Category: garage rock

New Video: Montreal-based Duo Jitensha Release a Playful Visual for Breezy Yet Existential New Single

Deriving their name from the Japanese word for bicycle, the rising Montreal-based husband-wife indie rock/indie pop duo Jitensha — multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Erin Rose Hubbard and David Martinez — can trace their the origins of their romantic relationship and their creative collaboration to how the duo initially met: avid bicyclists, who were both studying Japanese at the time.  “Jitensha just really seemed to fit us and since then has served as our life motto … the direction you choose, and the energy you put in, determines where you end up,” the duo explain in press notes.”

The Montreal-based duo’s latest single “Sojourn” seemingly draws thematic influence from a famous Albert Einstein quote: “Each of us is here for a brief sojourn for what purpose, he knows not, though he sometimes senses it.” Centered around shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths, propulsive drumming, an infectious and summery groove and the duo’s dueling boy-girl harmonizing, “Sojourn” is deceptively infectious and breezy song that is part dream pop, part indie pop, part indie rock. The hook-driven song finds the duo lyrically asking the existential questions that have given many of us anxiety and countless sleepless nights: Why are we here? What’s the purpose of this? What gives any of this meaning? What if the universe is indifferent to us? What happens to us after we die? The song’s hook “Hey ça va bien aller” (It’s going to be okay) is a partially ironic and partially earnest play on the sunny slogan used in Montreal during the pandemic.

As the rising Montreal-based duo explain, the song is inspired by the tragic deaths of a newlywed couple that Hubbard and Martinez had been friends with: “Friends of ours, a newly wedded couple, died in a motorcycle accident. They had been so young and so in love, full of smiles, laughter and gumption. They both lived life to the fullest and we thought the best way to honour and remember them is to try and do the same.” The duo add “”This single is the beginning of a new sound for Jitensha. We are delving further into the contemplative, and into the misty space between optimism and realism, where things are often darker but can be clearer.”

Directed by Richard and Stephanie Bastarache, the recently released video for “Sojourn” features the married duo wearing all white playing with contrast, shadows and color, honing in on the juxtaposition between the song’s breezy arrangement and existential-leaning lyrics. Towards the end of the video, the duo have on bright, vibrantly colored clothing, which may suggest that things will wind up being okay.

The Montreal-based duo will be releasing new singles throughout the rest of the year, and are hoping to release an album sometime later on.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays The Parrots Release a Cinematic and Allegorical Visual for New Single “Maldito”

Diego García (vocals, guitars) and Alex de Lucas (vocals, bass) formed the acclaimed Madrid-based indie rock/garage rock act The Parrots back in 2014. And with a handful of independently released singles, the then-trio nosily burst into the music world, receiving both national and international attention while establishing a boozy, mischievous sensibility to their overall sound and approach.

Along with the likes of Hinds and Los Nastys, the members of the JOVM mainstay act helped bring Madrid’s music scene into the spotlight, eventually signing to renowned London-based label Heavenly Recordings, who released their critically applauded full-length debut, 2016’s Los Niños Sin Miedo. Since the release of their debut, the acclaimed Madrid-based have been busy: relentlessly touring the world, the band has won over fans with their sweaty and raw punk rock ferocity and mischievousness — all while gradually pushing the boundaries of their sound.

Garcia and de Lucas have been working on their highly-anticipated and long-awaited sophomore album. Reportedly, the forthcoming, Tom Furse-produced album will represent a new phase for the acclaimed JOVM mainstays with the duo gaining a bolstered sense of confidence in their creative processes and taking pride in surrounding themselves with people who inspire them. “[It] makes us feel very proud of ourselves. If anyone had told us that we could ever make our dream album exactly the way we wanted, we wouldn’t have believed it. It reflects all of our inner feelings and our influences, and we made it by keeping our circles of collaborators small with people we love and trust. This is what works for us.”

