Los Bitchos are a London-based, pan-continental female instrumental four-piece that create this unique and memorable instrumental sound, a retro-futurist blend of Peruvian chicha, Turkish psych and surf guitars.
Brilliant produced by Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, Let the Festivities Begin! is a captivating debut, taking elements from all over the place. There’s not a bad track on the album, so trying to pick standout tracks is more or less arbitrary, it’s not hard to be addicted to it. With all of this in mind we talked with the band about how they got together, their musical background and what was it like to write this game changing debut album, Let The Festivities Begin!
First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview with us! How have you been? How’s 2022 treating you so far?
Serra: We have been keeping really well. We were all fortunate enough to be able to visit our families across the globe, and we feel super recharged and excited to hit the ground running to promote our album.
Nic: It’s been a slightly hectic month for me with finishing up at work at the hospital while doing the press for the album! It’s getting really exciting now though, I have 6 working days left as I write this, then it’s full time Bitcho!
Josefine: January is always a bit of a long month but somehow felt extra-long this year as we are counting down the days to album release! I’m a fan of turning a leaf into a new year as it marks a little new start of something, and I’m excited to see what 2022 might have in store.
You girls hail from different parts of the world, but somehow you all happily met up. Tell us a little bit about how you first met and started this band.
Agustina: I properly met Serra at a house party six years ago and later I found out she was starting a project so I asked her if I could join and if she could teach me keytar. [laughs]
Serra: I met Agustina when I fell into a pond at a party. She was so lovely and helped dry my sock and shoe by a fire, it was instant love. She had heard through the grapevine that I was doing a random little project called Los Bitchos. She didn’t play an instrument but was totally on board for learning the keytar, she would rock up to my house every week with a ristorante pizza and coca cola in hand and delved into the world of keytar and Bitchos. For the first year or so we were getting our friends to stand in on bass, and drums but as the gigs became more frequent, we knew we had to look for more permanent members. I’d known Josefine for years through playing music and mutual friends so when I heard that she had left her previous band, I was quick to snap her up and she said yes! Finally, we found Nic through an open call we put out and a mutual friend had tagged her. She was the only drummer I met, and we instantly hit it off (she even brought me gingerbread). She picked up the drumming instantly and played her first show with us a few weeks later. And the rest is history!
Why naming your band as Los Bitchos?
Serra: It was the first name that popped into my head. it’s not too serious but still gives off a distinct vibe of what the band is about.
You have a radio show called Planet Bitchos. What can you tell us more about that?
Serra: Our drummer Nic came up with the concept of a virtual world tour, seeing as we couldn’t do any actual touring ourselves at the time. Every month we would visit a new country and delve into the musical history and artists of that place.
Agustina: It was so good to have that radio show during lockdown, it was a super fun project, we discovered so much music we didn’t know about!
Nic: Yeah, it gave some structure and fun at a time we couldn’t all get together. We recorded it over zoom and those evenings once a month were such fun. We had a couple of guests on too, for example my friend and colleague Richard Akoto who is from Ghana. I think the shows are all still on the Worldwide FM website to listen to…
Josefine: Yes, it was a great project to do during the months where we couldn’t gig! Hopefully we can continue the show and delve ‘visit’ more places in the future!
You have no vocals in your songs, which make them feel like a memorable and exciting instrumental voyage. What artists/bands inspired you while creating your own sound?
Serra: We took a lot of inspiration from the album, The Roots of Chicha which is a fantastic compilation of Peruvian cumbia. The recordings themselves had layers of percussion instead of the usual drum kit sound, and we built on that a lot in our early demos. I also grew up listening to a lot of Turkish music like Barış Manço and Zeki Müren from my mum’s side of the family. The scales and melodies in their songs are so creative and sound fresh today. In terms of guitar sound, I’ve always loved oscillating chorus/phaser effects, I’ve always felt that it adds that extra touch of emotion and depth and it features a lot on my favourite 80’s and early 90’s tracks! And of course, I wouldn’t be anywhere without mentioning the Van Halen guitar sound, it’s so wild and so infectious! Production wise I take a lot from 80’s Stock Aitken and Waterman productions, there’s so much going on and I love that their productions always have something extra to discover upon relistening to their classic hits. That teamed up with the bleakness of 90’s shoegaze production (Cocteau Twins, Lush, Ride) somehow manifested in what we do today. All of those genres invoke different emotions for very different reasons, and I think you’ll find a touch of everything in our sound.
