Story and Photos by Sara Kuefler
“The name is very catchy. I love when people say, ‘You’re in the Witch band?’ I’m like ‘which band?’” – Krauss
Witch Victim is a band that defies…well a lot of things to be honest: expectation, definition, and any sort of predictability. Sounds exciting, right?! After having the opportunity to hang out and enjoy an adventure with the members of the band I feel that Witch Victim operates principally from a beautiful harmony of the combined instincts of its members. Considering they have been together for under a year this is a pretty precious occurrence.
Their medley of creativity is composed out of the talents of Daniel Bargetzi (lead vocals, guitar), Nathaniel Krauss (bass, vocals), Coco (drums, vocals), and Danny Petza (guitar, vocals). Most of the members have more than one musical project that they create under, but something unique happens when they come together as Witch Victim.
If pressed, the band members would characterize their music as Psychedelic Post-Emo; however, they certainly do not box in their sound in any way. Take their recently released single, “Ghost Towns & Graveyards,” in contrast with the freshly released (just today), “Silicone Man / Fever Trip,” and you have two wildly different sounding tracks.
In respect to their sound they say:
“It comes pretty naturally,” the bands agrees. “It is what it is with all of us. And then all of us with our own little flares combined in this cauldron, that the witch stirs. It’s like four songwriters crammed into one little circle.”
“Some songs are really pop driven and some are more aggressive…but you can tell they are done by the same people,” says Bargetzi. “It’s not really a sound we are going for, I feel like it is more what serves the riff best? What riff serves this riff best?”
“Silicone Man” was written by Krauss primarily, with Bargetzi adding a slow mid-song jam section, and then was brought to the rest of the band to fill out. However, writing more often happens very cooperatively with someone bringing a less finished piece of a song to the group and then everyone expanding and completing it during practice.
According to the band, they like to provide variety to their listeners so that there is something for everyone. They also appreciate when people dance at shows. During our interview they characterized “Silicone Man” as danceable, so I encourage you to give it a go (imagine a wink with that statement perhaps).
In respect to their musical backgrounds, Bargetzi took some lessons at 11 but is mainly self taught, with some assistance from YouTube. He noted that the internet is a great place to learn scales and music theory. In speaking with him though, you can tell the bulk of his learning has come from experimentation. Coco took lessons in drums and guitar, and also teaches. Petza and Krauss are fully self taught. Autodidacticism figures strongly in all of the band members’ ongoing practice. In terms of enhancing the learning process, Petza jokes about acid as a way to level up your learning. However, in respect to adding substances into the mix, it comes down to perspective. Sometimes altering your perspective allows you to expand what you attempt, and ultimately can add in that boost of confidence so that, “you think you are progressing, and you progress,” as Petza describes. It is about not limiting yourself, which is one of my favourite things about this band personally.
Witch Victim has played some memorable gigs since their inception. When asked which stand out, the first one they mention was during Christmas time last year, when they played the ‘Beatroute Annual Holiday’ upstairs at the Palomino. If you have experienced Witch Victim live, you will be aware of the intensity and dynamism inherent in Coco’s drumming. Because of the limited space in the upstairs stage area, Coco nearly kicked the drum kit off the stage. They enjoyed more space to move downstairs during their favourite show to date, playing the Palomino at the 36? vinyl release show, in March 2019. The Palomino is a much-loved venue of theirs and they send a shout out to Danny Northfield for bookings. Another show that stuck out as a favourite of theirs was a house show. There was only one mic, which the band all had to yell at. Not unexpectedly they made a lot of friends at that show. Given Witch Victim’s energy, it is not surprising that they appreciate the necessity to roll with unusual circumstances.
The band has plans in place to play shows in Red Deer and Lethbridge soon. They want to tour and feel it does expand your audience. Bargetzi notes, “The internet tours for you, but it is a huge thing to go on a tour.” The band would like to plan a bigger tour for next Summer as it is a preferable time of year to travel compared to Winter. Taking their ambitions internationally as well, Witch Victim would love to visit the festival circuit in France, since France is where Coco hails from.
