In the dimly lit interior of a small nightclub, where the stale smell of a thousand extinguished cigarettes drowns out the smell of spilt beer and broken dreams, a band plays against a backdrop of cheap golden tinsel. Outside, palm trees line the night’s horizon. In the years to come, the streets will swell into highways and interstates, but for now Los Angeles is still a young city growing daily with transplants from across the United States, all looking for a new life.
It’s still a city largely cut off from the rest of the country, and in the years before the Manson family forever tarnishes the infinite hope of the Western enclave and before the Hell’s Angels of Altamont interrupt rock n’ roll’s peaceful trajectory with unprecedented violence, there is still a dreamy California sound for those dark rooms suffused with neon light. The three women of L.A. Witch wouldn’t be born for several decades, but their sound transports you back to those warm Californian nights in smoky rooms.
The name is a partial misnomer. Though the band hails from Los Angeles, they do not partake in any sort of witchcraft. Yet their ability to conjure a specific time and place through their sound does suggest a kind of magic. On their eponymous debut album, L.A. Witch’s reverb-drenched guitar jangle and sultry vocals conjure the analog sound of a collector’s prized 45 from some short-lived footnote cult band. The melodies forgo the bubblegum pop for a druggy haze that straddles the line between seedy glory and ominous balladry; the production can’t afford Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound, but the instruments’ simple beauty provides an economic grace that renders studio trickery unnecessary; the lyrics seem more descendent of Johnny Cash’s first-person morality tales than the vacuous empty gestures of pre-fab pop bands. This isn’t music for the masses; it’s music for miscreants, burnouts, down-and-out dreamers, and obsessive historians.
Album opener “Kill My Baby Tonight” is the perfect introduction to the band’s marriage of ‘60s girls-in-the-garage charm and David Lynch’s surreal exposés of Southern California’s underbelly. Sade Sanchez’s black velvet vocals disguise the malicious intent of this murder ballad, with the thumping pulse of bassist Irita Pai, the slow-burn build of drummer Ellie English, and Sanchez’s desert guitar twang helping beguile the listener into becoming a willing accomplice to the narrator’s crimes. “Brian” follows the opening track with a similarly graceful, if not somewhat ominous, slow-mo take on a well-worn jukebox 7”. It’s a vibe that permeates the entire album, from the early psychedelic hue of 13th Floor Elevators on tracks like “You Love Nothing,” through the motorik beat and fuzzed-out licks of “Drive Your Car,” to the grittier permutation of Mazzy Star’s sleepy beauty on “Baby In Blue Jeans.”
L.A. Witch was recorded at Hurley Studios in Costa Mesa and mixed in Highland Park, Los Angeles, though early incarnations of several songs from the album originally surfaced on limited edition singles released over the last several years. The band’s initial aspirations were humble. “We never really thought we would or could release an album,” the band says. “We were really just finding each other and finding our sound.” But after touring nearly non-stop for the last three years, L.A. Witch developed a singularly seductive, haunting, and wistful sound that enamored the garage rock, dream pop, psych, and broader indie communities. Suicide Squeeze Records is proud to release their debut album on September 8, 2017.