Words by Luke LaBenne
Some people would say there are no new ideas and there’s nothing that you can create that hasn’t been done before. To those people, I would say, “What about a band that sounds like ‘Van Halen and Cocteau Twins – but from Turkey’?” or “What about a band that sounds like Tom Tom Club at an outer space beach party?”
You’ll hear all that and more on Let The Festivities Begin! the debut album of London instrumental quartet, Los Bitchos. These four friends came together through chance encounters at parties so it’s only fitting that their music is a party for your ears. Each member brings their own personality and musical style to the table outfitting their gripping grooves with all manner of unique and exciting sounds. The result is an album full of electrifying instrumentals bursting at the seams with positivity, joy and inclusivity.
Off Shelf: How did the four of you come together to form everyone’s new favorite party band?
Serra Petale: We all met just playing in bands, doing music and hanging about in London. I met Josie many years ago through a mutual friend who I was playing in a band with. I think we played one or two not very good gigs together and then went off to do different projects. When I heard she had left her previous band, I was sure to scoop her up as we needed a permanent bass player. Agustina and myself bonded at a party while she was helping me dry my shoe and socks by a fire, I had fallen into a pond and was soaking, really glad that happened. She heard I was doing this project and asked if she could join and learn to play keytar. I said yas! Nic was introduced to us via a mutual friend when we put out an open call online for a drummer. She was the only person I saw, and then the next week she was playing her first show with us and has been our backbone ever since.
OS: I put “Los Bitchos” into Google Translate and it came back as “The Bitchos.” What was the inspiration for your very fun and unique band name?
SP: I believe it can also technically be translated into “The Bugs” as well! But tbh, it was just the first sassy name that popped into my head when thinking of a name. I wanted something that captures everything we are about, and I think Los Bitchos does exactly that!
OS: This album truly is a joy to listen to, even the title Let the Festivities Begin! puts you in a positive mood. How did you decide on this jubilant album title and theme?
Nic Crawshaw: We’ve been saying it for ages, since Agus said it on her birthday during the Mac DeMarco tour… it just stuck as a toast when we did a shot, or even as a joke if something bad happened to lighten the mood. When it came to naming the record Let the Festivities Begin was the obvious choice. It’s a statement of intent in a way, as our debut album.
OS: Listening to this album feels like being at a bar or a venue with a live band playing. Considering the challenges that the live music business has faced with the pandemic, did you want to somewhat give people the feeling of a live band from the comfort of their home?
NC: We actually recorded the bulk of the album just before the pandemic! But yes, even then it was really important for us to capture the feeling of a live performance on the record.
OS: Were the songs actually recorded as live takes with the full band?
NC: Yeah, we tracked most of the songs live with us all playing in one room. We had our friend Kika in the studio dancing while we recorded as well!
OS: Not only are there great guitar riffs and percussive grooves but there are so many exciting and interesting sounds used throughout this album. What were some of the most unique instruments you used to create this record?
NC: There were a lot of really cool percussion bits in the studio which we had loads of fun playing with. A big metal spring, tiny finger cymbals all the way up to orchestral crashes, cheese graters, congas, big band bass drums, endless shakers…
OS: How do you create your songs? Does one member usually come in with a riff or idea or do you just jam together and find the songs that way?
SP: I’ll usually work up an idea at home in my home studio and then bring that version to the girls/our rehearsal room where inevitably it will change/develop when everyone puts their own touches on it. But mapping it out first on a demo recording is quite pivotal, I’ve never been great with writing during a jam session but that’s always subject to change! The evolution of songs is so fascinating, and seeing everyone’s own personal mark on it is what really makes the songs special.
OS: You pull influences from a variety of different cultures and regions. Since music is such an important part of cultures all over the world and it transcends things like time, space and language do you feel that music is its own language?
Josefine Jonsson: Absolutely! Music is wonderful in that way and I feel especially instrumental music is very inclusive as it’s a language everyone can understand and interpret in their own unique way.
OS: How did Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos come on board to produce the album? Were you big Franz fans?
NC: We met him at a show we were playing, supporting Bodega from New York, at Shacklewell Arms in London. He was into what we were doing and somehow we ended up doing a couple of singles with him that summer. Then when it came to doing the album we asked him and he said yes! Franz Ferdinand was one of the bands that really soundtracked my uni days. I never thought back then I would be working with Alex!
OS: You have a song on the album called FFS and your producer was a member of the band FFS with Sparks. Is that title a nod to them or is it purely coincidence?
NC: Oh wow, actually that’s a total coincidence! But I love that!
SP: It’s a happy coincidence, we are big fans of Sparks and Franz Ferdinand of course, so I’d be happy to dedicate it to their super group.
OS: Your music videos not only set some great visuals to your music but also they are very funny. How did you conceive of this 3-Part surreal/absurdist/comedic/crime epic?
NC: We worked on all 3 videos with our great friend Tom Mitchell. They each started as chaotic discussions with us all throwing out ideas, and somehow Tom was able to make sense of it all and create videos that had a narrative or sorts! We came up with the “Good To Go!” concept sitting at the gate at an airport.
OS: Do you have any memorable moments or interesting anecdotes from those video shoots?
NC: Learning the choreography for “Las Panteras”! Our friend Kika did the choreo, with ideas from all our own signature moves from the dance floor. We rented a dance studio for 2-3 hours one evening so she could teach us. It was pretty funny. Dressing up as La Pantera and creeping up on each other for the “Pista (Fresh Start)” video was also hilarious.
OS: What do you hope listeners take away from Let The Festivities Begin?
SP: We want people to feel whatever they want to take out of it. Instrumental music leaves for so much interpretation, which is amazing. Perhaps some might take joy and excitement out of it, others might find it more comforting and emotional. It’s for the listeners to decide and enjoy it.