really well. He just did a huge show at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Mojica: Oooh, that’s my bucket list place to see a show.
Sanchez: One of his crew guys was letting me do the lights. It was in Milwaukee. When you’re doing it and you’re watching the music, it’s like you’re moving the lights to the music. It’s not just randomly doing shit. It’s like the lights have a pulse.
Mojica: More alive than pre-programmed strobes?
Gutgesell: Laptop lights?
Sanchez: We’ve had terrible visuals from laptop lights.
Mojica: When watching you perform a Mad Alchemy show last year, I got the sense that the music also moves to the lights.
Sanchez: Yeah, totally. It helps you get more into the vibe of it.
Mojica: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
English: I don’t know.
Sanchez: I like to listen to music sometimes just to get myself into a vibe or whatever.
Mojica: Anything in particular? Suicide, perhaps?
English: Maybe Madonna, honestly.
Mojica: Eighties Madonna? Nineties Madonna? Modern Madonna?
English: All Madonna.
Sanchez: What was the last Madonna? It was a cover. “Time goes by so slowly.”
Pai: Gwen Stefani.
Sanchez: Oh God, was it?
English: Well, we had a Madonna album.
Sanchez: No, wait. *hums the melody* That was Madonna. Remember in the video where she was wearing the leggings and dancing all crazy?
Mojica: Speaking of which, what is your favorite Madonna aesthetic?
Sanchez: I like her nineties shit, you know?
Gutgesell: What was her nineties style?
Sanchez: When she did “Ray of Light.”
Mojica: I liked the one where she was otherworldly and gothy. I can’t remember the name of the song, but Chris Cunningham directed the video.
Gutgesell: I don’t remember that.
Mojica: Why can’t I remember the name of the song? It was my favorite one, though, that one.
English: There’s so many good ones.
Sanchez: Also, what was the documentary?
English: Yeah, that was good.
Sanchez: What was it called? The documentary is really good. It shows her work ethic. Yeah, Suicide’s cool, too. Alan Vega’s birthday was yesterday, so I figured it was appropriate to wear a Suicide shirt.
Mojica: If you could tour with anyone, who would it be?
English: Friends-wise or just anyone?
Mojica: Music. Living or dead. Maybe you can go to the parallel earth where somebody is still alive.
Sanchez: The Velvet Underground. Or The Gun Club. Or The Cramps.
Gutgesell: Yes! Did any of you ever see The Cramps?
Gutgesell: When did they play last? Like 2007?
Sanchez: I think it was 2007.
Gutgesell: I think I just started getting into them right before [Lux Interior] died. I’m so bummed, because I could have seen him.
Mojica: That was me with Elliott Smith. He died a year after I moved here, and I still hadn’t seen him.
Gutgesell: That’s so bad.
Mojica: And that’s why now I’ve got the mindset where I have to see everyone I like, and as many times as I can while it’s still possible.
Gutgesell: The image of the cat with the corpse paint, was that off an early EP?
Sanchez: Yeah, that was our first EP.
Gutgesell: Are you ever going to use that image again? I love it. Have you made shirts of that ever?
Sanchez: No, that was so early on when we were still not knowing what the hell we were doing. And we still don’t know what the hell we’re doing.
Pai: We had a pin, though.
Sanchez: We did make an enamel pin. People always ask about it, and we love that image.
Mojica: Are those pins still available?
Mojica: “Frozen!” That’s the Madonna aesthetic I was thinking of.
Sanchez: That’s a good one.
Gutgesell: This tour ends tonight. What was your favorite show on the tour?
Sanchez: Yesterday was really fun. Of this whole run? San Francisco is so cool.
English: Independent is cool.
Sanchez: That venue is cool, and [Mystic Braves] are really cool. We just had so much fun yesterday.
Gutgesell: Are you relaxing after the tour?
Sanchez: We have a month off, and we’ll have maybe two shows in the middle, and then we’re going to be working on some secret stuff.
Mojica and Gutgesell: Secret stuff!
Mojica: Jinx, buy me a Coke.
Sanchez: We’ll have the release show, and we’re going to be going on a few other tours. We have a U.S. tour, a European tour and an Australian tour.
Gutgesell: Is this your first time in Australia?
Gutgesell: What cities?
Pai: We don’t know yet.
Gutgesell: So when’s the next show? You can say the non-secret one.
Pai: August 31 at Levitt Pavilion.
Mojica: The secret one is an Illuminati gathering, right? You’re playing the Bohemian Grove this year?
Sanchez: It’s one of those things where you have to bring your own sacrifice.
Catch L.A. Witch live at the following dates. Seriously, get yourselves and your favorite music homies to the nearest show.
FRI AUG 4 – Palm Springs CA, Ace Hotel
THU AUG 31 – Los Angeles, Levitt Pavilion (MacArthur Park) – FREE RECORD RELEASE SHOW
MON SEPT 4 – Groningen DE, Vera
TUE SEPT 5 – Amsterdam DE, Paradiso
WED SEPT 6 – Ghent DE, Kinky Star
THU SEPT 7 – Berlin DE, Kantine am Berghain
FRI SEPT 8 – Köln DE, Burger Invasion: Cologne
SAT SEPT 9 – Hamburg DE, Burger Invasion: Molotow
MON SEPT 11 – Olten CH, Le Coq D’Or
WED SEPT 13 – Zurich CH, Gonzo Club
THU SEPT 14 – Clermont-Ferrand FR, Le Baraka
SAT SEPT 16 – Paris FR, Le Batofar
SUN SEPT 17 – Lille FR, DIY Cafe
MON SEPT 18 – Bristol UK, The Crofters Right
TUE SEPT 19 – Brighton UK, Acid Box
WED SEPT 20 – London UK, Moth Club
THU SEPT 21 – Glasgow UK, Mono
FRI SEPT 22 – Liverpool UK, Psych Festival
SAT SEPT 23 – Rotterdam, Rotown
FRI-SUN OCT 13-15 – Joshua Tree, Desert Daze
All photos of L.A. Witch shot by Frank Mojica in glorious 35mm.