"Not an ounce of seriousness" is to be found in the work of London's most exciting new instrumental group
Culture moves in cycles. We all know this. One day it’s all vinyl and moustaches, and the next thing you know the mullet is making a comeback and everyone you meet looks like your uncle in 1992. So here’s the thing: Lindsey Lohan is due a renaissance.
At least, according to Los Bitchos she is. ‘Lindsey Goes to Mykonos’, the closing track on their upcoming debut album Let the Festivities Begin! could be the first step.
“Number one, massive respect to Lindsey Lohan, and we hope she’s doing okay,” says the band’s guitarist Serra Petale. “And Number two, we were just all things Lindsey at that time.”
The songs on Let the Festivities Begin! have been in the works since Serra and keytar player Agustina Ruiz started the band in April 2017, so ‘that time’ is technically somewhere between then and 2019, when the majority of the writing was wrapped up. But really, it kind of seems like Los Bitchos would be happy for things to be all Lindsey, all the time.
“We were watching her reality show,” Serra continues, “I made Agustina watch –”
“– Liz & Dick.” Agustina finishes. “You made me watch it twice, and you hadn’t even watched it yet.”
“We’re really obsessed with her and she had this new reality show coming out – she opened up her own club in Mykonos,” says Serra.
Even if you think you haven’t seen the show, you’ll most likely remember Lindsey’s Mykonos era. Her dance moves were all over the internet for days. So Los Bitchos had Lindsey Lohan on the brain when Agustina sent Serra a recording of a new keytar riff.
“It was like, you know one of those Casio demos? It sounded like that. It was this really cute –” Serra sings the riff; a kitschy, Countdown-esque number that feels inherently sunny. “Then I think for some reason I was listening to Faith No More, you know that song ‘Epic’?” She growls out this riff as well, that instantaneously recognisable slice of ’90s rock.
“So I put in those out of control guitars. Then we were like, oh what if we do a sort of life of Lindsey Lohan?”
What if indeed?
“So starting really cute, when she’s [at the] Parent Trap, Freaky Friday, Mean Girls peak,” says Serra. “Then she starts the relationship with Samantha Ronson and starts partying, and that’s the out of control bit. And it ends with Lindsey just cruising off into the sunset.”
At the end of the day, Los Bitchos really hope Lindsey Lohan is happy.
They seem to want that for everyone; it’s sort of the point. That’s the energy that carries through Let the Festivities Begin!, anyway.
It would be easy for something so layered, so knowingly influenced and assembled, to disappear up its own arse, so to speak, but Los Bitchos are far from po-faced.
“One thing we don’t do is overthink what we do as a band,” says bassist Josefine Jonsson. “[‘Lindsey Goes to Mykonos’] is a joke that led to a whole song being written. All the titles are really random because they’re just weird jokes that come up, or things that happen to us that become anecdotes, and then they become a title or a song. We’re not one of those craftsmen that go in and try to make something very complicated. We just tried the opposite. We just love having fun together.’
They make for a refreshing antidote to the kind of people – let’s face it, usually men – who insist that guitars are going out of fashion, that authenticity is on the wane and quote-unquote real bands are in short supply. Los Bitchos don’t really seem to be concerned with those kinds of broad accusations.
“When we started there wasn’t an ounce of real seriousness, ever,” says Serra. “The name is Los Bitchos for God’s sake, you know what I mean? I’m not even from a Spanish-speaking country.”
While their rejection of seriousness is partly just because they can’t be bothered with such trifling issues when they could be having fun instead, Los Bitchos are well aware of the practical benefits of just doing whatever you like.
“I think once you start evangelising stuff, especially in music, it sort of takes the fun out of it. Really, you end up pushing a lot of creativity and what could be good ideas away,” Serra says.
Los Bitchos are always on the hunt for potentially good ideas. Let the Festivities Begin! is a magpie’s nest of shiny musical objects, with influences ranging from pop and punk to ’70s Anatolian rock and Latin American cumbia. From the prowling disco of ‘Las Panteras’ to the psychedelic Western ‘FFS’, the album sprawls across genres not only over the course of the record as a whole, but also within individual tracks. The album is also dotted with what the band call ‘cosmic’ synths, just to round it off – courtesy of the record’s perhaps unexpected producer.
When you think ‘internationally inspired instrumental punk’, you’d be forgiven for not naturally thinking of Alex Kapranos, frontman of Franz Ferdinand and face of the Wikipedia entry for duffle coats for the last 15 years. And yet here we are – with Kapranos as the album’s producer.
“Funnily enough, he’s really into [the band’s varied influences],” says Serra. “When we started, the project was really born from listening to a Peruvian chicha album. Agustina’s got her roots in [folkloric genre and dance from Colombia] cumbia, she’s from Uruguay, and we started the band with those influences in mind. Turkish Psychedelia as well, because my mother is Turkish. And Alex is really into all that stuff. We had no idea until we talked to him, but he’s got such a fantastic knowledge of all the types of music that we like, and a lot of our influences.”
Of course, making a record isn’t always smooth sailing, no matter how aligned your interests are. When the band were trying to play ‘Try the Circle!’, which Serra describes as “a bit of a proggy little number,” in the studio for the first time, no amount of Anatolian rock records were going to smooth things over.
“We were going to play it to Alex for the first time,” Josefine says with a grin. “And we were all mic’d up with the cans on, and he was listening in and there was a delay in the headphones, and everything was slightly out of time.”
“It was impossible to play along because everything was getting back to you at a different time,” says drummer Nic Crawshaw.
“It just isn’t possible, but we kind of persevered through, and Alex is just –” Josefine makes a face not dissimilar to what the good people at emojipedia call the ‘neutral face’ – a perfectly flat mouth not giving anything away. The others laugh.
“Alex is so polite he couldn’t say it, but then in the nicest way possible told us that basically [the song] was never going to work,” she says. “And we were like, ‘give us another shot! It’s because of the cans!’ and he was like –” she adopts the very gentle tone of someone gently steering a toddler away from the unicorn or fairy they swear they just saw, “– yeah yeah yeah, maybe we should move on?”
“Me and Josie were like, ‘It doesn’t sound right in our headphones!’, and no one believed us,” says Nic.
Just as well they eventually proved their innocence, or the album could have been very different; songs unravelling, everything on a delay, and Alex Kapranos at the desk wondering why he hadn’t gone into modelling duffle coats full time instead.
Luckily, we live in the timeline where Let the Festivities Begin! all came out as it should. Circumstances permitting, Los Bitchos will take it on the road in 2022, bringing audiences into their own personal party like they always do. And if they make it to the Emirates, where Lindsey Lohan is rumoured to have been living, she’s very welcome to come along.
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