“Maldito,” the sophomore album’s first single finds them pushing their raw and melodic take on garage rock into more modern sonic territory with a slick studio polish and aass-driven motorik-like groove. While retaining a great deal of the scuzzy and distorted guitar driven and the rousingly anthemic hooks that have won them fans globally, the song finds the act experimenting a bit with autotunes — particularly on the song’s punchily delivered hook. But underneath the song’s slick polish, the song is a bittersweet meditation on the nuanced feelings involved in letting someone go including longing, regret and uneasy acceptance of the decisions that had to be made and their consequences on you and others. Interestingly, the song features a guest spot from multi-million selling Spanish rapper C. Tangana.

“There is a burden carried with every decision taken, not everything is as golden as it may look and therefore growing and changing implies pain and a feeling of emptiness that feels irreplaceable,” the band explains. ““For this song our inspiration came from things that were the closest to us, and that’s maybe the reason we were incapable to see them. The stop in the touring life and the time we’ve had to write has made us realize the distance we had created between our home and our people. Realizing this has made us feel closer than ever to our childhood references and to seek new ways to compose songs.” The band adds, “For a long time, we had the idea of writing a song with C. Tangana. We played him some demos and he loved them, so we spent some days in the studio to record the song.”

Directed by Rogelio for the renowned production company CANADA, which has helmed visuals for Rosalia, Tame Impala, Dua Lipa and countless others, the recently released video for “Maldito” is a gorgeously shot allegory that follows a lonely widower, who’s courted, followed and harassed by three characters as he goes about his daily routine through the streets of Madrid — a preacher, who apparently represents God/religion; a homeless man, who represents Death; and the Devil. The video manages to tackle the song’s themes while being funny. “We think the video for ‘Maldito’  is more akin to a movie than to a music video,” The Parrots say.  “Filming it was an amazing experience and made us discover a love for acting.” 

New Video: Follow Montreal’s Les Deuxluxes on a Campy “Star Trek” Inspired Romp Through the Galaxy

With the release of their critically applauded mini-album, 2014’s Traitement Deuxluxe, the Montreal-based psych rock duo Les Deuxluxes — vocalist and guitarist Anna Frances Meyer and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Etienne Barry — exploded across their native Quebec. Building upon a rapidly growing profile across the province, the duo released their critically applauded full-length debut, 2016’s Springtime Devil.

After Springtime Devil, the Montreal-based duo released a batch of attention grabbing singles, including a French translation of album title track “Springtime Devil,” “Diable du pringtemps.” Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the band played sets at Montreal Jazz Fest, Festival d’ete de Quebec, POP Montreal and M for Montreal — and they’ve opened for the likes of Lisa LeBlanc, Marjo, and Jon Spencer. They ended 2016 with a mini-tour of South America that included stops in Santiago, Chile; Valdivia, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and São Paulo, Brazil.

The duo isolated themselves in a 19th century church in the remote Quebec countryside, where the duo wrote and recorded last year’s sophomore album Lighter Fluid to tape. Released through Bonsound Records, the album’s material is centered around old school, power chord riffage and classic psych rock vibes. Now, if you were frequenting this site throughout the course of last year, you may recall that I wrote about the swaggering AC/DC-like album title track and pure ripper, “Lighter Fluid.”

Interestingly, Lighter Fluid’s latest single “Vacances Everest” climbed to the top of Influence Franco’s charts as a result of airplay on SiriusXM — and the track eventually found its way into rotation on CBC Radio 3. The track’s success shouldn’t be surprising: it’s a no bullshit, no filler, boogie woogie 12 bar blues ripper, centered around some Chuck Berry meets AC/DC like riffs, a thumping backbeat and Anna Francis Meyer’s sultry and self-assured crooning. But underneath the song’s bluesy stomp, the song lyrically is about the perseverance to overcome life’s obstacles and the idea of giving it all, even when you feel low.

Directed by frequent visual collaborator Ariel Poupart with artistic direction from Matthieu Turcotte, the recently released video stars Les Deuxluxes as a pair of intrepid space travelers who go on a campily retro-futuristic romp through the galaxy. Spaceships hurtling through the cosmos? Check. Shimmery space jumpsuits? Check. Laser guns? Check. Otherworldly landscapes? Check. Fights with weird humanoid creatures, who probably didn’t want to be bothered by humans? Check.

