When speaking to Carmelina Lista, a pleasant, polite French teacher from West New York, you’d hardly associate her with evil spells and bubbling cauldrons.
But when you’re the only woman in a rock band called “Float the Witch,” the comparison perhaps becomes inevitable.
The band’s name is a playful reference to the medieval practice of trying women suspected of black magic by dunking them in water, “and the fact that I’m the only girl in the band maybe means I’m the witch,” Lista joked.
If Lista is actually casting any spells, however, it’s only through her vocals as the frontwoman for a group whose members hail from throughout Essex County. Along with Lista, a West New York native, are drummer Anthony Freda of Belleville, guitarist Ben Petty of Glen Ridge and bassist Brian Roy of Montclair.
Together, the bandmates bring together a blend of styles ranging from the sultry to the melancholic to hard-charging rock, influences which can be heard on their debut EP, which was released in New York City last Friday. (The band will also be performing at Hell’s Kitchen Lounge in Newark’s Ironbound this coming Saturday.)
It’s that eclectic approach which makes “Float” unique, Lista said.
“Our drummer is into electronic music, our bassist is into British punk and reggae,” she said. “We're influenced by different genres but we blend them together into a unique style.”
The band also boasts a legitimate international flair: Lista brings her language skills to bear in helping write tracks in Spanish and French as well as English,, and plans to write a few songs in Italian too.
“People find it interesting. You don’t have to understand the language to appreciate it,” Lista said.
Lista said the band is able to juggle so many influences -- and languages -- because off-stage, the quartet enjoys a legitimate friendship. Lista credits drummer and Belleville native Freda, who has had formal training in percussion, with introducing Lista to music theory and the mathematical structure underlying a well-crafted song.
And the band’s “witch” also notes that her group brings something else to the contemporary rock music scene that’s become scarce since the mid-1990s: a female vocal lead.
Click here to stream the EP.