Faetooth is a rising experimental doom band from Los Angeles, California formed by Ashla Razz (guitar), Ari May (guitar), Jenna Garcia (bass), and Sarah Kanan (drums). In December 2019 the band independently released its debut EP ... An Invocation. The four-track EP coaxes listeners into a brutally immersive and unforgiving landscape that hints at the band’s many influences including Kittie, Super Unison, Melvins, Bikini Kill, Chelsea Wolfe, and True Widow. Opening track “Fifth Circle” is a merciless descent into doom, weaving classic sludge riffs and dynamic drums with vocals that vary from dreamy to guttural. As “Guilt Machine” lays down the foundation for the band’s melodic and controlled heaviness, “Prunes” finds the band getting loose. The Melvins-esque track immerses listeners in a wall of noise for three minutes before diving into mosh-worthy territory. EP closer “Glass” locks the band into a hypnotic groove, with distant vocals carrying the melody.
In this interview, the members of Faetooth share insight into ... An Invocation, their influences and favorite albums, and what’s coming up next.
What sparked your interest in making music?
Ari: I’ve always loved noodling around with new genres and ideas. When I started playing guitar, I went the more Classic Rock and Riot Grrrl route; although I never had a specific genre I was more geared towards than others. I started listening to doom-influenced music around 2016. I felt a sudden drive to produce music that was experimenting in that realm. I find it to be an organic feel, drifting off with my guitar in hand.
Jenna: I’ve been playing music since I was very young but didn’t get interested in “doom” or any type of metal-centric music until recently. I’ve been interested in heavier types of music before, but this type of detuned, slower, kind of music is more of a recent interest. However, all of our musical interests are vastly different so I believe it makes our music specifically unique.
Razz: Growing up, music appreciation was always a very central part in my life, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started really committing myself to writing songs. Before, I’d always been more of a poet or visual artist. My parents introduced me to a lot of metal and experimental music, from more straight forward, heavy bands such as Gorgoroth or Black Sabbath to freak-folk projects like CocoRosie. I discovered fem punk on my own in middle school and was very influenced by Bikini Kill, specifically. I’ve always found more catharsis in alternative projects – possibly because of my upbringing, but also because I find it to be a very vulnerable medium that can really mirror the internal state of the musician and audience alike.
Sarah: Honestly, I kind of just fell into music. I played a little bit of guitar when I was younger, but eventually quit. I was always into sports growing up, and just listened to whatever my dad was listening to (so a lot of Classic Rock). At 16 I found the most beautiful outlet in drumming. I joined my first band at 18 and music has been a huge part of my life ever since. I love and appreciate all kinds of music, but I was never really into the super heavy stuff until Ari expressed interest in forming a sludge band. I’m not very picky with the kind of music I play, and at the time I was taking every opportunity to play with people. I am glad that I did, because I have found a love for these girls and a love for Doom.
Who are some of your musical influences?
A: My main influences for this project include bands such as Black Math Horseman, Planning For Burial, Messa, True Widow, Code Orange, Kittie and many more.
J: Mostly contemporary bands and artists in the genre: Chelsea Wolfe, Ragana, Blackwater Holylight. My inspirations also range from early-era Hole to modern post-hardcore like Super Unison.
R: I think we all really appreciate the power of Chelsea Wolfe, haha. In this particular project, I’ve found inspiration from Citizen, Show Me the Body, and Void Meditation Cult. My favorite musician of all-time is (Sandy) Alex G. Lyrically, when not focusing on my personal life, I am usually writing about my favorite pieces of english literature (typically predating the 19th century) and also paintings of all kinds (I’m an art history major and total nerd about it).
S: Drum wise I am heavily influenced by Steve Gadd, Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham, Dave Grohl, Stewart Copeland and Danny Carey.
How was the recording process for ... An Invocation?
A: We recorded with our good friend Emilio Zoen at his home studio in Los Angeles. It was an overall comfortable and easy experience working with him. He let us express our ideas with no judgement and helped guide us in the direction we wanted to go in. Since half of us have never had the experience recording before this EP, we were a bit nervous. Emilio surely made it a positive experience. Listening to our scratch takes for the first time was monumental.
How did the artwork and title come about?
R: A lot of people have told me after our live sets that our performance feels like a kind of ritual, or that we’ve invoked spirits through the screaming and dark riffs, so the title could be a play on that aspect too. I did the artwork for the EP using ink on watercolor paper. We all agreed sometime during recording that we wanted the artwork to contrast the heaviness of our music – we’re all lovers of the natural world, too, and so we thought a sleeping animal would be best. The idea seemed perfect, seeing as we have a lot of mythical aesthetics sonically and visually as well.