Visually, the video lovingly pays tribute to old Star Trek episodes, Jane Fonda’s Barbarella and Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Queen of Outer Space among other things. “With Mathieu Turcotte, the video’s artistic director, we were inspired by iconic landscapes from Star Trek to come up with our own interpretation and blur the lines between the future and the past,” Les Deuxluxes say in press notes. “All the components in the video were created with recycled materials; from the scale model spacecraft to the 100% vintage outfits and the liquid light backdrops recreating the cosmos. Even in space, nothing is lost, everything is transformed!”

Throwback: Black History Month: Death

Today is February 21, 2021. It’s the 21at day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

etroit-based garage rock/punk rock act Death have one of the most interesting backstories I’ve come across in this site’s 10-plus year history, and it’s worth retelling: Formed by The Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar) and Dannis (drums) — in 1971, the band began as an R&B and funk band. But the sibling trio’s lives were transformed after they caught The Who and Alice Cooper in concert. As the story goes, David, the youngest of the sibling trio pushed for a hard rock-like song unbeknownst to them managed to presage punk and post-punk by several years, Of course, a change in sonic direction necessitated a change in band name — to Death, As Bobby Hackney explained in 2010, David’s concept was spinning death from the negative to the positive. “It was a hard sell.”

In 1975, The Hackney Brothers recorded a handful of songs written by David and Bobby at Detroit’s United Sound Studios with engineer Jim Vitti. According to The Hackney Family, Clive Davis funded those recording sessions — but while doing so, repeatedly implored that the band change their name to something much more commercially palatable. The Hackneys refused. Davis pulled his financial support and as a result, the band was left with seven recorded songs instead of the planned for 12. By the following year, the band released an extremely limited release of 500 copies of the “Politicians In My Eyes”/”Keep On Knocking” single, followed by their full-length debut to little fanfare.

By 1977, The Hackneys ended Death and relocated to Burlington, VT where they released two albums of gospel rock as The 4 Movement in the late 70s and early 80s. In 1982, David returned to Detroit while Bobby and Dannis remained, eventually forming the reggae band Lambsbread. Sadly in 2000, David Hackney died of lung cancer. But reportedly before he died, David Hackney told his older siblings that although they were misunderstood and forgotten in their heyday, history would prove them and their work as Death as truly revolutionary and important — even if it was after his own death. In a serendipitous spin of fortune that seems too good to be true, several years after David’s death, Bobby’s sons stumbled upon the original Death masters hidden away in their parents’ attic. Bobby’s sons were so impressed and innpisred bay what they had heard, that they began covering Death’s material during their own sets — and that helped bring attention to their father’s and uncles’ work together.

Drag City Records, re-released Death’s original recordings in 2009, 35 years after its initial recording and release.The band’s sound which effortlessly meshed elements of reggae, garage rock, porto-punk and metal manages to presage the punk movement by three years — all while being an important musical bridge between Parliament Funkadelic and Bob Marley and Bad Brains, Fishbone, Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz, TV on the Radio, Prince and countless others.

Sine the re-release of their demos and full-length debut, the current Death lineup — surviving brothers Bobby (bass, vocals) and Dannis (drums) with Bobbie Duncan (guitar) — have gone on a number of national tours, including making stops across the national festival circuit, winning over new fans with their groundbreaking sound, while further cementing their rightful place in music history.

Punk rock is Black y’all. And being Black is punk as fuck.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays L.A. Witch Return with a Badass Biker Movie Influenced Visual

With the release of 2017’s self-titled debut, the Los Angeles-based garage rock trio and JOVM mainstays L.A. Witch — Sade Sanchez (lead vocals, guitar), Irita Pai (bass, backing vocals) and Ellie English (drums) — quickly established their sound and aesthetic: jangling, reverb-drenched guitar rock seemingly influenced by including late 50s-early 60s rock, The Pleasure Seekers, The Sonics, The Black Angels, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and others, that simultaneously drew comparisons to fellow JOVM mainstays The Coathangers, Sharkmuffin and Death Valley Girls.

The members of L.A. Witch have readily admitted that the writing and recording sessions for their self-titled album was a casual affair — with the album’s material coming together over the course of several years. The natural and seemingly effortless creative flow hit a snag when the band’s profile and popularity grew and they began touring regularly. So when the trio got together to write and record last year’s sophomore album Play With Fire, they felt that they needed a new strategy.

