It might not surprise you that what motivates the party-psych-rockers, Los Bitchos, to make music is the reward at the end — sharing it with the rest of the world.
The band’s sound is a breath of tequila-infused air that would send the dullest of folk into a giggling frenzy. Serra Petale (guitar), Agustina Ruis (keytar), Josefine Jonsson (bass), and Nic Crawshaw (drums) interpret life through many languages. Sweden, Uruguay, London and Western Australia may claim their roots, but they cheer a toast to the unsung heroines of Peruvian chicha, Argentine cumbia and Turkish psych.
Let The Festivities Begin! is a product of every band member’s personality, crafted together in a Petale-made mind map. “We just wanted to make something that was us — the essence of us playing live together,” Petale says. “I think that is really what makes the record in terms of sound. We were really lucky to be in a studio where we were able to experiment with all of this mad gear that I'd never bloody heard of and to be surrounded by people who knew a lot about that, and who weren't afraid to experiment with different sounds” — a part of the creative process that seems to capture the chaotic brilliance of the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
Petale explains, “Josie will put her amazing bass hands all over it, Crawshaw has to grow about ten extra arms to sort of facilitate the fifty layers of percussion that I like to add on, and Ruis is completely out of control and she makes these little deranged bits with her massive hands.” The band agree in united laughter. Petale in hysterics adds, “They are very big and we always make her play on these really tiny keyboards.”
The craft of storytelling is tattooed into the band’s chemistry, with every track encompassing the hilarity and familiarity witnessed in conversation. Amongst the members, we have Ruis, the granddaughter of a real-life cowboy; Jonsson, who, at the age of ten, rode two horses at the same time on Swedish television; Crawshaw, a physiotherapist and key worker in the NHS; and Petale, who is evidently the mixologist to their creative liqueurs, setting fire to their sambuca shots.
“11 days left”, Crawshaw confirms — the Hannah Montana double life days for Jonsson and herself are numbered. Jonsson nods in relief, “It's been like a balancing act, but I think that's actually added to how fun it has been. There hasn't been all that pressure on the band financially to succeed. But now, with the prospect of touring and most of the things we need to do, it comes to a point where you can’t balance it anymore — you need to just go for it, which is so exciting.”
Every track on the album is an experimental voyage, capturing that live electricity and vintage fuzz that is found through playful curiosity. Let The Festivities Begin! transcends time and place. Is it nostalgic of a cult classic, a great Western, or is it a wild party? Blurred memories and forgotten conversations with, “I love you” confessed one too many times. The instrumental script of the album offers stripped-down freedom that lyrics would otherwise curate.
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand produced Let The Festivities Begin! is the person who the band explains, brought ideas that bounced between different genres and influences, giving the Los Bitchos sound that unique flair, “there was even one point where he was pulling out ‘90s hardcore techno being like, I want this kick on “Las Panteras”,” Petale adds. “I suppose all of us have different sounds that we like — I think we just really wanted to give it like a sort of authentic, old cumbia, Turkish psych-style effect with a lot of live percussion.”
Their music videos are proof of the band’s technique — they start with the vision but keep the plan loose, “you just have a day out”, Crawshaw says. It is evident that what instrumental tracks may lack in context, Los Bitchos make up for through visual narrative. These are stories being told, over magic trips and drunken fiestas. The music video of “Pista (fresh start)” is a Los Bitchos cult classic in the making, but thankfully, without trying to be unexplainably ‘cool.’ They are genuine and funny which translates further than words. “That stuff adds to the magic of it,” Petale points out, “You can't write that stuff, it translates, you know, but Tom [Mitchell, photographer and videographer] is so good at picking up those little bits of details of the energy. I don’t know how he does it.”
But what would Let The Festivities Begin! look like as a painting? Crawshaw is quick to say, “It would be really colourful.” Ruis adds, “Probably Pollock vibes - super messy and colourful.” Petale thoughtfully laughs, “I don’t know why I’m thinking of that Edvard Munch [The Scream].” Crawshaw adds to the image through contagious laughter, “Maybe he’s holding a Margarita.” Jonsson agrees but, “if that guy had a couple shots of tequila and he was in a slightly warmer place.”
Georgia O’Keefe landscapes, Salvador Dali quirks, loud arrays of Pollock expressionism, and Edvard Munch’s infinite scream, with, of course, a Los Bitchos touch of tequila — a painting of many movements: Let The Festivities Begin!. From the description, it is clear why such creative chaos gives engineered personality to the Los Bitchos sound. Percussions are cheering, guitars are leading them astray, and feet are stomping to an all-female anthem. You can rest assured that everyone is having a bloody good time.
And what advice has been given to these shapeshifters of sound? “I think my dad always tells me like, don't give a shit about what people say”, Ruis says. “Always follow your gut”, Petale adds, “Always follow your instinct. You know, if something feels right, or it doesn't feel right, you have to go with that.” And professionally? “I think artistically, don’t do it for other people. Do it for yourself and then if other people like it, that's a bonus.”
A party of collaborators that have no intention of being anything other than themselves. It’s refreshing and idyllic — a world you want to be a part of. They are cool because they don’t care for the word. The Los Bitchos sound demands you to let go and dance through enchanting bedlam. There’s no space for seriousness, it’s not welcome here. Ruis confirms it: “I think we are ourselves all the time and that's a good thing.” Petale agrees, “Yeah, no one's tried to mould us into pop stars yet.” And how would you describe the album for outsiders wanting to join the party? Petale says, “I think they’re like little sassy jingles - that's what they always remind me of.”