Los Bitchos: ‘Being instrumental puts us on an even playing field’

The four-piece bring the tequila and Tarantino vibes – just don’t call them a girl band

When it comes to the rising sounds of 2022, few would have expected a Peruvian party, tequila and Tarantino vibe to shimmy its way onto centre stage, but Los Bitchos are here to make that happen.

Appropriately enough, the day we (virtually) meet to discuss their long-awaited debut album Let the Festivities Begin! is the very day that restrictions lift across Ireland – which means their Dublin date at the end of February has the all-clear.

Behind their near-matching fringes, Serra Petale, Nic Crawshaw, Agustina Ruiz and Josefine Jonsson light up when they’re reminded of their last gig in Dublin back in November 2019, to support Mac DeMarco at Vicar Street.

At the end of DeMarco’s set, “he invited us on stage to play a cover of Tequila [by The Champs] with woodblocks and tambourines and God knows what,” says drummer Crawshaw. “The crowd was absolutely popping off, and I had this moment where I realised it was such a rare opportunity to be on stage when people are going this mental. So I crowdsurfed off it. I’m not a little petite lady, I’m six-foot-one, so it’s not something I usually do.” “She kept on playing her woodblock, and she was so on time as well,” says guitarist Petale. “It was a step, a pivot and a fall, knocking on a woodblock throughout. It was my favourite thing of the whole tour.”


Impressed by this addition to their stage presence, Petale and Ruiz had a go the next night, jumping off while holding hands. There’s video evidence, they say between fits of laughter, to suggest it didn’t go to plan. “It was a contrast, from my very elegant pencil-like fall to the following night when it was such a hot mess,” Crawshaw recalls.

You get the impression that crowdsurfing is just the tip of the shenanigans in the Los Bitchos camp, and that’s even before the videos of margarita-sipping and songs such as Tripping at a Party come into play. It’s entirely in keeping with their upbeat energy, which they’ll demonstrate when they hit the road across Europe throughout spring.

“We’re going to have to pace ourselves, big-time,” says Crawshaw solemnly, as the others nod their agreement. “I think the longest tour we’ve done so far has been about two weeks, but even then there was a little break in the middle.”


It helps that Crawshaw’s day job, before she became a “full-time bitch” earlier this week, was as a physiotherapist with the NHS. “It’s perfect for us in the band because on tour we have a health professional to turn to,” says Jonsson.

“I get asked about everything from RSI to whether to drink on antibiotics, how much tequila is okay. But also we can have fun without the drink,” says Crawshaw. “Just maybe the odd little nip of tequila before we go on.”

“Or switch to drugs instead. That always works out,” jokes Petale.

Formed in London at the end of 2016 through various social webs of friends, parties and previous bands, Los Bitchos was a revolving door of musicians filling in to play their incendiary gigs, until they gained enough prominence in London’s sticky-floor scene to require a settled line-up. “We wanted the songs to start sounding really tight, and if someone’s just learning the bassline the week before, there’s only a certain level that you can get to,” says Petale. “When Nic and Josie joined, it really stepped up the live sound of the band.”

The final change in membership came when founding member Carolina Faruolo left the band during the pandemic. You can almost hear the Zoom room turn frosty when I mention it. “We don’t really talk about it too much, to be honest. I guess there’s four or five different people in the group who all have different plans for what we want to do,” Jonsson finally says before we move swiftly on.

We did an entire track of us slapping our bums instead of a hand clap. Not naked, but in jeans. We were  like, 'I don't know if it sounds good but it feels good'

By the time Faruolo departed, they'd already made grand plans for their album, with Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos producing. They'd met back in 2018 when supporting US band Bodega, and worked on a couple of singles together before undertaking the album – Good to Go features Kapranos in its 1970s game show-esque video.

“He’s so invested in it,” explains Jonsson of their partnership. “He cares and you can feel that when you work with him. He came to our rehearsals a lot, and really worked through the detail of the song. He brought out the best of the songs and made us think about them with different perspectives.”


As an instrumental band, the percussion played a larger part in the recordings than usual, which made for interesting times in the studio. “We did an entire track of us slapping our bums instead of a hand clap,” says Crawshaw. “Not naked, but in jeans,” she adds quickly.

“We were all doing it and it was like, ‘I don’t know if it sounds good but it feels good,’” says Jonsson, laughing.

The resulting album is a hefty match for their live reputation. For all their levity, the album’s tight performance, well-crafted licks and the studied influences shows there’s substance behind the style (that Petale is spending the evening of her 34th birthday on album promo duties is another sign of their graft).

Altogether, the ebbs, flows and rushes of each song take you on wild journeys across imagined deserts, tropical surf zones and B-movie car chases. Quite brilliantly, album closer Lindsay Goes to Mykonos is a three-minute sonic representation of Lindsay Lohan’s rollercoaster ride of a career.

“It starts nice and simple when she’s starring in her first roles like Another World and The Parent Trap, which is very good,” Petale explains. “Then things start to develop and progress a little more – Mean Girls, Freaky Friday, Herbie: Fully Loaded. Then come the DUIs, the Samantha Ronson years, and that Hollywood fast lane where the song’s really kicking off. Then obviously all these things happened to her, bless her [references to her time in and out of rehab, no doubt]. Then she becomes the owner of a club in Mykonos.

“It ends with us yelling ‘same mistake, same mistake’, because essentially, Lindsay was going through the same cycle and we’re like, ‘Lindsay, you’ve just got to go back to the simple life.’ I think she’s done that now. She’s back in Dubai away from paparazzi, she’s got a fiance and I think she’s cleaned up.”

We're quite quick to shoot that kind of thing down. If we're in a soundcheck and an engineer is trying to explain to us what an amplifier is or whatever, we're all pretty assertive

Being an instrumental group has allowed them more than the creative freedom of deciding the course of a song. For starters, it both reflects their pan-continental backgrounds (Petale speaks from Australia, Crawshaw is from the UK, Ruiz from Uruguay and Jonsson from Sweden) and appeals to a global audience without a language barrier.


It also de-genders their sound. “There’s no pre-judgement on the music, and that makes it more even playing field,” says Crawshaw. “But I think there’s always that element of, ‘Oh, that’s a girl group.’”

How does that manifest?

“Well we’re quite quick to shoot that kind of thing down. If we’re in a soundcheck and an engineer is trying to explain to us what an amplifier is or whatever, we’re all pretty assertive.”

“Basically, ain’t nobody in this band got time for that s**t,” says Petale, clicking her fingers left and right.

Also, “as a drummer who’s always at the back of a band, the focus is so often on the singer, it’s nice that every member of this band is just as important. It’s more interesting to watch live.”

“You’re forced to watch all of us,” adds Ruiz.

But these boons are incidental. “We arrived at this sound because we thought instrumental music was a cool thing to do and we wanted to make a project of it, but those things are great,” says Petale. “I think that’s why there’s a lot of cool instrumental music coming out at the moment. The whole movement is starting to really take off again. I like Yin Yin, who do quite a few instrumental tracks, and Glass Beams from Australia.

“Khruangbin, who are predominantly instrumental, are amazing,” adds Crawshaw. “They’ve been around for a while but in the last two years they’ve skyrocketed in popularity, and that’s really helped in this drive of taking instrumental music to the masses.”

But let’s not underplay the significance of Los Bitchos themselves in this movement, especially now they’re spreading their good word in earnest. Let the festivities begin indeed.

Los Bitchos play The Workman’s Club on February 22. Let the Festivities Begin! is out now on City Slang Records