Between their touring schedule, studio availability and the timeline for releasing an album last year, the members of L.A. Witch only had two months to write Play With Fire. The trio holed up during January and February — right before March’s mandatory COVID-19 related lockdowns put the entire world on pause. “As far the creative process goes, this record is a result of sheer willingness to write,” L.A. Witch’s Sade Sanchez said in press notes. “When you sit down and make things happen, they will happen, rather than waiting to be inspired.” The time constraints and tightly focused writing sessions forced the band into new territories. “I’ve definitely learned that having restrictions forces you to think outside the box,” the band’s Irita Pai says. “That structure really brings about creativity in an unexpected and abundant way.”

Play With Fire finds the band pushing their sound forward with a muscular insistence but while not being a complete reinvention either. And thematically, the album may arguably be their most sobering work of their catalog to date. “Play With Fire is a suggestion to make things happen,” L.A. Witch’s Sanchez explains. “Don’t fear mistakes or the future. Take a chance. Say and do what you really feel, even if nobody agrees with your ideas. These are feelings that have stopped me in the past. I want to inspire others to be freethinkers even if it causes a little burn.”

Last year, I wound up writing about two of Play With Fire’s singles:

“Gen-Z,”a scuzzy and expansive, beer add whiskey field rockabilly blues that seethes with dissatisfaction and frustration.
“True Believers,” a deceptive return to from with a subtle post-punk leaning that brings JOVM mainstays Ganser to mind; but much like its predecessor, “True Believers” it’s centered around a seething disgust over a morally bankrupt world — and a paradigm that needs too die.

Play With Fire’s latest single “Motorcycle Boy” is one part Phil Spector Wall of Sound production, one part Dum Dum Girls and one part scuzzy power chord-driven psych rock delivered with a sultry and badass air. “The song is inspired by Moto Boys like Mickey Rourke, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, so of course we took a lot of inspiration from our favorite biker movies like The Wild One, Rumble Fish, On Any Sunday, Easy Rider, Hells Angels ’69 and The Girl on a Motorcycle,” L.A. Witch’s Sadie Sanchez explains,. ” I had worked with (director) Ambar Navarro and Max on another project and loved their other work, so we wanted to work with them on this. They definitely did their homework and came up with a cool story line. I got to feature my bike that I’d been rebuilding during the pandemic. It was nice to shoot a video where you get to do two of your favorite things, riding motorcycles and play guitar.”

Formed back in 2015, the rising  Los Angeles-based punk act The Paranoyds — founding members Staz Lindes (bass, vocals) and Laila Hashemi (keys vocals), Hashemi’s childhood friend Lexi Funston (guitar) and David Ruiz (drums) — derive their name as an apt summery of their general outlook on technology and modern culture. But ironically, the act can trace its origins to the friendship its founding duo forged through MySpace when they were in their early teens. Initially bonding over their shared interest and passion for local. underground music, Lindes and Hashemi eventually became friends in real life. Eventually the duo recruited Funston and Ruiz to complete the band’s lineup.

Since their formation, the band has developed a reputation as one of Los Angeles’ most exciting bands as a result of tours with the likes of DIIVWhite ReaperAlbert Hammond, Jr., Sunflower BeanTacocat,BRONCHO and others, and for playing major festivals like Coachella. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Los Angeles-based quartet released their critically applauded full-length debut Carnage Bargain, an album that was a raucous blend of gritty garage rock, New Wave, horror movie camp and a other left-of-center influences delivered with a sneering wink.

With the world literally burning down with us, the members of the acclaimed Los Angeles-based quartet return with a much-needed dose of musical levity. Slated for a November 27, 2020 release through Suicide Squeeze Records, the “Pet Cemetery”/”Hotel Celebrity” 7 inch is the first bit of new material from the band since Carnage Bargain. And reportedly, the effort is an embodiment of all of their influences. Interestingly, the 7 inch’s A side — and first single — firmly cements their identity and reputation for being a band fueled by campy horror movies and garage rock. Centered around sharply arpeggiated organs, a chugging guitar line, thunderous drumming and an expansive song structuc, “Pet Cemetery” is a Halloween-themed headbanger that’s become a staple of the band’s live sets. But while arguably being among the heaviest songs of their growing catalog, the song possesses a mischievous sense of humor: the song thematically focuses on undead lovers partaking in streamy PDA sessions. It’s an anthemic love song for the underworld.

