Ready for the witching hour

Drummer Ellie English and singer-guitarist Sade Sanchez won the battle of the bands at Burbank High back in 2007. Now in their 20s, the reunited duo crafts haunted garage rock with bass player Irita Pai in a psych-punk band called L.A. Witch.

"When Ellie and I first met, we were 17, driving around listening to Blonde Redhead and Autolux," says Sanchez, a Burroughs grad who started jamming with English, a Burbank High grad, while they were teens.

On Saturday they join Blonde Redhead, Autolux and some of their favorite artists — along with Angeleno friends Mystic Braves and Froth — at Desert Daze Festival in Mecca, Calif. Psych-rock fiends will drive roughly three hours from Los Angeles to camp lakeside at the Sunset Ranch oasis for sweaty performances by the Raveonettes, Liars and Vincent Gallo.

"We're playing with bands that I listened to in high school," says Pai, who was still playing in now-dissolved band Silver Drones with Sanchez when they formed the new group and landed a residency at the Silverlake Lounge as L.A. Witch. When they fell into a drummer funk, and lost their original player to New York City, they juggled to fill the spot.

That's when English rattled her way into the all-girls' crew. "We had recently just reconnected," says English, who joined the band last year. English grew up watching her father, Michael English, a musician and elementary school special education teacher in Burbank.

"He would tour during the summertime," says English, also a teacher. Her mother Carolyn teaches ninth grade math in Burbank.

In time for the upcoming desert performance, English, Pai and Sanchez released their first official music video this week for the song "Get Lost," a track off their self-titled EP. The group's melancholy escape song was written about Sanchez's former boyfriend and band mate.

"I was with the same guy for a few years, so every song, when L.A. Witch started, was basically about him. Even when I was with him," says Sanchez, whose echoed lyrics "I don't need nobody else/just take me where you go/to get lost from myself/get lost from my soul" are fused with reverb-heavy guitar soaked in heartache and burn.

The video was shot at the Salton Sea, with the local community watching and joining, the ladies climb into abandoned shanties, jump on nasty beds and smash windows in the film, layered with mounds of dusty, lost footage.

"We've had people approach us about making a video," Sanchez says.

It wasn't the right fit though, Pai says.

"They were like, 'Wear bikinis, let's throw pizza at each other,'" says Pai, who says they chose to work with director Arabella Anderson, photographer Kelsey Talton and editor Alex Bohs from the Los Angeles art collective Naughty Ghost.

"These girls came along and it was effortless," says Sanchez, who describes their sound as a combination of garage, blues, psych-rock influenced by the Gun Club, Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Jesus and the Mary Chain, Rolling Stones, Joy Division and Spaceman 3.

"When we first started we were really big on the Gun Club because it was a perfect mix of the blues and country and punk rock. Irita comes from a super folksy, psych kind of background. I think my background is super garage and punk rock. It just kind of has evolved since then," Sanchez says.

L.A. Witch is currently working on a debut album, anticipating a release from Manimal Group in the fall, followed by a tour.

"We never want to stick to a genre of music," Sanchez adds. "Obviously it sounds more like a certain genre than another but we're always growing and we have Ellie now and she's changed the sound. Now we have her influences to add on."

What: Desert Daze Festival; L.A. Witch with Blonde Redhead, Raveonettes, Liars, Vincent Gallo, Autolux, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, DIIV, Allah-Las, more.

Where: Sunset Ranch, Mecca.

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Tickets: $45 general admission, children under 10 free; camping available.

More info:


Follow Nicole Charky on Twitter: @Nicosharki.

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