L.A. Witch’s Irita Pai Talks Life on the Road (Tonight at JB’s)

Tonight L.A. Witch bring their self-described “REVERB-SOAKED PUNKED-OUT ROCK” to Johnny Brenda’s for their first headlining show in Philthy in more than half a decade.  The Los Angeles trio...

Tonight L.A. Witch bring their self-described “REVERB-SOAKED PUNKED-OUT ROCK” to Johnny Brenda’s for their first headlining show in Philthy in more than half a decade.  The Los Angeles trio were, however, in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection just last December, when they were supporting All Them Witches at Underground Arts, and seemed to win over a notable number of fans of the psych rockers.  Since lockdown ended, they have been touring behind Play With Fire, their sophomore LP, which dropped in August of 2020 on Suicide Squeeze.  Earlier this week I got a chance to chat with L.A. Witch bassist Irita Pai about their time on the road throughout the pandemic and what fans might be able to expect from them in the near future.  Read what she had to tell me and check out their covers of The Cramps’ “Garbageman” and The Gun Club’s “Ghost on the Highway,” which was featured on their 2021 split single w/ labelmates The Coathangers.

Izzy Cihak: I just spoke to you last November, prior to your tour with All Them Witches.  I know you’ve done a lot of touring since then, but I also know that you weren’t on the road for most of February, March, and April.  What were you up to in that time?  Any chance there might be some new music in the works?

Irita Pai: We are!  We’ve been jamming on ideas and songs are starting to take shape.  We always try to take advantage of time at home to work on new material because we never know when we’ll get the chance again.

Izzy: What have been some of the highlights of the touring you’ve been doing since May, whether particular shows that stood out, or just cities with experiences that stood out?

Irita: Europe is one of our favorite places to tour.  We went to an old stave church in Norway, just like the ones that Varg and the black metal guys used to burn.  The show in Oslo was sold out and it was almost midsummer, so the sun didn’t go down until midnight and it rose again around 3AM.  We also got to go to Stonehenge together, which was epic.

Izzy: You always seem to be playing with a lot of amazing artists, whether it’s the artists you take on the road (or vice versa) or just festivals with really great lineups.  Have you seen any really amazing acts recently that you think our readers should definitely know about?

Irita: The Gutsies opened for us in Oslo, they were a three-piece all female band.  Usually promoters put other female bands on the bill just because we’re all girls, but the genres are all over the place.  The Gutsies were actually a perfect fit genre-wise and they all ripped as musicians.  We just played Back Alley Ballyhoo Festival a couple days ago in Indianapolis, and saw a band called Rezn.  They were super heavy.

Izzy: This is a related question, but are there any bands that you would love to tour alongside that you haven’t yet?

Irita: Jesus and Mary Chain, X, My Bloody Valentine, Gary Numan, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Primal Scream.

Izzy: I’m not sure how or where this question fits in, but what are some of your biggest non-musical influences?  I suspect you’re all into really cool cinema and literature.  Are those things with which you spend a lot of time, or am I just projecting my own interests onto you?

Irita: We end up watching a lot of movies on the road.  Sci-fi, thrillers, and horror are the easiest to get into in the van.  Last tour we watched Into the Abyss by Warner Herzog, which is one of my favorites.

We also all bring at least one book each on tour.  I’m currently reading Our Band Could Be Your Life, about the DIY scene that came up after the Reagan-era – Black Flag, Fugazi, Hüsker Dü, Big Black, Sonic Youth.  Last tour with All Them Witches I was reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, which was perfect because we were touring through the South.

Izzy: You’ve been touring Play With Fire for a while now.  Do you currently have a favorite song off of the album, whether one that’s still most fun to play live, or one that might be indicative of your future sounds?  “Sexorexia” has been my favorite basically since the album came out.

Irita: My faves to play live would be “Dark Horse” and “I Wanna Lose.”

Izzy: You’re currently on a headlining run, which has you playing Johnny Brenda’s, which I think is the best venue in the city and has been described as a “mini rock n’ roll ballroom.”  What can be expected of the live experience?  I think this is your first headlining show here in more than five years.

Irita: We actually went to Johnny Brenda’s once to eat oysters.  We were in town shooting a Halloween campaign for Urban Outfitters.  We’ve been touring as a four-piece for the last year, but playing again as a three-piece this tour; good in a different way because the music has some room to breathe.

Izzy: I feel like bands have been playing a wider variety of venues recently (You were the ones who told me about Canada’s pandemic sitting-down rule.)  Do you have a favorite setting to play, whether it be barrooms, DIY spaces, nightclubs, festivals, or any other kind of spaces?  Is there a type of venue you wished you played more of?

Irita: Festivals are always the best because you can see a lot of other different bands you wouldn’t necessarily seek out – or be able to afford to go to.  And we always end up running into our friends’ bands, so it’s always a nice family reunion of sorts.  I do wish there were more decent smaller to mid-size venues that cater more to bands as artists.  When a venue really cares about what they do, you can feel it in their hospitality, the way they work with each other, and how stoked the audience is to be there.  Some of my faves have been The Chapel in San Francisco, Empty Bottle in Chicago, Mississippi Studios in Portland, and The Piper in Hastings, UK.

Izzy: Recently I’ve been asking artists about their touring rituals, so I’m curious if you have any significant ones, whether certain kinds of places you always make a point to stop, or certain foods or music that work particularly well on the road?

Irita: This is a great question, cuz every band has their own way of doing things.  We rotate spots in the van every day, so everyone takes turns driving or getting to sleep in the bench seats.  We also rotate picking where to sleep every night, so sometimes people will get their own bed or own room depending on whichever day it is.  We also all share toiletries like toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, etc. so we can pack lighter.  These little things may seem like they don’t matter but they definitely make life on the road easier (and more fair).

Izzy: Finally, what’s next for L.A. Witch?  How are you hoping and planning to spend the last quarter of 2022?

Irita: Album #3 on Suicide Squeeze!!

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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.