“When your honeymoon phase has the strength to extend to the underworld – ‘Pet Cemetery’ will be playing. If you are lucky enough to experience the type of love that feels deep enough to follow you underground with you and your lover- you know what ‘Pet Cemetery’ is saying. It is the ultimate love song with a message of passion strong enough for both life and afterlife,” the band’s Staz Lindes explains.

Throughout the course of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the acclaimed, Atlanta-based JOVM mainstay act The Coathangers. Now, as you may recall, the JOVM mainstay act can trace their origins back to 14 years ago, when four young women — Julia Kegel (vocals, guitar), Stephanie Luke (vocals, drums), Meredith Franco (bass, vocals) and Candace Jones (keys) — without prior musical experience or lofty aspirations decided that they were going to pick up instruments and start a band, so that they could play a friend’s party.

That particular house show led to more shows around town — and those raucous and fiery live sets wound up comprising the band’s self-titled, full-length debut. Recorded during a graveyard shift at a local studio and mixed the following night, the Atlanta-based JOVM mainstays’ full-length debut was a raw, rowdy, revelrous affair. What the album lacked in polish, it made up in energy, charisma and brassy moxie. “We didn’t think anyone was going to listen to it,” The Coathangers’ Julia Kegel recalls. “We knew our friends in Atlanta would get it, but we didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. We were just excited to make a record.” Little did Kugel or her bandmates know that their scrappy house show anthems would catch on, leading to several years of successful international attention and a handful of critically applauded albums, including their out-of-print full-length debut, as well as a number of singles.

I think that the members of The Coathangers could never have imagined that their longtime label home would re-issue their long out-of-print, full-length debut as a deluxe, re-mastered version with a handful of extra tracks. Interestingly, the re-issued full-length debut, should remind listeners and fans of the band’s mischievous genre-fluidity. The band’s multi-faceted approach and diversity is a direct result of having multiple songwriters, who have brought their unique tastes and styles to the collective table. “It’s cool to to see how genre-fluid we‘ve always been,” The Coathangers’ Kugel says in press notes. “We got labeled as punk, and that was cool because that set us up as being against something, going against the grain. But it’s always been a weird dynamic of different tastes, and it still ultimately comes across as a bunch of girls having fun.”

Of course, the album is a bit of blast from the past, with the material possessing a spontaneity and careful spirit that’s invigorating, inspiring — and perhaps more necessary now than ever before. “We were just brash and making fun of things,” Kugel says. “We weren’t thinking about lyrics. We weren’t thinking about the industry. There was no thought about ‘making it’ or how people were gonna perceive it.” And as a result, the album was viewed as a private conversation between close friends, full of in-jokes, references and frivolities that reflected the band’s insular audience at the time — and their casual approach. “With this band I’ve felt like we have to speak for all woman-kind and as the records went on it became more and more at the forefront, but with the first record it was more like ‘ugh, these fuckin’ haters!’ It’s stuff we thought was hilarious and that felt really good to say because we felt safe. We didn’t think anyone was going to listen to it.” Lyrically, the album finds the band at their most unfiltered. Essentially, the album celebrates being young, brash, independent and full of joie de vivre as they say.

The re-issued edition of the self-titled album features the bonus track “Wife Eyes,” is grimy and sweaty bit of garage punk with a mischievously winking sense of humor with the song’s title and chorus being a play on words that’s partially being a tongue-in-cheek jab at the patriarchy and gender roles, and the paranoia of constant connection. It’s goofy fun — but it’s full of a freewheeling energy that seems largely missing right now.

