Directed/produced by Ambar Navarro
Written by: Jennifer Sanchez
Although their name might imply otherwise, the trio that composes L.A. Witch doesn’t cast spells. Yet their haunting fusion of nostalgic garage-rock,‘60s girl-group dream-pop summon a new sound that transports its listeners to a smokey dive bar scene on a Californian night.
The three band members were born and raised in LA— Sade Sanchez whose narcotic voice is joined by her gritty guitar riffs, Ellie English whose drumming is reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker, and Irita Pai whose bass lines wistfully meld with the heavy reverb. In an interview with Obey Magazine, the group described their music as “dark and fuzzy,” while also expressing their admiration for artists like The Gun Club, Nirvana, Joy Division, The Cramps, and “any band Nick Cave was ever in.” While taking inspiration from the roots of those that came before them, they also create a distinct sound that melds genres.
Photo by Max Flick
L.A. Witch is currently on their three-year-long tour which they embarked upon in 2017. In that time, the group has been entrancing listeners in venues all across the U.S. and even abroad while also performing at music festivals like POP Montreal, Desert Daze, and Levitation. With that said, the group is no stranger to the exhilarating (and sometimes exhausting) experience of touring. In fact, the trio toured for three years before they officially recorded their debut.
Photo by Max Flick
As their three-year-long tour comes to a close, the three-piece group of rockers have said that they plan on recording their next record— only after some sleep, of course.
In the video, it shows you cruising and skating at the skatepark. When did you first get into skating? Do you have a favorite spot to go skate at? Any favorite skateboarder and/or skate brand?
I got into skateboarding around the same time I started playing guitar, around the age of 15. I asked for a board for Christmas. I got one of those weird brand boards from like big 5 or something. haha. It had a graphic of a skull on it. I’ve always been kind of an outsider/loner but found it easy to make friends with the skate kids in school. I guess musicians and skaters are a bit similar in a lot of ways. I like to skate parks since I’m not very good (which I’m ok with). I feel more in control at a park. Plus I can hardly leave the ground so the transition is def more my style. At least for now. Garvanza is my jam. I gotta be careful since music is obviously my priority. I can’t afford to break anything. It’s hard to skate and not wanna keep learning new tricks tho. Andrew Allen is my favorite skater of course! hahaha! He skates for Hockey which is a brand that I like. I don’t really pay much attention to new brands these days tho. There’s a lot of new shit out there that just doesn’t interest me and I can’t keep up with. I grew up liking shit like Hook-Ups, Blind and World Industries. The skate world seems to have changed a lot.
You said that you grew up in the Valley, like North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys. How was it growing up in the Valley?
I’ll be honest with you, I was quite miserable growing up in the Valley. I grew up in a very industrial part on the edge of North Hollywood close to Panorama City. There was nothing walking distance. Just some train tracks, a recycling center, strip club, distribution centers and a bunch of other weird random bullshit. I had no friends close by so I spent a lot of time in my room listening to music. I can’t say that I’m mad at that anymore tho. I don’t know if I would’ve picked up the guitar if I wasn’t so bored. I’ve also got a new appreciation for the Valley that I didn’t have before.
You played Psycho Las Vegas this year, which artists were you most excited to see and why?
I was super excited to see the Misfits with the OG lineup. I was also pretty excited to see High on Fire. There was a ton of other cool bands on that lineup that I was stoked on like the Faint and Uncle Acid. I’m heavily influenced by punk rock since I was a kid. I especially loved bands with that horror aesthetic like Dead Moon, The Cramps and The Gun Club. I’m stoked we got to be a part of that lineup. The Misfits killed it. Danzig’s voice sounds amazing. Jerry slid on his knees a few times, there were huge neon pumpkins on stage and Doyle smashed like 5 guitars. It was epic.
You’ve toured many times throughout your career. What is your most favorite thing about it besides performing?
I dig traveling. It has its ups and downs but I’ve got my little routine figured out now. I know what works for me on the road and what doesn’t. I like doing all the typical touristy shit and finding good food and vintage/antiques/thrift. My absolute favorite tho is visiting all the cemeteries around the world! Haha!
Within a span of 8-9 years, the band has conquered the ears of many people, in not only the U.S. but around the world. Is there a favorite/memorable show that stands out the most to you?
