L.A. Witch: “I encourage everyone to let their freak flags fly.” (12/5 at Underground Arts w/ All Them Witches)

If it weren’t about a month too late, All Them Witches’ jaunt with L.A. Witch that kicks off this week and includes a December 5th stop at Underground Arts...

If it weren’t about a month too late, All Them Witches’ jaunt with L.A. Witch that kicks off this week and includes a December 5th stop at Underground Arts would surely be the Halloween tour of the year.  However, holiday deadlines aside, it is still likely to be the rock tour of the year.  It’s hard to imagine any bill better embodying the beautiful swagger of American rock n’ roll than Nashville-based psych rockers All Them Witches and the gritty, glittery garage rock of L.A. Witch.  With both bands releasing albums last year (All Them Witches’ Nothing as the Ideal and L.A. Witch’s Play With Fire), they are both beyond “psyched” to get their latest sounds into a live setting.  And while All Them Witches’ latest album kicks all kinds of ass, I’m projecting L.A. Witch to be the highlight of the evening.  While their self-titled debut LP was a collection of the band’s favorite songs from their first several years, Play With Fire was composed in the course of just a few months.  And although the writing was exceptionally condensed and cohesive, the sounds of L.A. Witch’s sophomore LP are relatively vast, exploring their loves of blues, psychedelia, proto-punk, morose folk, and the headiest rock to come out of the darkest corners of NYC.  I recently took some time to chat with the trio; comprised of guitarist/vocalist Sade Sanchez, bassist Irita Pai, and drummer Ellie English; about their latest album, what it’s like to be back on the road, and some of their favorite witchy shit.

Izzy Cihak: I just realized Play With Fire has been out for more than a year now, although much of it was during quarantine.  Have you had any favorite reactions to the album?

Irita Pai: This album represents more of where we’re at musically.  Our self-titled album and the Octubre EP was really a collection of songs that we’d been writing since the beginning of the band.  So naturally after years of touring and playing, we’ve all grown as musicians.  So having that feedback as well was validating too.

Sade Sanchez: Yea!  We just finished a tour with The Black Angels and we finally got to play songs of the bee record to an audience for the first time.  It was really cool to see some people in the crowd singing along.  I guess it wasn’t such a bad idea to put out the record when we did.  It gave people some time to listen to it.

Izzy: How do you feel like the album compares to your debut?  I’ve heard that the songs on your self-titled LP were composed over a number of years, but that Play With Fire was composed a little bit more cohesively and deliberately as an album.

Sade: For me personally, I think Play With Fire was a better representation of my skill as a guitar player and songwriter.  Even when we put out the self-titled record, I always felt like there was so much more that I could add to those songs.

Ellie English: Play with Fire was written really quickly, in about a one or two month time period.

Izzy: A lot of bands recently have been telling me that they spent the pandemic revisiting their record collections, so I’m curious what you’ve been listening to a lot of recently, whether longtime favorites or things that you’ve discovered more recently?

Sade: My friend showed me a band called Bailter Space that I really got into.  I was also listening to lots of Skinny Puppy, Bellavista, Love, lots of dub and rocksteady.  I always love dub and rocksteady in the summertime…   Hmm…  The Fall, Alice Coltrane.  I started reading Ronnie Spector’s biography which led me to revisiting a bunch of Phil Spector stuff.

Ellie: Oh man, I’ve been diving deep into metal during the pandemic.  Currently my favorite band is Mammoth Grinder.

Izzy: I realize this is a pretty huge question, but considering that you’ve been around for about a decade now, what have been some of the highlights of L.A. Witch for you, whether experiences it’s afforded you, friendships it has spawned, or anything else that has stood out as particularly cool?

Irita: Definitely the family we’ve created, a lot of friends we’ve met from all around the world that we only see on tour or at festivals.  We’ve been able to play with some of our favorite bands and bands we’ve listened to that have shaped us in some way growing up.  So we’re definitely very lucky.

Sade: Definitely getting to travel to new places that I never thought I’d ever be able to go to.  It’s amazing to see new cultures and try new foods and meet new people.  We are lucky to have met many good people and others like us like bands or people who are also passionate about music.  It’s a huge part of what makes the experience worthwhile.

Ellie: It’s crazy traveling all over the world together.  We all probably know way too much about each other but it’s like a family.  We’ve had so many opportunities and experiences together, all because of the band.

Izzy: I know you’re on tour right now.  How have these post-quarantine dates been going so far?  Does it feel like live music back to normal, or is it still a little weird?

Irita: When we played in Vancouver, it was only the second show the venue had put on since quarantine.  There’s a rule in Canada where live music has to be seated, presumably standing/dancing passes Covid more easily.  It was different to play to a seated crowd, although I think they enjoyed it.  It kind of felt like Footloose – “no dancing!!!”

Sade: They’ve been great.  It feels so good to be out there again.  I was kinda scared because I didn’t know who I was gonna be on the road anymore.  But a few days in, and I remembered how adaptable I am and how much I love tour life.  I think it’s just a different experience touring under these circumstances.  But I think overall, everyone is happy to be able to enjoy live music again.

Ellie: I’d say it’s still a little weird.  I never know if I’m doing the right things with masks or sanitizer or giving people enough space.  I’m constantly thinking about it.  Every city feels very different with the Covid restrictions.

Izzy: You have an upcoming stop at our very own Underground Arts.  What can be expected of the live show this time around, both in relation to the setlist and just your general vibe?

Irita: We played there last with The Coathangers!  This time around we have our friend Lauren Andino joining us on guitar, so it adds an extra dimension to the songs.  We plan on playing a lot of Play With Fire since we never got to tour when it was released during quarantine.

Ellie: New songs and new additional guitar player!

Izzy: Since you’re going to be playing with All Them Witches my friend and I have been lovingly referring to these dates as “The Witch Tour.”  So, I’m curious if you have any favorite works of art about witches?  Off the top of my head, I’m inclined to say Antichrist by Lars von Trier and The Satanic Witch by Anton LaVey, although they are both by men, which may be inherently problematic…

Irita: Rosemary’s Baby, The VVITCH, Suspiria, The Craft.  We were actually invited to a screening of The VVITCH by the Satanic Temple.  The music in that is so perfect.

Sade: Those are cool!  I really like that song “Witch” by the band Goblin.

Ellie: Hocus Pocus.

Izzy: In addition to your music, you all have really amazing fashion.  What is it that that draws inspiration from?  Do you have any particularly significant “style icons?”

Irita: Poison Ivy, Patricia Morrison, Kelly Bundy.

Sade: Thanks for saying so.  Not necessarily.  I just try to be comfortable and feel confident.  It’s like a mash up of skater/biker/punk/goth?  I don’t really know.  I wear black a lot cos I get messy really quick.  It’s also easy to match.  But I also love textures and patterns.  I love vinyl and I’m a sucker for shiny stuff.  I also like leopard/animal patterns.  I think The Cramps looked really cool.  So did the Ronnetes and Johnny Thunders.  And Link Wray!

Izzy: On a related note, is there anything you like to see fans wear out to your shows?  Is there any particular style that is strongly encouraged?

Irita: I have always been against this until now, but I love seeing people wearing L.A. WITCH t-shirts.  Especially if they’re an older style, or a limited edition run.  It feels good to know someone is there for you and has always been.

Sade: I encourage everyone to let their freak flags fly.  Makes me happy to see our audience doin’ their own weird thing.  Haha.

Ellie: I love when I see people wearing band shirts of my friends’ bands.  Whether the band is big or small, it’s always cool.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.