“We have always encouraged each-other to explore other instruments.  For us, switching instruments was a way to explore our creativity and expand our sonic landscape.  Plus it allowed everyone to take a turn at the mic!  You’re breaking up the standard (sometimes stagnant) structure of onstage dynamic and it feels exciting to both the audience and the people on stage,” Kugel says. “We have been told that watching us change instruments is empowering to people as well! It’s like ‘Hell ya! I can do that too! I can play the drums!’ The playfulness of switching sort of takes the pressure off of being so serious or possessive of a certain role or instrument.  It also gives you greater appreciation for each other’s skill sets. I think some of our most creative songs came out of the practice of switching instruments and ‘Wife Eyes’ is one of our earliest recorded songs where we switched instruments: Candice plays drums and Steph the keys.

“The title is an obvious play on words-inspired by a joke on 30 Rock that lent itself well to speaking on the roles of technology and patriarchy in our culture. It’s amazing to see that we are still dealing with these issues today.”

The re-issued self-titled debut album is slated for December 4, 2020 release through Suicide Squeeze.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Death Valley Girls Release a Feverish Visual for “Hold My Hand”

I’ve also spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock act JOVM mainstays Death Valley Girls throughout the bulk of this site’s 10 year history.  The act which features founding duo Larry Schemel (guitar) and Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar) and a rotating cast of collaborators that includes Alana Amram (bass), Laura Harris (drums), Shannon Lay, members of The Make Up, The Shivas and Moaning, as well as The Flytraps’ Laura Kelsey can trace their origins back to over a decade ago, when they were formed by Schemel, Bloomgarden, Rachel Orosco (bass) and Hole‘s Patty Schemel (drums).  And despite the fact that they’ve gone through a series of lineup changes throughout their history, the band’s sound and aesthetic for much of their history has been heavily indebted to The Manson Family and B movie theatrics — while thematically concerned with the occult. 

Earlier this year, the longtime JOVM mainstays released a two song, seven-inch EP Breakthrough. The EP found the Los Angeles-based act covering two songs which have a deep and profound connection to the band — both in their spirit and aural alignment. One of those songs was Atomic Rooster‘s “Breakthrough,” a song discovered through an even more obscure cover by Nigerian psych act The Funkees.  While the Death Valley Girls’ cover leans more towards The Funkees’ version — thanks to grimy power chords, fire-and-brimstone organ lines and an in-your-face, combative chorus — all three versions of the song evoke the age-old desire to be free from prisons both real and mental.

Although they’ve been unable to tour because of COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines, the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays have managed to make 2020 a busy year: Slated for an October 2, 2020 release through their longtime label home, Suicide Squeeze Records, the band’s forthcoming album Under the Spell of Joy derives its title from the text on a t-shirt that the San Diego-based heavy psych rock act Joy gave to Death Valley Girls’ Bloomgarden. As the story goes, Bloomgarden regularly wore the shirt constantly over the next five years, treating it like a talisman. “I read it as being about manifesting your biggest dreams and responding thoughtfully and mindfully to everything that comes in your path with joy and compassion first,” Bloomgarden explains in press notes. “There is a lot to be really angry about in the world but joy is just as powerful if used correctly!”

With Under the Spell of Joy, the members of the Death Valley Girls sough to make a spiritual record — what Bloomgarden describes as a “space gospel” — with the intention of bringing people together and creating the kind of participatory musical experience people have in places of worship. And as a result, the album’s material is generally centered around chants, choirs and rousing choruses, written with the purpose of encouraging people to sing along. Where the band had once sought to connect people through more esoteric means, Spell of Joy finds them tapping into an age-old tradition of uniting people by inviting them to be an active participant.

Although Bloomgarden and Schemel knew their intention for the album’s material before they had written a single note, the nature and direction of the music was initially inspired by the Ethiopian funk records they had been listening to while touring — but once they began playing and recording the material they had written, the music, which they claim came from tapping into their subconscious seemed to come from the future. Now, as you may recall, last month, I wrote about Under the Spell of Joy’s first single, the slow-burning. expansive and yearning “The Universe,” a track which seemed to simultaneously nod at Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here era Pink Floyd, 60s psych rock and shoegaze. 

Under the Spell of Joy’s second and latest single “Hold My Hand” is simultaneously a return to form and arguably one of the album’s seemingly more straightforward songs: centered around stomping drums, reverb drenched guitars, soaring organs and a rousingly anthemic hook, the song evokes both the urgent swoon of new love, as well as the urge to improve upon oneself deep personal reflection and through love. 

