ARTIST: L.A. WITCH
SOUNDS LIKE: An alliance of 1960s surf psychedelia and a revival of washed-out, dirty, and distorted Hollywood punk.
I’m guilty. As soon as the words “all girl band” are part of a group’s description—a few prejudices instantly come to my mind. In my defense, when the most well-known female ensembles throughout history have been The Go Go’s, The Spice Girls, and…half…of Heart—can you really blame me? However, my preconceived notions have been pleasantly rocked courtesy of the sounds of L.A. Witch ever since I have heard their single “Kill My Baby Tonight.”
Self-described as “washed-out, dirty, and distorted punk,” their beats take you back to a time when Sunset Boulevard was king—and rock n’ roll was America’s monarchy. L.A. Witch’s mix of psychedelic melodies and garage-band BCBG demeanor bring hope back to all of us waiting in seemingly endless anticipation for a rock revival. Sade Sanchez, Irita Pai, and Ellie English could (and, in my opinion, should) be the ones that continue the work Nirvana bravely set out to do.
Sure we live in a different time—a time where MTV has long forgotten what their “M” actually means, and CDs no longer draw lines on their release dates. We don’t read who lifted our heroes out of their pits of darkness in an album’s “Thank you” section, and “Headbangers Ball” might be confused with an adult film if you ask today’s youth—but the spirit still lives.
Maybe it just needs a little witchcraft in order to manifest.
Q: Ok, which witch is which—and which does what?
Sade Sanchez: I’m Sade—I sing and play guitar.
Ellie English: I’m Ellie and I play drums.
Irita Pai: I’m Irita and I play bass.
Q: I have to ask—are you guys actually witches?
SS: (Laughs) We get that question a lot, and no we are not witches that actually practice witchcraft. Sorry to disappoint.
SS, EE, and IP: (Laughs)
Q: Story behind the name?
IP: We were jamming before we had a name for our band—for a while actually. There came a point where we needed a name to go on the flier for our first show, so honestly we just came up with L.A. Witch on the fly.
SS: We did think that adding “L.A.” brings a punky vibe to the name—kind of like the New York Dolls. “Witch” is a word that we sort of relate to in a way because obviously it is a female, and clearly our band is all girls. We thought of a witch being a powerful symbol, whether it is a good witch or an evil witch—they are powerful and feminine. And we are all from L.A.—that’s about it really (laughs).
Q: How did the three of you meet each other? If you say a solstice celebration of sorts—you are going to make my day.
IP: I was jamming with some girlfriends and they introduced me to Sade. We just went from there really. When our old drummer moved to New York, Sade remembered Ellie from their band in high school—the rest was history really.
Q: Did you always know that music was what you were destined to do?
SS: I was raised by parents that were really into music. They really showed me a lot of different genres. They were very open to a wide range of music, and my dad played guitar. When I started playing in middle school, it was really the only thing I truly gravitated towards. For me, I know it was the only thing I truly wanted to do. There are other interests that I have as far as the long term goes, but I always knew this was what I wanted.
EE: My dad is a musician, so I grew up around him playing music. My older sister and I started a band together when we were in middle school, so that is how I got my start. It was always part of my life.
IP: I started playing music when I was 6-years-old—it’s always been a part of my life. I have never remembered or knew it any other way.
Q: Who primarily tackles the writing?
SS: Usually we mix up the way we write our music, but it’s always collaborative. I’ll be jamming on something, and I’ll show it to the girls at practice. We’ll create a skeleton to the song or create a melody then they’ll break off and jam to it on their own. We’ll just alter it at practices and bring a little something more every time we meet. Everyone brings their opinions, and we’ll just keep working from there.
Q: If you could spend a day with one musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
SS, EE, and IP: Oh man, that’s a tough question.
IP: I have to say John Lennon. I don’t know 100 percent why—he would just be really interesting to talk to. Also inspiring.
EE: Gez, Ginger Baker is pretty cool, but he’d be pretty difficult to spend a day with (laughs). Maybe John Bonham. I feel like I’m just thinking of drummers right now, but I’m not even sure I would pick a drummer in all reality. Tough question.
SS: Too many names come to mind. We were literally just listening to Roy Orbison, and I can’t stop thinking about him right now. I guess I’ll say him, but I have so many more names. I love Roy Orbison a lot.
Q: What would you say L.A. Witch’s mission statement is? In other words, if you guys could leave one legacy behind that the world would always remember you for—what would it be?
