When a group can evoke rushes of emotion and imagery with a few simple elements, they’ve certainly hit on something good. With reverb-drenched electric guitar, billowing electric bass and potent drums, L.A. Witch do just that. Listen to Baby in blue jeans and picture the expanses of Joshua Tree, the boulevards of the Fillmore district and the winding highways of San Diego. Hear everything from The Seeds through to OCS. L.A. Witch cut their teeth on the road before recording their eponymous debut and it certainly shows in their sound. Simple yet effectual, minimal yet packed with intrigue–they’re a garage rock band proving that the sound has legs, fifty years after its inception. We’re stoked to hear them play at Soup Kitchen on Wednesday and were thrilled to have had a chat with bassist Irita Pai ahead of the date.
L.A.’s Starcrawler smashed it out of the park performing I Love LA on Later…with Jools Holland recently! Do you share their feelings about your home city and is garage rock as big of a presence there as it currently seems?
Irita: ‘After being on tour for the past three years, seeing cities big and small all over the world, Los Angeles is still my favorite place to be. It’s home. So yes, we definitely share the sentiment! Conversely, we haven’t really been home all too much, so I feel a little out of touch with the music scene back home. I know that when we first started the band, I was living in Echo Park and there was this garage rock wave that came down from San Francisco: Oh Sees, Ty Segall, that kind of stuff. At that time everyone you knew was in a band, it was very pervasive.’
For a three piece band you’re able to create such a distinctive sound! Is there a piece of gear, perhaps a technique, that without which, L.A. Witch simply wouldn’t sound the same?
Irita: ‘I play bass without a pick, using flatwound strings. They have a deeper, boomier sound.’
Your eponymous debut is stunning. Where did you record it and was the experience a steep learning curve, or something you’d been gradually readying yourselves for during the first few years together?
Irita: ‘Over the years we recorded singles, EPs, songs that would eventually make their way onto our album. We worked with a lot of people in a lot of different studios, so we did learn what we liked and didn’t like about different recording processes. Our album recorded it at Hurley Studios in Costa Mesa, with Jon Berry.’
You’ve just played two nights at the Masonic Lodge in Hollywood’s Forever Cemetery, supporting Japandroids. What was the vibe of the place like? Did it feel at all unusual to be playing within that environment and did you check out Johnny Ramone’s statue?
Irita: ‘One of my favorite venues in LA. It feels almost sacred, holy. Like a church for rock n roll. And it’s a great sounding room. I felt right at home. And yes, we’ve visited Johnny a lot over the years! One of the first photo shoots we did with the band was at Hollywood Forever, with our friend Rhyan Santos, who eventually tour managed us for a couple of years (including our tour with The Kills).’
The group have spent a lot of time on the road recently. What’s the most awe inspiring place you’ve visited this year?
Irita: ‘Australia was beautiful. The people, the landscapes, the music, the food. We also just went to Venice on our day off, and people have told us that it’s the most beautiful city in Europe. Seeing it now, I can definitely agree.
We also visited Sun Studio when we were passing through Memphis, that was really inspiring – just being in a room where Johnny Cash, Elvis, Roy Orbison and countless others had recorded, you could really feel the history in that place. And it’s really cool that you can still record there.’
You guys bought some great records when you were down in Birmingham, AL. recently: City Life, Beast of the Bonzo etc. – have you been record collecting for a long time and are you on the hunt for particular sorts of records at the moment?
Irita: ‘Yes! It’s so hard to go record shopping on tour though, we’re always scared the vinyl will get warped from the heat, or damaged in our luggage when we fly. But it’s all worth it because we find stuff that I’ve never seen in real life, only on eBay! Haha!’