“Relationships are really tricky and can be super messy and complicated! I used to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again,” Death Valley Girls’ Bonnie Bloomgarden explains in press notes. “I realized it’s cause I thought relationships were an agreement you made with another person. And that meant giving away my power to the other person and letting them navigate our way along our path. Then I realized things either happen to you or for you! Any relationship you have is an opportunity to make an agreement with yourself! It’s a chance to learn to be more compassionate and to grow stronger and more powerfully into the person you want to be and are meant to be! Hopefully, the other person will help along the way and grow with you! If not, peace and next, please.”

Curated by Andi Avery and Kate E. Hinshaw, the recently released video for “Hold My Hand” features painted film by a collection of artists. The end result is a visual that’s lysergic, urgent and feverish.  

Over the past handful of years, I’ve managed to write quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based garage rock trio and JOVM mainstays L.A. Witch — Sade Sanchez (lead vocals, guitar), Irita Pai (bass, backing vocals) and Ellie English (drums) — and as you may recall, with the release of their full-length debut, 2017’s self-titled effort, the band quickly established a jangling reverb-drenched guitar rock sound that drew from a number of sources, including late 50s-early 60s rock,  The Pleasure SeekersThe SonicsThe Black AngelsThe Brian Jonestown Massacre and others —but while bearing a resemblance to JOVM mainstay artists like  The CoathangersSharkmuffin and Death Valley Girls.

The members of L.A. Witch have readily admitted that the writing and recording sessions for their self-titled album was a casual affair — with the album’s material coming together over the course of several years. The natural and seemingly effortless creative flow hit a snag when the band’s profile and popularity grew and they began touring regularly. So when the trio got together to write and record their forthcoming sophomore album Play With Fire, they felt that they needed a new strategy.

Between their touring schedule, studio availability and the timeline for releasing an album this year, the members of the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays found themselves with only two months to do the bulk of the writing for Play With Fire‘s material. The trio holed up during January and February for the writing process — before March’s mandatory COVID-19 related shutdowns across the world. “As far the creative process goes, this record is a result of sheer willingness to write,” L.A. Witch’s Sade Sanchez says in press notes. “When you sit down and make things happen, they will happen, rather than waiting to be inspired.” The time constraints and tightly focused writing sessions forced the band into new territories. “I’ve definitely learned that having restrictions forces you to think outside the box,” the band’s Irita Pai says. “That structure really brings about creativity in an unexpected and abundant way.”

Play With Fire finds the band pushing their sound forward with a muscular insistence but while not being a complete reinvention of their sound. Thematically, the album may arguably be their most sobering, serious work of their catalog to date. “Play With Fire is a suggestion to make things happen,” L.A. Witch’s Sanchez explains. “Don’t fear mistakes or the future. Take a chance. Say and do what you really feel, even if nobody agrees with your ideas. These are feelings that have stopped me in the past. I want to inspire others to be freethinkers even if it causes a little burn.”

Last month, I wrote about “Gen-Z,” a scuzzy and expansive, beer and whiskey fueled rockabilly blues that seethes with the sort of dissatisfaction and frustration that feels like our contemporary zeitgeist. “True Believers,” Play With Fire‘s latest single is a deceptive return to form. Sounding as though it could have been a single off their full-length debut, the track possesses an urgent post funk feel that subtly nods at JOVM mainstay Ganser — while possessing a seething disgust over everything. It evokes the recognition that we live in a morally bankrupt world; a world and paradigm that needs to die.

“‘True Believers’ is about being overwhelmed with the constant stream of news and information we see everyday,” L.A. Witch’s Sanchez explains in press notes. “It’s about feeling anger and frustration with the state of the world. In a way, the track mocks the All Lives Matter culture that has come to fruition in the U.S.

“At times when you’re traveling around and meeting new people, you get into conversations about social matters and different political standpoints. A lot of people don’t believe they have any power over the matters concerning them, and that can be frustrating. It can be difficult for people to see themselves having an actual impact with what we’re all facing in the world today, all you can really do is take it day by day, lead by example, and know that any and all change starts with you. It’s important to always believe in who you are, even through all the chaos.”