After fronting the band, Heist At Hand, and opening for groups like Portugal The Man, Receiving End of Sirens, From Autumn to Ashes, and ….And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Bianca Montalvo needed a fresh start. She began working as a cocktail waitress at a strip club in Houston, Texas to finance her next record. There, she gained the inspiration to be reborn as La Catrin. Her name is a play on the ‘El Catrin’ card in the game of Mexican Loteria. From her bio, Montalvo believes that “by swapping in the feminine “La” gender designation, she is referencing the feminine/masculine energy balance in her music.” She’s received raves from alt-weekly Houston Press and goth publications throughout the country. Her debut project, Humans Are My Keyboards, has a sound that fans of Evanescence and even Lady Gaga can appreciate thanks in part to the production guidance of Bob Hoag (The Ataris, The Format, Dear and the Headlights, etc.). Her music will also be featured in the film, “Lover, Why Don’t You Stay”, an independent horror/suspense film shot in Houston, TX and directed by Mike James.
In our interview, Montalvo talks about her beginning inspiration to sing, working with Bob Hoag, and the power exchange she saw between men and women in the strip club that gave birth to La Catrin.
JW: What singers/musicians would you credit for inspiring desire to sing (generally speaking, as well as goth specifically)?
LC: Selena & Mariah Carey, hands down, as well as Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive In & The Mars Volta, Siouxsie Sioux, and Nick Cave. My tastes are all over the map but those are my favorite singers. I learned how ‘project’ trying to mimic Mariah Carey when I was little lol
JW: The card, El Catrin, from which you take inspiration for your name is from a deck of Mexican Loteria cards. I’ve read the game is played similar to bingo, and I’ve also read that the cards can be used as a tarot deck. Have you ever attempted (or received) a reading from Mexican Loteria cards?
LC: Oh yeah, absolutely but the cards were the traditional Naipes de la Real variety. I didn’t know you could use loteria as a tarot but that sounds pretty cool! I’ve only played loteria with my family at gatherings
JW: In your bio, you mention the “power exchange” of the “ultra” feminine and “ultra” masculine you saw as money is thrown to exotic dancers in a gentleman’s club. Would you mind expounding further on that?. Also, are there other ways you’ve witnessed this, say, at your live shows?
LC: What I’ve witnessed is the age-old battle of the sexes. Each has something the other wants. The girls want the money, the men want their bodies and time. The trick is they are both trying to give each other something without giving anything at all. Smoke and mirrors. Fantasy. It’s all about who gets seduced into giving up the goods first and most. It’s somewhat abstract to think about but has definitely influenced the way I perform. As a performer, there is a part of my personality that isn’t present on my day-to-day. I get to live out my fantasy. My audience wants to see me a certain way. It’s all about creating the illusion for our mutual benefit. Performing for me is a very intimate experience that I enjoy sharing with my audience.
JW: Another situation you encountered while working in the gentlemen’s club was human trafficking. How did you come to discover it and what do you feel we can do to bring more awareness of the issue in Houston and throughout Texas?
LC: After working in that environment for a while, you get to know the girls and eventually you hear the stories. They’re very secretive but from my understanding it’s a psychological form of slavery.There is a huge difference between women who choose to be ladies of the night versus those that are forced to pay off their “debts” to their owners. I’m currently looking into what I can do. It’s such a complicated issue but in the mean time I participated in a walk-a-thon for Force For Compassion f-4-c.org.
JW: How did you cross paths with Bob Hoag to produce both the Heist At Hand album and your solo album? What did you learn in the studio from the first experience that helped you on the solo project?
LC: Through touring, we became really good friends with a band from Mesa named Awake and Alert. A lot of bands we liked including them would record with Bob so they made the introduction and we recorded with him in his former studio. Bob’s weirdness and my weirdness are very complimentary so that was pretty much a no brainer. I learned to get comfortable with the sound of my voice and singing style. I remember Bob saying once that one of the reasons he loves the Beatles so much is because they were actually a very sloppy band and sometimes when they would record what seemed like a mistake, John Lennon would make them turn it up in the mix because if it’s that glaringly obvious and loud, there’s NO WAY people would think it’s a flaw. But it captured the emotion they wanted to project AND THAT is what you want on your records. Emotion.
JW: How did you meet up with Mike James, director of “Love, Why Don’t You Stay”?
LC: The first time I met him was at Warped Tour. I puked on him from the stage. I don’t go out into the sun much so performing mid day makes me sick. A couple of years later he asked me to model as a Dominatrix for an anti Valentines day party. I broke a whip on his face in front of 500 people. Then he asked me to be in his films but only until recently was I available to work with him again.
JW: What touring plans are underway?
LC: Absolutely. Looking into hopping on some tours by summer time
JW: What your favorite activity to clear your head and gain fresh inspiration?
LC: I either need complete solitude or travel/parties, and preferably with my lover at the moment. Soak it all in. My last inspirational getaway was taking on the sculpture for Burning Man. I got to live in a dream for weeks. Bliss I tell you