SS: Being free and having fun to create great music. We always get smashed into the “all girl band” thing, and that’s cool. It’s nice to influence other females and whatnot, but, at the end of the day, we’re just people that are passionate about music. I don’t know the legacy I want, I don’t even know if I want to be remembered really—I just want to create good music.
Q: In every band, each member takes on a role of sorts, ig: the leader, the rebel, “the cute one,” etc. Which roles do each of you take on?
SS: Irita is really good with structure. She is really knowledgeable—she’s the leader in some aspects. I really don’t know who would be the leader in all honestly because we are all very opinionated, and we all feel very strongly about things. We’ve made it work so everyone matters and everyone gets their say. In some bands, there has to be a leader, and luckily for us we haven’t needed that.
IP: Sade is the creative one. She writes a lot of lyrics, and she has that creative style. Ellie is really sweet, really happy, and bubbly—she’s the nice one.
Q: Growing up, what was your favorite Halloween costume?
SS: My parents ironically always recycled a witch costume (laughs). I remember the first year they finally said, “You can be anything you want.” I painted my face red and I was the devil. But I got way too excited with the paint (laughs).
IP: Me too! I was also always a witch.
SS, EE, IP: (Laughs)
EE: I always liked being creative and making different costumes. My two favorites were a dinosaur and Pippi Longstocking. Pippi Longstocking was an easy go-to.
Q: Best experience while on tour?
SS: Austin Psych Fest! We did a Midwest tour, and one of our stops was Austin Psych Fest. It was our first time playing it, and basically the line-up consisted of all of our influences like 13th Floor Elevators and Jesus and Mary Chain. We were really excited to play that show. That was one of my favorite experiences.
IP: I would have to agree. Austin Psych Fest was amazing.
EE: I really liked Austin Psych Fest too, but I also really liked our Mexico tour. I can’t pick a specific show—the whole thing was just fun.
Q: Where do you get the inspiration behind your lyrics?
SS: My ex-boyfriend was basically the inspiration behind the last 10 songs that I wrote—and the songs on the current line-up that we perform. I had gone through a break-up so it was easy for me to gear all of my lyrics towards that time of my life. I wish it was something more interesting than that, but yup my ex-boyfriend (laughs).
Q: Favorite song to play live?
SS: We have a new song called “Drive Your Car.” It’s a little faster. It has a very post-punk vibe to it. I think all of us would agree that we get excited about this one because it’s newer, and you sometimes get tired of playing your older songs. It also sounds slightly different than the other songs that we have.
EE and IP: We agree.
EE: I also really like playing another one of our newer songs “Good Guys.” It’s really fun.
Q: Weapon of choice?
SS: I am lucky enough to say that I’m playing my dream guitar right now. It’s a 1957 Vox Viper. It’s a vintage Vox guitar that has these built-in effects like a treble booster, a repeater, and distortion. I’m also considering a SG guitar, like a Jazz Master or something, but my Viper is my weapon of choice.
EE: I really don’t have a favorite drum set. Sometimes I actually like playing other people’s sets for something different. I like to switch it up.
IP: I play a Fender Mustang—I actually really like Fender. I would like to get a vintage bass. Some of friends play vintage basses, and the sound is pretty cool.
Q: In all honesty, can anyone really “get their MTV” anymore, or is all hope lost?
SS, EE, IP: (Laughs)
IP: MTV is definitely not about the music anymore. We grew up in the ‘90s and music videos were such a big thing then—a lot has changed since then.
SS: We were really lucky to grow up around that because there were so many ways to get inspired through it. Music videos tell a story, and that’s another way for an artist to help define their music. That was key for us and our generation. Right now, there is so much going on in music. It’s really exciting because it is a good time to experiment with ideas and not have to stick to the traditional ways of the music industry. A lot of people are doing their own thing now—it gives you a lot of options. At the same time, it’s harder from a financial standpoint because you are more on your own. In all reality, it doesn’t really matter though—as long as you are happy playing music and being creative. We are so lucky to be able to do that.
Q: What’s on the horizon for L.A. Witch?
IP: We have a lot of shows coming up and the Burger A-Go-Go pre-party on September 4th. We have a lot of things to look forward to.
SS: We recently recorded with our friend, Joel Jerome, who is a really awesome producer. He plays a lot of shows in the L.A. area—a lot of people know him, and he is super cool. We are just putting the finishing touches on that album. We will be releasing that really soon.