I’m driving down a winding road. The lights are off and the moon hides behind the clouds. I take a turn, a hard left, and the smooth path regresses into a rocky mine field. Explosions to my right. Swerve. To my left. Swerve. Dust flies in through the open windows. Faster and faster I drive, praying to make it through. And then I fall, flying off the cliff Thelma & Louise style.
L.A. WITCH’s “Untitled” plays underneath this scene as it unfolds in my head. Uncertainty, vulnerability, lawlessness. Every track from their eponymous first album perpetuates these wild wild west themes. While the trio composed of drummer Ellie English, vocalist/guitarist Sade Sanchez and bassist Irita Pai present themselves as staid specters on stage and antipathetic outlaws in their music videos, their art has very clear heart and intention. In this interview, KXLU pulls back the veil for a forthright conversation with Sade on their bands origin and position in the local neo-psychdelia scene.
1. What made you fall in love with music when you were young? And going off of this, who were some of the musicians that you looked up to while you were growing up?
SADE: It’s hard to really pinpoint the answer to that. I’ve been surrounded by music as far back as I can remember. My mom was always playing stuff like the Carpenters, Pandora, MJ, Madonna, and classic oldies like OG K-EARTH 101, when they were playing stuff like the Supremes and CCR. My dad played classic rock; Sabbath The Stones, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who etc.. They always had music playing in the house. I remember they would record the music off of all the Disney movies we watched onto tapes and play it for us on road trips. Haha! I always liked anything my parents listened to but didn’t start my own music collection till I was a bit older. The first song I learned to play was Purple Haze. I looked up to pretty much anything I saw on MTV. Nirvana was the door to punk rock for me tho. Then I discovered bands like The Cramps, the Stooges, Minor Threat, Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Misfits, Adolescents, etc. Punk rock and the DIY mentality is what really sucked me into playing it was somehow more tangible for me as a kid.
2. When did you three meet and did it coincide with when music transformed from something you listened to, from this passive, receptive act, to a platform of creation and action for you all?
SADE: Ellie and I met in high school. We started a 2 piece band. After high school we split up. Years later I started L.A. WITCH with Irita and 2 other girls who I was introduced to by a mutual friend. After loosing our O.G. drummer to NYC, Ellie filled in some shows and joined. There was a few years of my life when I stopped writing and playing guitar. I was super depressed and I knew I had to start or join another band which is what led to L.A.WITCH. Anytime I’m not creating, I just become super depressed.
3. Was your life ever on a path other than music?
SADE: When I graduated elementary school, I had to announce to all the parents what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember I said I wanted to be a “singer”. So, the answer is no. I’m just lucky I knew what I wanted to do from a really young age.
4. Did you all grow up in LA? It is clear the city has a special place in your hearts. It is simply the nostalgia of being home, or does LA have something that other cities don’t?
SADE: Yes. I grew up in the Valley. Both. Los Angeles is one of the most influential and essential place’s in the world for music and its history; birthing so many counter cultures and filled with studios and landmarks. I think that energy is present and that’s what makes a place so great. You can feel that. I’m not saying its the best place in the world, but it’s my home and I f*cking love it.
5. When I interviewed the artist Buzzy Lee she mentioned that she reads her old journals and smells her collection of perfumes to evoke certain memories and creative energy, so I was wondering how do you all get into the creative mindset?
SADE: Thats really cool. Thats a great way to get creative. I think changing your environment can be really good for getting into the creative mindset. I come up with a lot of stuff when I’m driving. Its like my body goes into autopilot and then my mind just starts racing. Walking or running too. I think keeping my body in motion gets the wheels turning in my brain. I also like to start off with a clean comfortable writing space then make a mess of it. Like plug in pedals and mess around with different instruments our sounds.
6. How do you know when a track is DONE?
SADE: Idk. Its hard to wanna stop adding layers and messing around with something. I guess thats why having a producer helps?
7. I watched your music video for the song “Get Lost.” I loved it sm. So I was wondering what the creative process is like for making a music video? Did you all come up with the concept as you wrote the lyrics/music, or was it pitched to you by a director/producer?
SADE: Thanks. That video was fun to do. It was also our first. With that video, we were approached by Arabella Anderson and Kelsey Talton (whom are rad and also did the “Heart of Darkness” video). They had some mood boards and ideas for the style and we liked what they came up with. We had no budget from what I remember. Its cool that all you need is passion to make shit like that happen. I’d love to direct a video myself one day. I always come up with little movies in my head for songs I write. haha!
8. Why do you choose to create music in the neo-psychedelia, indie rock genre? From what I have gathered, your music tends to convey a feeling of wanderlust and emotional indecision with elements of exploration, discovery, checked rebellion and mindless destruction, and lyrics that carry an ambiguity about whether they could be applied to a third party or one’s self. Many artists I’ve spoken with see themselves as conduits for musical expression that pours out of them, and that they aren’t necessarily deciding to make any particular kind of music, it just happens to be what comes out. Is the same true for you all?
SADE: Yes, I would say that its true for me as well. I don’t know that there’s necessarily a conscious effort to make a song sound like a specific genre or anything like that. At times tho, there are efforts to give a song a certain vibe through certain sounds or instrumentation. Sometimes, I do write songs that —when they are presented to the band — don’t necessarily work out as something that they can vibe with, but that’s not due to not fitting with the L.A. WITCH aesthetic or anything like that. It’s just a song that doesn’t work out, which is ok. I’d say that if our music sounds like the mentioned genres, it’s probably our influences that are being heard. But I like to think we have our own sound. 🙂
Listen to L.A. Witch anywhere music is streamed and check here to see if the ladies are coming to a city near you anytime soon.
Article and Interview by Jenny Lee.