One of the most memorable shows is definitely the year we played Levitation 2015. It was one of the biggest shows we had played at the time. We were still babies and super nervous for that show. That was the year the 13th Floor Elevators played which we were all so psyched on. JAMC played Psychocandy which was also crazy. We peaked on acid watching the 13th Floor Elevators. It was one of the most epic weekends of our lives.
How do crowds outside the U.S differ?
I can’t say that they are that much different. They speak different/more languages and eat better food then Americans do. But they all love music and are just as rad. I guess they show a different style of excitement too. There’s more of looseness and sense of freedom which I find really cool. It’s easy to get into playing cos you vibe off of that energy.
As a performer, which do you prefer: festivals or shows? Why?
There are pros and cons to both. It’s hard to say. For example, festivals are cool because you get to see/discover a bunch of other bands. But unless you’re a headliner, your set is probably shorter than usual making it hard to get into. I’m sober and I get really nervous when I play. It takes me a bit to get into the groove on stage. I’m usually good about half an hour into the set. But at a festival that’s about the length of your set so it sucks when you’re finally feeling it and then you gotta get off the stage. Shows are cool cos they tend to be more intimate, but they can also be a lot of pressure on you.
I was looking at your Instagram and I noticed that LA Witch was playing on the beach? Crazy! What was that like?
It was a pretty unique experience. That was one of those shows where you’re just thinking to yourself, is this even real?! That show was in Sardinia which is a beautiful Italian island. It was this secret fest type thing that lasts a week. The attenders don’t know who’s playing till the day of the show and the location of the show changes every day. Its pretty secret stuff. But makes it so that it feels more like a family gathering rather than a fest. We also stayed on this farm where everything we ate, was grown and raised on that land. I never had food like that.
What kind of guitar are you currently jamming with? What is your dream guitar? And if I may ask, what’s your pedalboard set up look like?
On tour, I either bring my American pro Jazzmaster or the Cobain signature Jaguar. My dad sets them up for me. He’s a machinist so he can pretty much make/fix anything. My favorite guitar that I own is 68 Vox Viper. I don’t bring that one on tour anymore since it’s become too precious to me. My dream guitar list is; a 60’s Gibson ES-335, Gibson Firebird, SG Junior w/ the Maestro Vibrato, a tv yellow Les Paul Jr like the one Thunders played, an Ampeg Dan Armstrong Lucite guitar, and I wouldn’t mind one of those Electic Guitar Companies flying V’s! My pedalboard is pretty simple. My sound relies mainly on my amp’s reverb and my guitar. The main pedals I use are the boss dd-3 delay, the TS9 tube screamer, a line 6 echo park, and the DF-2 superfeedbacker. I’d have way more pedals if I could but it can be costly and I realize that I like to keep it minimal on tour. That way I have less to worry about. It’s also more practical for me.
What have you been listening to the most, as of late? Any recent artists you’ve discovered that you’d like to share?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Skinny Puppy, Aphex Twin, Blonde Redhead, Institute, PJ Harvey, Beak, Severed Heads, Rikk Agnew and recently lots of classical and jazz. I have “The Art of Driving” by Black Box Recorder on replay rn.
Let’s say hypothetically you weren’t a musician, what else would you want to be doing? Or where would you see yourself?
I thought I could be an architect when I was a kid. I really like looking at houses and buildings and I wanted to design my own. I wasn’t bad at drawing either. My doodles consisted of geometric shapes and straight lines. I also have perfect penmanship. But I really really suck at math. I also couldn’t justify paying to go to school for the rest of my life. The last few years I’ve been really into motorcycles. I think it would be cool to make custom parts. I shoulda paid attention when I was at my dad’s shop as a kid!
Is there any unreleased music that never made an album or that you casually just make at home? Would you ever share it to the world in the future?
Yea, tons. I might. When the time is right. I have tons of material and some that don’t get used with L.A. WITCH, so maybe one day I’ll release it solo or something. Maybe I’ll start an electronic project. Haha. Who knows. We’ll see.
Anything coming up that you would like to share?
Got a short West Coast run starting September 10th including a few dates with Black Mountain. Also playing Ohana fest on the 27th. Finishing up the next album that should be out in Spring 2020!