EP: L.A. Witch – ‘Octubre’

With All Hallows Eve just a couple of weeks in the past, West Coast garage trio L.A. Witch bring us the appropriately named Octubre. Physically released on what the band have dubbed ‘Halloween Orange’ vinyl with a cover depicting a spider web background behind a bat perched on a headless torso, the EP combines five – mostly unreleased – tracks whose lifeless bodies have been reanimated and reworked by the band and producer Gregg Foreman.  

The record kicks off with thumping, distorted drums courtesy of percussionist Ellie English. Just at the point where the doom starts to get a little too creepy, ‘Haunting’ snaps into its sludgey bass (from Irita Pai) interspersed with top-line cymbals. Spry-sounding guitars moan all the way up the mix, enveloping Sade Sanchez’ slurred vocals like a dense fog, before a non-lyrical chorus of sharp chords shines through. The layers build as the song continues, its broken guitar effects repetitively flickering between shadow and light.

 

‘Sleep’ is a more upbeat Western style stomper, replete with a hooky tremolo lick and Sade’s old-timely croon – “Ooh baby, where did you go?” she intones. The track’s honky-tonk piano helps it capture the gothic tendencies of the Bad Old West until the ringing alarm of its middle eight leads into a surf-style guitar solo and a coda of the song’s chorus.

Next up, old style ballad with a whirly organ swing in its verses, ‘BB’s Momma’ is a deceptively simple slice of garage. On its opening half, Sade sounds like a laconic Wanda Jackson, whereas its second is a freak-out jam, combining bubbly guitar, piano thrash and stabs from the organ. Something in its jarring repetition and lyrical nihilism brings forth Murder Ballads era Bad Seeds.

Penultimate effort, ‘Heart of Darkness’, is the only track previously released – taken from a 2013 self-titled and self-released EP. Largely acoustic, it mostly consists of guitar and bass, with a single bass drum acting like a clarion, and some heavily distorted vocals. It’s another Western-esque take, as though Joseph Conrad’s tale of ivory greed and insanity has been transported to the West Coast in the 1800s, Colonel Kurtz and all.  

The EP closes with the appropriately named ‘Outro’. Also led by acoustic guitar, its waves of picked notes dovetail with electric feedback that creaks like seagulls, and ultimately winds up resembling Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’. And before you know it, it’s flown by.

Designed as more of a teaser of where the band might go in the future than necessarily a glimpse of a future output, L.A. Witch have crafted an EP that does more than just satisfy the completists. Whereas the band’s eponymous debut dealt in a straightforward blend of garage and rock ‘n’ roll, Octubre suggests a willingness to tell stories, switch up styles and blend layers of sound. And, with the nights getting colder, darker and mistier, perhaps it’s November that heralds the season of L.A. Witch.

Octubre is out now via Suicide Squeeze Records.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

LIVE: L.A. Witch @ The Cluny, 30.03.18

The Cluny is a bar and venue based in an old bottling plant between the Quayside and the Byker Bridge, seated at the bottom of Stepney Bank. I hoped the first time I got to see L.A. Witch live that it would be in a place exactly like this one: a split-level venue with echoes of its city’s industrial past.

Fittingly, I almost caught their Rough Trade East show at the tail end of last year. Anyone who knows Brick Lane knows how much of the area reflects what was once there, celebrating rather than belittling it. As far as interconnectedness goes, my personal L.A. Witch narrative remains on par.

L.A. Witch is one of the most exciting, fresh bands to come out of the west coast in a long time. They mix the British dream of Venice Beach and Malibu with the dark and dirty truths that lurk in the underbelly of every seemingly perfect town, and the marriage of their lo-fi beer-soaked-cabaret-bar-floor tracks to a floor of kids desperate to escape the realities of life with a good time is one that will last forever.

Seeing L.A. Witch reminds me just what a great bassist can do. They remind me of what a great drummer can do and a guitarist whose captivatingly lilting voice takes a backseat to the music in the sense of it being a gorgeous backseat driver that ties it all together.

L.A Witch play together like they’ve been playing together since the womb, and a good camaraderie can stretch miles in a world of male bands trying to outdo each other. Their songs — their act — is one of togetherness, of one, of all.

They are, by all means, a coven, and it’s a coven of which I would like to be a part.

Em Burfitt
@fenderqueer

Track Of The Day: L.A. Witch – ‘Drive Your Car’

Kim Gordon wasn’t wrong in questioning why the Spice Girls’ “girl power” wasn’t “woman power”, but as a 11-year-old kid, all I thought the ‘Say You’ll Be There’ video lacked was instruments. Enter: L.A. Witch on a road trip through the California desert in their new video for the smoke-tainted psychedelia of their debut album’s standout track, ‘Drive Your Car’.

Ashtrays teeming with burnt out cigarettes, two people on the dance floor after everyone else has gone home, the sun coming up over Santa Monica pier… and the band plays on. That’s L.A. Witch’s sound in a nutshell.

L.A. Witch are psych-rock Americana at its finest. Their distinctly Los Angeles sound is reflected in the clanging, distant guitars and the drums being just that little bit louder, front and centre, like the rumbling engines about to fall through the rusted bottom of an old Chevy.

This is a band on the rise, and as the video director Allie Lane explains, “I wanted to evoke a surreal state of adventure that matches the romantic lulls and highs of a road trip.” Its destination? One massive impact in 2018.

L.A. Witch’s self-title debut album is out now via Suicide Squeeze Records. And be sure to catch the girls at one of their newly announced UK shows scheduled for the beginning of next year:

27th March, 2018 – The Chameleon, Nottingham
28th March, 2018 – Sleazy’s, Glasgow
29th March, 2018 – The Cluny, Newcastle
30th March, 2018 – Oslo, Hackney, London
31st March, 2018 – Headrow House, Leeds

Em Burfitt
@fenderqueer