It’s an overly familiar story by now. A debut album in the bag, and an exciting year of touring and promoting it on the horizon. And then — as was the case for the entire globe — every plan was halted for Los Bitchos, and there would be no festivities for the London group for two years. Now, it’s time to do just what the title of their debut, Let The Festivities Begin! demands.
Catching up over Zoom, the four members of Los Bitchos talk over and across each other in a tumble of excited words and toothy grins. And with good reason — the long-awaited release of their debut finally sees the capture of their infectious live performances on record. Let The Festivities Begin! is a glorious merging of musical styles from around the world. Argentine cumbia rubs shoulders with Turkish psych, the multi-national nature of the band making for a joyful sound that blows borders away. From the opening moments of The Link Is About To Die through to the psych surf-rock of Try The Circle!, it’s a record of style and movement and makes an early play for being the sound of the summer to come — a record where you can almost feel the warm festival air on your face as it plays. It’s been a long time coming, but the festivities are upon us.
‘We’re trying to take it one album at a time, but inevitably you’re always so eager to keep sharing what you’ve done.’
Produced by Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos, no stranger to snake-hipped surprise-filled bangers himself, the record itself came together quite easily. ‘We met him at a Bodega gig where we were supporting,’ says drummer Nic Crawshaw. ‘Essentially we just asked him if he wanted to help us record a couple of tracks and it went from there.’ The band remember him sitting in those early rehearsals, notebook in hand, full of helpful guidance. ‘It was a little bit nerve-wracking at first,’ remembers Nic, ‘having this guy who is such a professional and at the top of his game come in, but he is such a lovely personable lovely guy who is so positive about everything and has such a nice way of working.’ Guitarist Serra Petale describes his presence as quickly becoming part of the family, and the band laugh as they remember him dancing to their music in the studio. ‘Oh yeah, he was getting down!’ grins Serra. ‘He’s got the moves…’
Who can blame him when an album contains this many grooves? Influenced and inspired from all genres of music, there’s a high-wire tightrope act at points fitting everything together without sending everything crashing to the ground. ‘A lot of ideas just came from music that we were listening to at the time,’ remembers Serra. ‘It was like, “Oh I really love Holiday by Madonna so wouldn’t it be great if we could encapsulate a vibe like that.” Not the actual song, Madonna’s lawyers! Just the vibe.’
Describing the wide array of influences, it’s no wonder that it sounds so diverse. ‘Honestly, the range of music that I listen to is vast,’ explains Serra. ‘From the trashiest bubblegum pop to some really scary metal scream songs that actually frighten me to be honest. And we’re from here, there and everywhere as well which helps.’ That multi-international approach plays out in the music — while Nic is from London, the rest of the band hail from overseas (Serra is Australian, bassist Josefine Jonsson is Swedish, and keytarist Agustina Ruiz hails from Uruguay) making for a set of music refreshingly not drawn from a single set of influences.
The other big question when it comes to influences is one of, well, chemical influences. There’s no escaping the psychedelic trippy feel to much of the record, and the band themselves have said that the title to Try To Circle! came to them after a night of magic mushrooms. They laugh when I ask how much of the record came around in that fashion. ‘It was only the name!’ laughs Agustina, while Serra states with a laugh that she was ‘extremely sober’ for the whole recording process. ‘Surprisingly sober,’ nods Nic in agreement. ‘I do think it’s kind of funny that we’ve got that reputation,’ says Josefine. ‘I think it comes from the live aspect, where we do want to absolutely party and have a great time. And that’s what we want to convey as well with the music and performances.’
Almost laughably, for a record that took two years to be released, the band were only in the studio for around six days with much of the hard work done earlier in pre-production. ‘It was completely new for me,’ says Nic of the experience. ‘My last band was just straight-up punk. You’d write a song, you’d record it in practice and be great, put that on a cassette. It’s done.’ All four speak of the process as something they’ve learnt from, and with the wheels not yet rolling on a follow-up they hope that it makes it even smoother next time (pandemics aside). ‘We’re trying to take it one album at a time,’ admits Serra, ‘But inevitably you’re always so eager to keep sharing what you’ve done.’
‘Our music is not everyone's cup of tea but someone’s bound to dig it somewhere.’
It’s all a far cry from those last two years — a period where Nic returned to frontline work with the NHS. Looking back at that period now, she says that she was too busy at work to be upset about what they had lost at first. Like most people, they turned to musical comfort blankets to get through those early days. ‘At one point, I was just smashing The Corrs,’ laughs Nic. ‘The roads were empty! I was driving into work at 8 am, and I had the roads of central London to myself during the first lockdown.’ ‘Their songs are SO good,’ interrupts Serra. ‘Nic would send me these fun singalongs that she was doing in the car. I actually got quite back into The Corrs because of her.’
Thankfully, starting with a show at the Sports Team Margate festival last summer, live life began to return for the band. Nic describes the experience of playing Latitude as coming with a sense of ‘euphoria,’ with shows at Green Man and Wide Awake also standing out to the four. International shows also followed, where Los Bitchos also went down a storm — the sheer nature of their instrumental music breaking down any potential barriers. One fan was Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel, someone they ended up somehow bumping into while in the country (‘He welcomed us to the EU,’ grimaces Josefine sadly). ‘I’m sure our music is not everyone’s cup of tea but someone’s bound to dig it somewhere,’ agrees Serra when I ask if it translates well in every country, ‘It can cross a lot of boundaries which is pretty cool. I suppose it’s universal because nobody’s trying to think about understanding the lyrics.’ ‘It’s just a really different record that way,’ Agustina points out, ‘and anyone can interpret it the way they want.’ She finishes her point with a wide grin. ‘People can party and have fun.’
It all bodes well for an exciting 2022 festival season and beyond, with the group heartened by the appearances of similarly dreamy artists like Khruangbin at the top of line-ups — as well as genre-hopping artists like Squid and black midi. ‘Bands like Altin Gün, stuff like that naturally translates so well because it’s so good,’ points out Serra. ‘People want to listen to it, and I think it’s really cool to see those types of non-English speaking bands getting their just rewards across Europe and all around the world. I think that’s really exciting.’ Firing the starting pistol on all those summer parties, Los Bitchos have made sure that, this time, the festivities can begin.