Frankie and the Witch Fingers reach newfound potential with explosive album ZAM and set sights on expanding musical horizons
Hi-Dive | November 12
By Chris J. Bjork
Photo by David Evanko
To evolve oftentimes it takes a fresh approach and a willingness to work outside of an originally-sketched comfort zone. For the Los Angeles garage and psych-rock band, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, that turning point, as it often does, also came with an element of being at the right place at the right time. When the stars aligned for the band to produce their latest, full-length, fourth album, ZAM, it felt like a significant next chapter from the group’s perspective — a Neanderthal-to-Homo Sapien leap in their evolution..
“In the past, we kind of had a different way of approaching recording and writing stuff,” Dylan Sizemore, the lead vocalist and guitarist for the band said recently during an interview with The Marquee. “And now that we know what we’re doing in advance as far as touring and when we want to release stuff, it’s a little more executed in a way that’s planned out so that we know, ‘OK we’re touring here, then we’re arriving here and then we’re recording.’ It’s not so much, ‘we recorded an album and now we’ll put it out.’ Everything has got a time it needs to be ready. It feels more professional honestly,” Sizemore said.
Ironically, that new avenue of outlining when and where the band wanted to tour and release material contrasted with the method of recording they had implemented for ZAM. Rather than everything being planned out before going in the studio, Frankie and the Witch Fingers attempted something they hadn’t tried before. Outside of the “Drip” and “Tea” singles the group dropped in 2018, it was the first time they had recorded at Studio 666 in California.
“These are the only two things we had done there. It was pretty cool having a live room and a sound room, being able to sit in the booth and watch other people play,” lead guitarist Josh Menashe said. “Honestly, it felt a lot easier because we could record everything live, all four instruments generally at the same time, which is how most of the songs were done. Whereas in the past it was very segmented, maybe we would do drums and guitar at the same time and fill in the other things, this really was us four playing in a room together. That studio afforded us the ability to do that,” Menashe said.
Originally from Bloomington, Ind., the band made the gradual move to Los Angeles during and after the release of ZAM. It was a decision that set Frankie and the Witch Fingers into the next phase of their musical careers. LA is known for having a garage rock scene that is overwhelmed by the sheer number of artists who are trying to make a name for themselves. But the group was fortunate to have the support of their label, Permanent Records, and the ability to meet the right people to make it a viable transition.
“It was kind of a slow process honestly because most of the band members had moved to LA and myself (Sizemore), I was still in Bloomington for a year. It took us a while but it also afforded us time to make connections and friendships over in LA, so when I got over there we had a base to start from and that really made it easy to play shows and get our foot in the door as far as playing in the LA community,” Sizemore said. “Also, a lot goes to Permanent Records, when we were in Indiana, they had reached out to us to put out our album. The way that worked out was basically they had put out our album while I was still in Bloomington and these dudes were in LA. By the time I got to LA, we had an album out on an LA label and that made it a lot easier to fit in a little bit, because it’s hard. Obviously, LA is pretty oversaturated with musicians. [But this] was a pretty organic introduction into that community. It was an everything fitting together at the right time sort of moment,” Sizemore said.
Since the release of their 2013 lo-fi and fuzzy debut album, Sidewalk, Frankie and the Witch Fingers have refined their aggressive, garage rock and psych tinged sound with each project. Their signature energetic rhythm and sinister quality to their rock music sounds like it would ground itself naturally within the heart of LA’s burgeoning music scene. Their third full length record, Brain Telephone, continued to showcase them playing to their slight blues and classic rock influences. ZAM, however, seems to be a separate but welcoming entity of its own with the Tascam 488 analog cassette 8-track recorder that was used to record Sidewalk being ditched completely. In replacement of the older fidelity heard on the band’s earlier work is an obviously much cleaner and professional level of production on ZAM — a polished and resounding sonic quality never heard before from the group.
ZAM takes a dive into heavier Krautrock and experimental territory with an emphasis on sounding louder, bolder and darker than before. The album seems like a considerable progression, revealing a group now willing to take more risks than before due to a tighter musical communication between each member. ZAM hints at a band that is at a new high water mark, a group with a growing sense of maturity ready for future exploration.
“I think ZAM to me seems like a natural progression to where we are now, where it’s got some leftovers from the high-paced, straightforward garage stuff we were doing and then mixed with more explorative kind of stuff,” Sizemore said. “So, I think now we’re going even more in a rhythmic, explorative direction and less so in a standard rock and roll, blues jam sound. It’s a little more spaced out, we’re getting a little funkier but nothing too crazy. We’re not changing the way we look at the band as a whole.”
Hi-Dive | November 12
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