If wildly energetic psychedelic rock is your thing, you really should be listening to Frankie and the Witch Fingers.
Riffs attack with phasers and wah; vocals scream out about mythical creatures; and the backing instrumentation offers a dance-filled, mosh-worthy vibe. Check out songs like “Brain Telephone” and “Electricide.”
Frankie and the Witch Fingers consists of Dylan Sizemore (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Josh Menashe (lead guitar, backing vocals, synthesizer, sax, flute, engineering), Nicole “Nikki Pickle” Smith (bass) and Nick Aguilar (drums). The band members tour a bunch and bring a raucous night of music with them wherever they go. They’ll be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s at 10 p.m., Saturday, May 13.
During a recent Zoom interview with the band, we discussed how the group is no stranger to the desert.
“We all love Pappy’s,” Sizemore said. “It’s a special place and always a good scene there.”
Said Aguilar: “I’ve never played there, but I saw the Meat Puppets play there in 2019. I would go there more often. It’s a wonderful room inside and out.”
Added Menashe: “I’m just excited to share a stage that Paul McCartney played on.”
Frankie and the Witch Fingers performed at Pappy and Harriet’s in 2016 as part of the Desert Stars Festival, a memorable event that allowed the band to watch headliner Dinosaur Jr.
“We played outside pretty early in the day,” Menashe said. “It was dusty. We saw Dinosaur Jr., and we were peeking right behind (J Mascis’) amps backstage. I could hear his guitar clearer from the back of the amps than the front, if that makes any sense.”
The band most recently played in the desert in 2019, performing at the SoCal Psycheout festival, hosted at Garth’s Boulder Gardens Sanctuary in Pioneertown. This time, Frankie and the Witch Fingers were the headliner.
“That was so sick, and it was really fun,” Sizemore said. “That’s probably the most remote location we’ve ever played a show at. … We were totally in the middle of the desert getting out there. It was a generator show. There were so many awesome visual artists that night, which made it even more surreal to be out in the middle of the desert with projections on these giant rocks. It was pretty, pretty spectacular.”
The band grew from festival opener to headliner in the span of three years, and now the members are working their way even further up the figurative ladder. Even though their visceral sound works well in a close-knit, underground show, those kinds of sets are in the past.
“We started playing basement shows in Indiana with no stage, no monitors and one outlet where we plugged everything in,” said Menashe. “We tried not to catch the house on fire. It’s nice to make a show out of nothing sometimes.”
As audiences grow, the group’s intense sound has helped establish a connection between the members and their big crowds.
“Part of the energy comes from the sound, so when you play a big room like that, you get the advantage of the biggest sound—but then the challenge is the connection physically from body to body,” Sizemore said. “You’re pushing yourself harder onstage in order to make that connection. You get to hear things better, and you get to be tighter, which kind of allows you to be more in the flow—but it’s also fun to play a small room where you’re just on top of someone, and it doesn’t matter how well you play, because someone’s going to feel it anyway, because they’re on top of your guitar.”
Some standout festival sets came up during our conversation, including a recent performance at Desert Daze.
“I kind of like playing in a smaller room where the relationship between the crowd and the band is a lot more intimate,” Aguilar said. “Luckily, I’m in the back, so I’m not really going to get anyone necessarily falling on my shit, but for these guys, sometimes it’s annoying when someone might step on their pedal or something mid-song or fuck with them. I’ve seen that, but I don’t know; those are kind of the best shows. I feel like those are the ones that people go home and remember and talk about the most—but then again, some of the festivals that we’ve played, people say it’s the best show they’ve ever seen. When we played at Desert Daze last year, that was a very big stage, and it was during the day, and we were all very far from the audience, but something about it was very eclectic. We definitely felt the connection with the crowd and the energy there that day.”
Aguilar talked about the challenge of winning over an audience. Even if you think you’ve lost the crowd, they still might be having a great time, he said.
“Most of the time, it’s in our heads,” Aguilar said. “There have been shows where we’re giving it our all, and the crowd is just straight-faced the whole time—but then they come up to us after and buy a bunch of merch and are super-stoked on the show. I guess people just have different ways of expressing how they feel about a band. … If somebody else just wants to chill and watch one of their favorite bands and buy a shirt and go home and go to sleep, that’s cool, but it does make it harder for me to do my job.”
What was a pretty consistent release schedule was halted when COVID-19 shutdowns were in full effect. Frankie and the Witch Fingers’ last LP was released in October 2020. In 2023, band members have their sights set on a new release schedule.
“We’ve recorded a record, and it’s turned into the press plant,” Sizemore said. “We’ve got all the art and stuff, but we’ve just been trying to time it to when we’re touring and everything. That’s coming out this year, at the end of the summer. Right now, we’re in our rehearsal space writing another record. We had some downtime as far as writing and recording, but now we’re caught up, so we’ll have at least a record out every year.”
The pandemic did provide the opportunity for the band to document their live energy, as Frankie and the Witch Fingers released not one, but two live albums.
“It’s not too much different than our studio albums, but you can definitely feel the energy more just having it all live, and hearing how we played together in a room,” Sizemore said. “I like to think that translates, and I hope other people do, too.”
Added Aguilar: “I think if a band has a good live show, they should always put out at least one good live record, A lot of my favorite records from a lot of my favorite bands are live records, like The Who, Live at Leeds; Thin Lizzy, Live and Dangerous; and Rush, Exit … Stage Left. Everything’s a little bit faster; you hear the audience, and it feels like you’re there.”
Frankie and the Witch Fingers will perform at 10 p.m., Saturday, May 13, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 760-228-2222, or visit pappyandharriets.com.
You sold me on this group a very good expression. A must see on the 13th
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