“Prunes” is so textured and jammy, it’s probably my favorite song off the EP. For people who haven’t heard your music, how would you describe it?
J: Thank you! There is definitely a lot going on in “Prunes” and it was an interesting song to write. Particularly for that song, there are a lot of underlying influences of Melvins. For what we have under our belt currently, I would describe our music as experimental or alternative doom.
R: Doom-gaze, even! The way I’d describe the song in words is experimental-sludge-feedback-whisper-vocal-snake-hiss and then it’s guttural-screech-treble-fast-riff-head banging madness. Post-fairy core?
What’s your favorite track on the EP?
J: My favorite is “Fifth Circle.” It’s the first song we wrote as a band and is pretty much a collaborative work. There are so many different elements in that song; the verse riff stays true to classic sludge, the chorus is spooky as hell, and the song descends into what I always imagine to be a sexy dance party in hell.
A: My favorite track is “Prunes.” It’s extremely exploratory and layered with texture, as you mentioned before, and was written meant to be an experience. Watching our audience start getting loose and moshing is exhilarating. Beginning with the intro, the fast bit, and finally concluding it with our final track on the EP, “Glass” rounds it all up into a broad storyline.
R: My favorite track is probably “Glass,” just because I have the most emotional connection to it. I wrote the song during a practice one day, and we jammed it out into what it is today. The original lyrics, though, were a bit too candid for me to perform, so Jenna re-wrote the two verses using the same original metaphor. It was a nice collaboration lyrically, the way our words can mix between the verses and chorus.
S: My favorite track is probably “Guilt Machine.” I love all of the different parts and layers to it, and it’s just super fun to play. The lyrics are very powerful to me and I believe they send an important message.
What has been your experience with the LA music scene?
A: Razz is also in Street Play. Sarah is in Without Words. Jenna has been playing bass for various bands throughout the years and I am a show promoter myself (meanwhile by running an underground magazine).
J: We’ve all had different roles in the music scene for the last couple of years, so establishing ourselves as a band came with ease. However, there isn’t much of a prevalence of heavier music in the Los Angeles scene, and especially not a prevalence of women playing heavy music. We’re glad to break down that barrier, though.
R: As Ari said, I’ve been playing in my first band, Street Play, for over 3 years in the city. It’s been a really great experience to first be introduced to the scene with them, and now make a new debut with Faetooth. Street Play and Faetooth have played one show together, and that was a super great night, I felt very, very fulfilled creatively. Although Faetooth is much newer, the reception has been just as warm.
How has the response been at your live shows and what are some memorable highlights?
A: Our response has been so positive. We’re grateful to be welcomed into the scene that we have been attending shows by for years! Our mutual friends are in other bands, so thankfully it’s been a great support system.
R: We really love performing together. We’re very blessed to be in such a supportive artistic community, and to have certain supporters coming to every show. One of our favorite memories was at this year’s Juicefest (an annual DIY festival hosted by Tula Jussen of the band Cohort) when we met a couple that had come to see us from over an hour away. It was a huge honor to know that they had been moved enough by our music to make the journey!
What’s coming up for the band?
A: We are in the process of writing new material and updating our setlist. We hopefully plan to record an album soon into the future.
What is your favorite album from start to finish and why?
A: Kittie’s Spit LP from 2000 is one of my all-time favorites. They’re an all-female band playing heavy music as well. They have some really sick change ups in their songs that I try to draw inspiration from. Their purging of raw emotions in their lyrics, screams, singing and videos of them live gets me really motivated to play and write more music.
J: My Chemical Romance Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is probably my all time favorite. They’ve been my favorite band since I was about nine and they’re the band that got me interested in music. Frank Iero and Ray Toro play quite contrasting but harmonious guitar parts that carry the songs beautifully. Gerard Way is also one of my favorite front-people and his lyrical storytelling inspires me a bunch with my own.
R: Such a hard question! My top 3 honorable mentions are definitely Electric Warrior by T. Rex, Race by Alex G, and This is How You Smile by Helado Negro. My top album, though, has gotta be Is This It by The Strokes. That album is genius in its pacing, composition, lyrics, and performance, no doubt. Although it’s very different from Faetooth’s sound (as are all the other mentions), it has a timeless sound to it and reminds me of the complexity of growing up. Julian Casablancas’ voice is etched in my idea of what it means to be a true vocalist. His voice is incredibly expressive, even when he seems to be essentially speaking.