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.”