Ahead of the release of their new album, Sound Of The Wind – and a UK debut at Leeds’ Damnation Festival next month – Richard Holmes caught up with Psychedelic Witchcraft’s Virginia Monti to talk about the band’s rapid rise… and their magic ingredients.
‘Occult rock’. It’s become a catch-all name for post noughties, largely female-fronted bands who mix Sabbathian riffs with late-60s psychedelia, flourishes of prog and folk, and retro grooves.
A lazy monicker? Perhaps.
But whatever you think of that label, there’s no doubt that acts like Purson, Blood Ceremony, Jess and The Ancient Ones and Witch Mountain have grabbed headlines over the last years.
And you can now add Italian quartet Psychedelic Witchcraft to that ever-growing list.
The band, fronted by Virginia Monti, have made major headway since their debut EP, Black Magic Man, dropped in 2015. And new album Sound Of The Wind – released by Listenable Records on November 3 – takes their bluesy, magical hard rock to new heights.
“We feel this is a huge step forward from (last year’s debut album) The Vision,” said Monti. “We have been able – especially thanks to Listenable – to work our sounds as we always wanted to. It’s been difficult in the past but with this one we really had the chance to capture our sounds, to capture the picture we had in mind, to work in a beautiful place and capture all the positive vibes that bond us during the recordings and during daily life.
“We are very happy with the sound we got in the studio, that’s totally different from our past albums but finally represents our live sound.”
The singer, however, is still surprised at Psychedelic Witchcraft’s astonishing progress over the past two years, which, apart from Black Magic Man and The Vision, have also yielded Magick Rites and Spells, a collection, released in January 2017, of all the band’s tracks not included in the debut album. A deal with French label Listenable followed in April.
“Back when I started I never had the idea of what was happening,” admitted the frontwoman, who is joined in Psychedelic Witchcraft by bassist Riccardo Giuffrè, guitarist Jacopo Fallai and drummer Mirko Buia. “I never thought it could become a project like this, I’m super thankful to everyone who supported the band and believed in it. Without their help and support I wouldn’t have made it. I’m glad of the results we had up to now but we want to do more and more.
“We’re so eager to play live, we want to participate in festivals and tour the most we can.”
With a few notable exceptions, Italy has been largely under-represented in the global rock/metal scene – which makes Psychedelic Witchcraft’s upsurge all the more impressive.
Does Monti feel that bands starting out in her homeland can be held back? “It’s strange,” she replied. “People are way more supportive to foreign acts, rather than the Italian ones. Often Italian acts end up being brothers and try to help each other and create a family, though it’s kind of hard to see a big support of underground/mid-level Italian rock bands. There are the aficionados for sure – we’re always thankful for those, they contributed to our beginnings – though we really want to get away: live music has way more participation outside the borders.”
Yet it’s what lies within those borders that has helped to shape the quartet and indeed, many other acts who operate in the same space, musically and lyrically. Italy – and Tuscany in particular – the singer believes, was the “land of the first witches”. “Aradia, the legendary first witch, came from Tuscany,” Monti explained. “Maybe that’s what gives Italy a secret and spiritual background for all these experimental bands.”
She continued: “Our lyrics are inspired by emotions, experiences, thoughts and situations that in one way or in another connect us all. And it’s beautiful when someone listens to the songs and relate to the lyrics, it’s like finding a warm embrace.
“Sound Of The Wind is dedicated to the air element, which represents inner creativity, intelligence and thought. So it is something which explores our inner souls, it is something about freedom and true instinct. The most personal song is Rising On The Edge. It speaks about liberation from the control of a person. I’ve been in a hard situation with relationships lately, I felt like being imprisoned and brought to be someone who was not the true me. So it’s about escaping control and being ourselves, it is about loving in the truest way possible.
“Also, there’s a deep passion for the ancient cultures, this album especially is dedicated to the goddesses – one in particular, Maat, the Egyptian goddess of justice.”
While the likes of Black Sabbath, Jefferson Airplane and Led Zeppelin have provided part of the blueprint for Psychedelic Witchcraft’s sound, Monti feels that the band also owes a debt to artists closer to home, from legendary horror flick directors such as Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava, to 70s Italian proggers like PFM, Circus 2000 and Osanna.
And just like the films of Argento et al, the band’s music is dipped in bright technicolor, rather than doom and stoner clichés. There’s no room for straightjackets.
So is Monti bothered by the ‘occult rock’ label? “If being an ‘occult rock’ act means just being classified into a genre box then we might be uncomfortable with that,” she suggested. “Occult is something we speak about in our songs, it’s something we use as a metaphor to talk about personal life experiences. It is not a stylistic choice that has been made to categorize the band.
“We’re very spontaneous and natural with our music. We are just the way we are.”
Sound Of The Wind is out on November 3 on Listenable Records.