Many bands and musicians found a way to use the pandemic isolation to their advantage, making the most of the down time to work on music—and find new ways to reach audiences.
The Witches of Mars is a band that emerged during the course of the pandemic. Born in Joshua Tree, the band includes Joseph William Kennedy (vocals/guitar), Anthony Ocegueda (drums), Joseph Gonzales (guitar), Jordan Bishop (guitar) and Robert Hamilton (bass). Their sound includes elements of hard metal, pop rock and pop punk; debut EP The Passenger features five tracks that explore and expand upon different rock sounds. Check out “I Wish I’d Never Known” for a sing-along chorus, and “God Slayer” for a destructive rager.
“I had a solo project, but on the side, I was playing bass for another local band called Spankshaft,” Kennedy said. “Anthony, our current drummer, was also in the band, and I showed him some stuff that I’ve been working on. He’s like, ‘Why aren’t you doing anything with this?’ Long story short, we ended up putting a band together to do my solo stuff live. During COVID, when everything shut down, and we weren’t able to really do anything; we pretty much just decided to do a whole overhaul and turn it into a band.”
One of the more interesting aspects of The Witches of Mars is that they are a concept band.
“It’s like a sci-fi fantasy, cosmic-core concept, and as of right now, it’ll stay that way,” Kennedy said. “The idea is that the story will carry over from release to release. The EP we just released, The Passenger, is like an overture to the beginning of the story.
“The songs are meant to be universal, so anybody can draw meaning from them, but there is a story taking place. The first part of the story takes place on a planet called Saer, and there’s a god named Santero. There’s a character named Luke Roth, and he’s married to a woman named Sirena, and Santero claims (Luke’s) wife as his own property. Luke doesn’t like that, so he makes a deal with an entity to basically have the power to defeat this god. He does, and then he goes mad with the power—and he ends up murdering his wife as well. It’s kind of like a hero-becoming-the-villain-type story, which is going to lead into the first full-length album. The Witches of Mars are going to be characters who show up later in the story.”
So far, the music released under The Witches of Mars name has been written and recorded entirely by Kennedy. However, he said witnessing his band members create and improve upon his recordings is “the best damn part.”
“It doesn’t matter how good the recording or the writing is when it comes to the band, because it does morph and change,” Kennedy said. “There are songs that I can’t stand from my solo project that we brought to a live setting, and now it’s like, ‘Oh, this is a million times better.’”
Another interesting aspect of The Witches of Mars is their TikTok success. Kennedy has been creating TikToks featuring the band’s music, along with duets with other notable musicians.
“TikTok has been a blast for us to get on and to promote music on; I don’t think we ever expected a fan base to grow so quickly, which was really cool,” Kennedy said. “Both Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria checked out a duet that I did with them, and now a bunch of their fans are fans of our music, which is awesome, because they’re a huge inspiration for us.”
In a peculiar way, the pandemic was a blessing for The Witches of Mars.
“I think that COVID helped us move forward as a band,” Kennedy said. “I don’t think the concept would have happened, and I got on TikTok out of boredom. I feel like having to think differently because of the pandemic is what helped us get to where we’re going.”
As of now, the band has only played one live show, last Halloween at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert.
“Getting new music out under the name The Witches of Mars was more important,” said Kennedy. “We started to build that rather than doing shows, because, with COVID, we weren’t sure how often shows were going to get canceled. We’ve just been focusing on the music for right now.
“The full-length album is in progress, and there’s probably going to be a single from the full length very soon. When that full length drops, we’re probably going to start doing some shows around that. I do tell some people November—but things can happen, just like with COVID. We’ll see.”
I will be interested to see how this concept band uses the stage to tell their sci-fi story.
“In the future, I would like to do a show where we perhaps play the story—the songs in order, or something like that,” Kennedy said. “Or maybe have like projections with the artwork in the background or something, but I don’t know. I really love Pink Floyd and Coheed and Cambria shows; they feel very immersive at times, and I like that. It helps you get a good idea of the concept.”