Another important element in building and maintaining a fan base is having your music available to listen to between shows. When it comes to putting out music, fans can expect a new single on a regular basis from Witch Victim for the next several months. “Ghost Towns & Graveyards”, their haunting atmospheric response to the need to defend oneself sometimes within close personal relationships, was released in May. “Silicone Man – Fever Trip,” comes out today, with accompanying video. As the song title suggests, this track originated from an experience with feeling physically pliable while on a trip. But you certainly don’t need drugs to appreciate the rollicking guitar and driving rhythm that fuels this energetic song. The music video, also created by the band, suits the near horror film psychedelia vibe present in the audio.
Witch Victim is at the wheel during the making of their songs start to finish. Originally, the band had saved up money from gigs to pay for mixing and mastering of a few songs by an engineer (not naming names); however, they were very disappointed with the result, saying that “everything was peaked”. So, after that, Petza took up the reigns of the recording and mixing process under his own production company:
“I do the recording at 1614 Studios, which is my house,” he explains. “I’ve got Multiple Assailants on the way and Coco’s band, Sympathies, is almost out.”
For Witch Victim, Petza has gone mobile with the recording process, tracking drums at one of the members’ Dad’s house, and a bunch of the guitars in Daniel’s spare room.
“It’s really low stress for recording,” says Bargetzi. “Normally you have to worry about time and it’s money spending. But it’s like, we can’t do it this weekend, how about next Tuesday?”
One of the tenets Witch Victim sticks to in terms of their music is the value of having the music remain “them.” The goal is for it “to be polished but as authentic as you can make it.”
“It’s art,” explains Petza. “It’s lo-fi within its own self. It’s DIY. You don’t need some other guy to show your art for you.”
“And the last guy straight up said, ‘this is my art,'” says Krauss. “And I remember that for me was like, man, we gotta do this ourselves.”
The band did find an engineer they trust for mastering – the final step in the process – in Brock McFarlane.
“A huge part of the recording process is mixing and mastering,” describes Petza. “If you give it to someone else and you’re not there with them, which was a big mistake…although, Brock McFarlane from CPS [Mastering] out of Vancouver…I’ve just been putting my mixes to him and he’s been mastering them, and it’s been perfect.”
“It’s like he knows what we want the song to sound like. He’s amazing,” adds Bargetzi.
When you look at the mandate at CPS Mastering, it is no surprise that MacFarlane works well with Witch Victim. Per the CPS’ mission statement, “we keep the integrity of the mixes intact while providing clients with a polished final product that both protects and complements the work of the team who created it.”
As a fan of the band, I couldn’t be happier that this is the way they operate. Polish is one thing, but you cannot replace the magic that comes from a group of artists who are allowing themselves to connect to an inner fire. As a music appreciator in general, I cannot overstate the importance of not letting the practical necessities involved in making music take away from the truth and rawness of emotion that comes out of creating it, and I believe Witch Victim will continue to have no trouble with this.
I mentioned an adventure at the start of the article, so in order not to tease, and also to further illustrate the above point, I will expand. My interview with Witch Victim was the most mobile to date for Local Drop. There was a fair amount of walking around downtown, a stop in at Pinbar for a pint, a back alley Q&A and impromptu photo session, and more walking with a stop for food. It all culminated in a pretty magical spontaneous jam session in the dark with some awesome buskers in yet another alley. The ability of the band to move with and connect to their circumstances is impressive in a very deep way. It goes back to who they are as a band. They can evolve with each other, feed off each other, create with each other. ‘The jam’ is the overarching principle and could serve as a metaphor for how they operate not only musically but as friends as well. When this is where your songs come from, and then you take care to ensure where they originate is protected all the way to the finished product, you come out with music that, whether enjoyed live or recorded, will find its way to the core being of audience members.
Catch Witch Victim at the Palomino on Friday, June 28 in celebration of the release of “Silicone Man / Fever Trip”! If you can’t make it on Friday, they play again on the 29th at Tubby Dog. Or just be fortunate and go to both! Also, stream them on Spotify or Bandcamp and follow band updates through their Facebook and Instagram.