Say Psych: Album Review: Los Bitchos – Let The Festivities Begin!

The Breakdown

There isn't too many bands who can put out instrumental albums without a collective groan being uttered. Los Bitchos infuse their beats with the essence of fiesta and pull off something that would take proud of place on the stereo at any party.

London’s Los Bitchos have finally released their debut LP, aptly titled Let the Festivities Begin! It invokes panthers prowling through a desert, cowgirls swaggering into a saloon and kicking up dust, riding shotgun with a Tarantino heroine. Los Bitchos’ hallucinatory surf-exotica is as evocative as it is playful: the pan-continental group could well be your new favourite party band with their instrumental voyages that are the soundtrack to setting alight to a row of flaming sambucas and losing yourself to the night.

Partying is the glue that bonds Los Bitchos together. They’re used to drinking Mac DeMarco under the table, having been enlisted by him to support him on various shows across Europe. Serra Petale (guitar), Agustina Ruiz (keytar), Josefine Jonsson (bass) and Nic Crawshaw (drums) hail from different parts of the world but met via all-night house parties, or through friends, in London. Their unique sound binds them together, though, taking in a retro-futuristic blend of Peruvian chicha, Argentine cumbia, Turkish psych and surf guitars. They are London’s answer to Khruangbin, if Khruangbin spent all weekend getting slammed on cheap tequila in a Dalston dive bar.

“I wanted to sound like Van Halen and Cocteau Twins – but from Turkey,” says multi-instrumentalist Serra, who was born herself in Western Australia and takes a lot of inspiration from her mother’s 70s Anatolian rock records. The rest of the band bring influences from their upbringings, too. Agustina comes from Uruguay and the group fell in love with her Latin-American music collection (as much as they did Madonna’s ‘La Isla Bonita’ period). Then there’s Josefine from Sweden – “who brings a touch of out-of-control pop,” her bandmates joke – and Nic from south London, who drummed in various punk bands before rounding off Los Bitchos. “Coming from all these different places,” says Serra, “it means we’re not stuck in one genre and we can rip up the rulebook a bit.”

It’s these personalities and lively musical outlook that pricked the ears of one Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, who ushered them into the studio in 2019 to make their whooping, hollering first sell-out single, ‘Pista (Great Start)’, which sounds like William Onyeabor discovering cumbia. “We asked him to produce us again, and he brought out the best in us in a really encouraging way,” says Josefine. “He used a lot of his vintage gear, including some cosmic synths that give our songs a bit of added sass,” adds Serra. Let The Festivities Begin! has been a long time coming: Los Bitchos finished recording it back in January 2020 at London’s Gallery Studios – the recording space owned by Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music – right before the pandemic hit. They kept momentum going during lockdown with their radio show, Planet Bitchos, on esteemed internet station Worldwide FM, which ‘hits the road’ every month to explore a new far-flung corner of the globe. It was a welcome respite especially for Nic, who was swept up with her job as a physiotherapist, working on the NHS frontline. “Even in times of adversity, everyone’s strength has been really inspiring,” says Agustina. “And we bring out the best in each other, too.” The band’s live performance for KEXP, meanwhile – which was recorded in France during the 2019 Trans Musicales festival – was let loose last March and has since racked up over 1 million views, evidencing the ease of their rhythm section and their penchant for percussion: timbales, bongos, cowbells and shakers all star.

Opening with ‘The Link is about to Die’, a fan favourite when performed live and a great way to start things off, a taste of the familiar freshly presented. ‘I Enjoy It’ has a distinct taste of the East and ‘Pista (Fresh Start) which was previously released as a limited edition 7” has been given a face lift for the album. ‘FFS’ one again channels Eastern vibes and in the absence of lyrics, we are left to wonder what the exclamation is for; invoking desert vibes and Arabian nights it’s a mystery we’ll have to ponder. ‘Tropico’ is percussion heavy that ensures you can’t sit still and lead single ‘Las Panteras’ is a disco-funk monster that sounds like it was written in space.

‘Good to Go’ has a laid back countenance, whilst keeping the groove firmly in place and ‘Change of Heart’ utilises synth chaos to once again invoke space imagery; the sound being beamed straight down from the ether. ‘Tripping at a Party’ is another title that may raise an eyebrow in some, but when you listen to the track its pure fun and any discomfort can be replaced by your own memories and resulting sniggers. ‘Try the circle!’ we are told comes from a night spent on magic mushrooms and combines pure psychedelic-rock guitars with galloping drums like a possessed Western. Concluding with ‘Lindsay Goes to Mykonos’ – a track about the reality TV show where Lindsay Lohan opened a luxury beach hotel on the Greek island has Ramones-style yelling at the end; what better way to finish!

There isn’t too many bands who can put out instrumental albums without a collective groan being uttered. Los Bitchos infuse their beats with the essence of fiesta and pull off something that would take proud of place on the stereo at any party.

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