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L.A. Witch: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

4 August 2019

L.A. Witch

The Big Takeover has interviewed more than 50 of the roughly 70 bands playing at next month’s Psycho Las Vegas festival at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. But only one of them (so far) has attested to witnessing concertgoers overtly having full-on sex during one of their concerts. That lucky (?) band is L.A. Witch.

We’ll get to that story in a minute. But first, a little info about the punk-rock group and its tie-in to the festival: L.A. Witch issued their debut album, Octubre (Suicide Squeeze), in September 2017. But two-thirds of the trio actually attended the first iteration of the Psycho festival four years prior, when it was called Psycho de Mayo and took place in Los Angeles.

“I remember those Psycho shows back in the day, back when it was just [an event staged by promoter] Thief Presents,” bassist Irita Pai told the Big Takeover a couple of weeks ago. “They would always put on the best stoner and metal shows. [Vocalist/guitarist Sade Sanchez] and I actually went to Psycho de Mayo together back in the day, when it was still at the Yost in Santa Ana. It was the first time I had seen so many great bands on one bill. Dead Skeletons killed it that night.”

Fast-forward to 2019, and L.A. Witch are finally gearing up to play the festival — now held in Las Vegas — for the first time. Still featuring some of the greatest rock and metal bands out there, L.A. Witch is one of the easier-listening entrants on the card. The all-female trio will perform August 16 in the Rhythm & Riffs Lounge alongside another female-fronted band, Royal Thunder.

[Check back soon for our interview with Royal Thunder, and watch our YouTube playlist for videos from each band playing Friday at Psycho, including L.A. Witch.]

Here’s what else the highly enthusiastic Pai shared in our email conversation about Psycho Las Vegas, including the band’s plans to trot out new material during their set, its recent tour with Uncle Acid and the deadbeats and idolizing Danzig.

Had you heard of Psycho before being invited? Had you previously attended as fans or performing in any other bands?

PAI: Oh god! I’ve always wanted to go to Psycho!! But we were always on tour, or getting back from tour, or about to head out on tour. And anyway, there’s no way I would have been able to afford the tickets. I was really sad about that last year, the lineup was so sick. But I get to go this year finally!!

I’m surprised you haven’t played it before, since you’re L.A.-based.

PAI: To be honest, it was a bit of a (good, great) surprise that we were invited. We maybe aren’t as heavy as a lot of the bands on the bill. But I think we all grew up listening to the same kinds of music: Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, etc. It’s interesting to see that filtered through different people and bands in such different ways.

What are your expectations for Psycho? Is it an honor to be joining the likes of past Psycho performers Acid Witch, WormwitchWitch Mountain, Witchcraft and Bell Witch?

PAI: As the only “witch” band of this year’s festival, we are taking this legacy very seriously. Those are some big witch boots to fill.

Do you have any surprises planned for your set, whether they be songs you wouldn’t normally play, added stage elements, etc.? Or will you mostly be mining your debut and Octubre?

PAI: We’re actually going to play some songs off our next record. We grew a lot musically these past four years on the road, constantly hearing new music and thinking of different ways to improve older songs. So if you haven’t seen us in a while, it’s definitely gonna be a little different.

Do you prefer playing in the heat or in the cold? Indoors or outdoors? What are the advantages and disadvantages of playing at the time and on the stage where you’re scheduled to perform?

PAI: I used to think cold, until we played Germany in the middle of winter and there was no heating and all the audience members were wearing like full-on, puffy ski jackets. Outdoor shows, the sound is always hit or miss. I wanna play to a tiny club, that’s packed to the brim and everyone is sweaty as fuck and having a really good time.

We’re playing at 2 p.m. on Friday in the lounge stage, which is perfect for us. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be in a Vegas lounge act. The only disadvantage is that we are playing at the same time as the Crazy World of Arthur Brown :(

What other bands are you most excited to see perform at Psycho? Will you be there the whole weekend?

PAI: Without a doubt we’re planning to be there all weekend, even [the pre-party] Psycho Swim. Stoked to see so many bands, so I’m only going to name the ones I haven’t seen before: the Original Misfits, Kadavar, Pertubator, Electric Citizen, Danava, Mark Lanegan, Yakuza, Opeth, Soft Kill.

What friends of yours are also playing at the festival? Who are you planning or hoping to hang with in your downtime?

PAI: Levitation Room are our friends from L.A., we used to play a lot together back in the day and recently did a few dates with them in Europe.

Uncle Acid at the deadbeats’ newest album [2018’s Wasteland] is one of their best, and we were lucky enough to see them for a month straight when we toured with them last winter. They toured with Twin Temple earlier this year, who we’ve also known for a long time. We used to open for them back before they were Twin Temple. Dead Meadow and the Black Angels are also fun to see. We always run into them at festivals.

