Last month L.A. Witch released their self-titled debut via Suicide Squeeze, an album steeped in the influence of Los Angeles—a city that’s been mythologized for decades.
The record opens with the murder ballad “Kill My Baby Tonight.” It’s the perfect introduction to the band: rumbling drums from Ellie English, slithering bass lines from Irita Pai, and Sade Sanchez’s echoing vocals and funereal surf guitar riffs. Sanchez plots revenge with brokenhearted logic: “I’m gonna hurt my baby tonight/If he don’t come home on time.” She says it’s about “love and obsession. You love someone so much, but you also kind of want to kill them,” she laughs.
Wild passion drives every L.A. Witch song, which means they travel to some pretty dark corners of the human existence. Love shape-shifts into danger on tracks like “Kill My Baby” and “Brian,” while “Drive Your Car” soundtracks a getaway—or at least that’s what the throttling pace suggests, since the lyrics aren’t always audible. Though she often sings about bad romance and exorcizing souls, Sanchez’s voice sounds cool and detached—maybe a little too detached, stuck in the undercurrent of the album’s gleaming, electrifying melodies. “Untitled” moves into the Gun Club’s dusty territory as she bristles, “Why don’t you get away from me?”
“A lot of our roots as a band are influenced by the Gun Club,” she says. Neither group stays within the punk genre; the Gun Club is often described as cowpunk, but L.A. Witch doesn’t quite fit there, either—their music is smoky and panoramic, capturing both the claustrophobia of seedy bars and the freedom of sweeping vistas.
Plenty of other Southern Californian bands can be traced back to these reference points; L.A. Witch just sounds better than most. Each track reverberates with the cinematic influence of their hometown, but this is not the Los Angeles of La La Land—dreams don’t always come true. L.A. Witch lives in the universe David Lynch created with Mulholland Drive, where dreams rot and attract flies on the side of the road.
“I’m wearing a shirt with Laura Palmer on it right now,” English says when I mention Lynch, and Pai notes that they made a detour to Twin Peaks’ Snoqualmie Falls on their first tour through the Pacific Northwest.
L.A. Witch’s debut sounds like it was conjured by some occult force, but none of the women identify as witches. When I ask whether their name is a reference to The Craft—a 1996 cult horror movie about witches in Los Angeles—Sanchez laughs.
“It wasn’t... [But] it’s really funny, because sometimes we’ll be walking down the street and I’ll see our reflection and just start laughing, because I’m like, ‘Fuck, we look like we’re in The Craft right now.’”