For those that know, Valentine Recording Studios in Los Angeles is a special place. When the trio who comprise the band, L.A. Witch, first walked into the historic-yet-kitschy locale, they, too, understood its magic and mystique. The band, which recorded its latest record, Play With Fire, there, in the former 60s music hub, will release the new LP on Friday. The album, which is thick with the sound of vibrant guitars and propellant, buoyant rhythms, took on the character of the studio. So much so that one can almost hear the era-specific equipment and the spirits of past artists like The Beach Boys and Frank Zappa come through its driving songs.
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“The studio shut down during the 80s and 90s for a really long time,” says L.A. Witch lead singer, Sade Sanchez. “So, the stuff inside is untouched. It feels like a time capsule, it has a heavy energy from whatever records were made there and the musicians who walked through the doors.”
Like Valentine Recording Studios, with each passing day, L.A. Witch is becoming more and more popular. At first, the members say, the group existed simply just for fun, a creative lark. It was a reason to get together and feel excited about a project. At first, the band played small gigs and felt lucky to do so. But, over the course of its first two years, renown found the band. Now, the band is beginning to feel the expectations that come with that, that other beloved groups feel. Fans — yes — always want more.
“In the beginning, we were just playing and writing music together,” says bassist Irita Pai. “But it was just fun, natural. Nothing I personally thought would turn into something or think about for the future. For me, there wasn’t any pressure. Now, there is pressure, people want the next album.”
The new L.A. Witch LP is terrific. It throbs with talent. It’s a record great on first listen and better on the fifth. Each song is a success but so is the completion of the record, itself, say the members. Between tours, personal schedules and quarantine, the band only had about two months to write and complete the album before the world changed in March. But they pulled it off.
“I think the whole thing is a big achievement for all of us,” says drummer Ellie English. “We had to write it a lot faster than the first one. We had a practice space and so we worked up the album’s worth of songs in a month or two and then we recorded it.”
That the trio could get the songs down so eloquently is a testament to their excellent creative chemistry and to their foundation of experiences, both working together and with their instruments. When the band got together — first as Sanchez with Pai and another drummer before English joined the trio — the members weren’t as proficient as they are now. Increased skill levels combined with plenty of opportunities to work songs out on stage on the road have fused the three members and helped foster their powerful music.
“Having that pressure and time constraints made it so that we didn’t overthink the writing process,” says Sanchez. “The songs were more cohesive, which was something we hadn’t focused on before.”
While each member of L.A. Witch has her own backstory as to how she came to music — English’s father was a bass player, Pai’s mother held music to her pregnant belly, Sanchez’ home was filled with songs — the three have bonded and formed deep friendships together through music. Their chemistry both on and off stage is effortless, fun. When the band tours, they get along in spades, even trading tips like how to smuggle hotel hard-boiled eggs out in coffee cups for a nice healthy snack later in the day.
It’s because of this chemistry and almost familial bond that the music the group makes is so rich and full. There is no worry or insecurity to the songs. They’re forceful but not aggressive (“Fire Starter”), impactful but not violent (“I Wanna Lose”). The songs are confidence put to melody backed up by rhythms built on trust (“Gen-Z”). The result is a quality like that you might hear coming through your apartment wall from a next-door party you want to attend. Thankfully, you are invited. You can partake and listen.
“We found each other,” Sanchez says. “We became really good friends and that connection helps us create the music the way we do.”