The first single from A Place Both Wonderful and Strange‘s What I Speak I Create is a crescendo of melancholic joy. Punctuated with hypnotic vocals that speak to overcoming trauma through ritualtrack, “W*tch” meditates on reclaiming witchcraft from social and political stigma. In anticipation of the occult electronic trio’s full-length release this August, Slutist is pleased to debut the track alongside an interview with Russ, Shanda, and Laura about magic, music, and the spiritual industrial complex.
As a band steeped in witchcraft, how does this track — and your creative musical process in general — connect to your individual practices?
Russ: To me, it is very much about being a proud, unabashed witch and refusing to dilute that for anything or anyone, really. And I haven’t always been that way, or been able to say definitively that I self-identify as a witch, or use that nomenclature.
Music is ritual to me. Music is a spell. Music is creating something with the forces at work both within and outside and releasing it into the world for a greater good.
The asterisk in the title seems to allude to the historical persecution of witches, and the pejorative, forbidden nature of the term and identity. How does “W*tch” contend with this history?
Shanda: Interestingly enough, the asterisk just appeared as a “typo” as I was saving a draft of the song on my phone while I was on the train. As it appeared, I said “OH SHIT!! That’s legit.” and kept it (I don’t believe in coincidence, so it showed up for a reason). It for sure reminded me of the censorship of women and witches, contrasted with the flagrant use of the term bitch. Speaking to the “explicit” notion of feminine power, I feel it’s a very good visual title for the content and vibe of the song.
In what ways both sonically and lyrically does this single foreshadow the band’s next direction with your upcoming full-length?
Russ: What I Speak I Create (out Aug 4 on Sony/The Orchard) the album is very much about using ritualistic practice to overcome trauma. 2016 was, despite some personal high notes (I got married!!! It was awesome!!!!) a fucking terrible year, and this album, for me, puts that to bed. It might not sound or seem like it, especially from “W*tch”, but it’s most definitely the darkest and most pained music this project has ever released (and this coming from a project whose last album was a single 22 minute noise track about what happened to Laura Palmer). It’s both a banishing ritual and protective spell in a 6 song cycle. Also the last song is a love song.
How do you feel about non-practicing musicians embracing the witch aesthetic for their projects?
Russ: This is a slippery slope…without getting into the whole “it’s not a costume it’s a culture” thing, I definitely think witchcraft’s place in pop culture right now has gone the GOOP route of becoming an aesthetic one can slip on, and I don’t think that benefits anyone, really. That said, I’ve had my identity policed before, and I’m not about to police anyone else’s.
Laura: I believe that as long as it’s done mindfully, incorporating elements of witchcraft could be a positive, after all we are usually moved to learn more about the things we are exposed to, especially through music, something which I believe is innately magical.
Can you reveal any upcoming tour plans?
Russ: Kinda! Our tour is something like 12 shows in 12 cities over 13 days across the east and southeast—could’ve been longer but we all work full time at the moment! We’re starting in NY at The Footlight with Winkie and GHOST COP and Bootblacks Aug 5, and then in the car for real beginning Aug 9 at PhilaMOCA. I should shout out our tour manager witch Stefano Black, hi Stefano. He has a killer lecture on David Lynch’s use of the occult. Other important tour plans involve catching Shanda up on S3 of Twimpy (Twin Peaks), seeing my brother and sister-in-law in Atlanta, and finding every dog possible.
Photo Credits: Vanessa Irena