Would you be up to do a soundtrack for a Tarantino movie? It would be a perfect match, in my opinion.
Agustina: That’s the dream! Hola Tarantino!
You’re going to release your debut album next month, Let The Festivities Begin! What were your main inspirations while writing these songs?
Nic: For me I came to the band as live shows were becoming more of a regular thing. Serra sent me these demos with a million layers of percussion, and it was really interesting translating those ideas to the kit. I’d been playing in punk bands for a while (but learned orchestral percussion as a kid) and had been on the look-out for something new and different. So, I was being inspired by such a mix of styles and also just feeling my way with new rhythms.
You released a video trilogy starting with “Las Panteras”, then “Good to go” and finally “Pista (Fresh start)”. The videos are so much fun, and I guess you had a really great time shooting them. How did you come up with the concept for these videos?
Serra: A lot of the time we just bombard our director Tom with various ideas for concepts or inspirations and he just runs with it and makes something really special every time. For “Las Panteras” I remember referencing the Wannabee video clip by the Spice Girls. It was such an iconic video, where the camera follows the girls and intertwines little dance routines here and there. It was such a perfect introduction to what they were all about and we were so inspired by that.
Agustina: It was all really spontaneous; we had the idea for “Las Panteras” and then one day waiting for a plane we decided “Good to go” and “Pista”. Luckily, we have Tom Mitchell, he understands exactly what we want and makes it look awesome!
Josefine: Yes, to echo what Serra and Agustina said – it’s very spontaneous and usually one idea snowballs into something bigger which is exactly what happened with these videos! We don’t overthink these things and we’re lucky to be working with Tom Mitchell who can digest our random thoughts and turn it into something presentable. [laughs]
You described Let The Festivities Begin! as “about being together and having a really good time,” and it definitely conveys that vibe to those who listen to it. What was the funniest thing about recording this album?
Serra: Definitely recording the random yells.
Nic: [Laughs] Yeah, me and Serra did some of those under a fitted sheet with an SM58 in her lounge. It was hilarious!
Agustina: Using bum slaps for a song.
Josefine: One of my favourite moments in the studio was when we found this piece of string with little bells attached to it. We strapped it on all over our friend Kika’s body (who is a great dancer and did the choreography for our “Las Panteras” dance) and made her dance to the tracks. We recorded the bells and it ended up on the album!
You finished recording your album back in January 2020 at London’s Gallery Studios – the recording space owned by Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music – right before the pandemic hit, and it was produced by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. What can you tell us about the whole recording process?
Nic: We only had like 6 days of studio time, so we did a lot of pre-production in the rehearsal room. Alex came down to some of our rehearsals and helped us to really think about how we wanted the listener (and in some cases the audience at a show or festival) to feel. We spent hours just getting the groove feeling amazing. Then we tracked everything live as a band at Gallery, boshed out infinite percussion overdubs, and then went into lockdown! Serra finished some of the guitar overdubs with Alex at his studio in Scotland once they were allowed to get together again.
You will be back on the road this February. What are you the most excited about it?
Serra: Being able to play our debut album to as many people as we can. The fact that it will be out and people will be more familiar with our music is so exciting.
Agustina: Seeing new places!
Nic: It’s gonna be really fun playing the record to an audience who have heard all the songs! Up until this upcoming tour we’ve only had a small handful of songs out. I’m really looking forward to seeing if some of the songs feel different in a show now the audience will know them better.
Josefine: Touring and playing to people is what I love the most about being in a band. Like Nic and Serra said, playing songs from the album is going to be really special and can’t wait for that!
What are you looking forward to this new year? Any resolutions?
Serra: Record more music!
Agustina: Resolutions? Going to Japan!
Nic: Travelling, meeting people, playing live, growing as a band, and seeing what new adventures present themselves!
Josefine: Have as much fun as possible!