Mainly, I hope I get to meet Danzig and be friends with him.

[Check back soon for our interviews with Kadavar, Dead Meadow and the Black Angels.]

Tell me something that happened to you in Vegas that was supposed to stay in Vegas. (Or, if you’re not comfortable answering that question, tell me a colorful Vegas anecdote.)

PAI: One time we were playing the backyard of a venue in Fremont, the stage was so high up you needed to walk up an 8-foot ramp just to get onto it, and half the stage was covered by these giant monitors. So during our set, a couple was getting down by the side of the stage, under the guise that they were hidden by the monitors. Like full-on penetrative sex. Thank god I never look out into the audience when we play. I probably will this time.

What can fans and newcomers expect from your performance(s) at the festival?

PAI: Faster songs. Hopefully more moshing.

For previous installments of the Big Takeover’s Psycho Las Vegas preview series, check out our interviews with:

• Archaon, longtime guitarist for Norwegian black-metal vets 1349
• Colin H. Van Eeckhout, vocalist for Belgian post-metal purveyors Amenra
• Jason Shi and Scott Key, singer/guitarist and drummer, respectively, for melodic hard-rock masters ASG
• Jay Bentley, founding bassist for politically progressive punk pros Bad Religion
• Stephen McBean, singer/guitarist of long-running psychedelic-rock project Black Mountain
• Jean-Paul Gaster, drummer for “the quintessential American rock band,” Clutch
• Jeff Walker, vocalist/bassist for extreme-metal behemoths Carcass
• Greg Meleney, vocalist/guitarist for Portland psych-rock mainstays Danava
• George Clarke, vocalist for shoegaze/black-metal powerhouses Deafheaven
• DJ Painkiller, an L.A.-based metalhead who will be spinning between sets
• Darkest Prince, lead guitarist for black-metal punks Devil Master
• Victor Vicart of Scottish progressive-metal quintet Dvne
• Laura Dolan, vocalist for Cincinnati rock ’n’ roll purists Electric Citizen
• Todd Fink, frontman for electro-pop punks the Faint
• Dylan Walker, frontman for brutal grindcore quartet Full of Hell
• Zack Simmons, drummer for blackened death-metal demigods Goatwhore
• Emil Amos, drummer for experimental post-rock band Grails
• Julien Chanut, guitarist for French sludge-doom band Hangman’s Chair
• Tony Campos, guitarist and founder of thrash revivalists Hell Fire
• Nashville cosmic-riff connoisseurs Howling Giant
• Gabriel Franco, vocalist/guitarist for gothy post-punks Idle Hands
• Joshy, drummer for crusty death/doom-metal outfit Ilsa
• Johanna Sadonis, vocalist for “heavy magic rock” band Lucifer
• Invincible crooner and former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan
• Stuart Braithwaite, founding guitarist/vocalist for beloved post-rock legends Mogwai
• Kelly Finnigan, frontman for Bay Area psychedelic-soul quartet Monophonics
• Thomas Eriksen, centrifugal force behind true Norwegian black-metallers Mork
• Teddi Tarnoff, frontwoman of “Vegas-based dirty rock ’n’ roll band” Mother Mercury
• All-female Motörhead tribute band Motorbabe
• Justin Anthony Maranga, lead guitarist for L.A. hard-rock quintet Night Horse
• Wino, godfather of doom metal and frontman for the Obsessed
• Mikael Åkerfeldt, frontman for Swedish progressive-metal kings Opeth
• Ben Bloom, frontman/guitarist for funk-soul octet Polyrhythmics
• Ethan Lee McCarthy, frontman for blackened-doom trio Primitive Man
• Tobias Grave, frontman for shimmering post-rock trio Soft Kill
• Kirpatrick Thomas, vocalist/guitarist/conceptualist for acid-rockers Spindrift
• Experimental rock, alternative hip-hop and dance music guru Tobacco
• Derrick Vella, guitarist of death-metal arsonists Tomb Mold
• Niklas Källgren, guitarist for Swedish fuzz fanatics Truckfighters
• Los Angeles Satanic doo-wop duo Twin Temple
• Kevin Starrs, frontman of British fuzz royalty Uncle Acid and the deadbeats
• Sean Killian, vocalist for cult-favorite Bay Area thrash band Vio-lence
• Mike Hubbard, vocalist-drummer for reunited Massachusetts doom-metal band Warhorse
• Bruce Lamont, frontman for experimental heavy-jazz project Yakuza and Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zeppelin 2
• Aaron Rieseberg, bassist for Oregon doom-metal dealers Yob

Also, don’t miss our special feature in which Deafheaven’s Clarke and Mogwai’s Braithwaite discuss their mutual affection for each other’s bands, whether Deafheaven should play their Mogwai cover at Psycho Las Vegas — and the possibility of a collaboration between the two projects.