The Human League
More than a year ago, we had the chance to attend a concert by La Catrin, a.k.a. Bianca Montalvo. The ex-Heist at Hand member vamped her way through a series of half-pop/half-goth masterpieces in a mesmerizing display of stagemanship.
After a very long wait, we finally have her in our pockets with Humans Are My Keyboards, La Catrin's album scheduled to be released at the party that kicks off her Texas tour Thursday at Fitzgerald's. The record goes up on TuneCore February 25.
Don't wait for that, though. Humans is a violently catchy mash-up of Siouxsie Sioux and Lady Gaga, exploring music's dark side with a symphonic scream of light in all directions. The keening, powerful pain of Adele, as well as Goldfrapp's grinning impishness, flits throughout its seven tracks, but La Catrin is her own creation. She's as subtle as a striptease, and almost as much fun.
Houston Press: You've said you feel your time with Heist at Hand was only a small part of the artist you've become. What was the major part in the artist you've become?
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Nothing But Thieves presented by Ones To Watch
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Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
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Bianca Montalvo: I've been "in training" to become La Catrin my entire life. I dared myself to look within and pulled her out. I pulled the real me out. Once you align with your true self, every other person you've been becomes banal.
HP: You have a penchant for spectacle, e.g., marrying the audience. Is that a necessary part of your act, or do you feel comfortable just doing the songs without the pageantry?
BM: If by pageantry you mean passion, then no, I don't perform without passion. I don't perform on other people's stages, either. When I do a show, the entire venue transforms into my world. Transformation is a huge theme in my work. It's just another form of expression.
HP: Speaking of which, what exactly happened with the big burlesque-show tour you were planning?
BM: It's actually my friend Amberry Jam's show. She's a performance artist and the brains behind Kiki's Sordid Sideshow. She's Kiki, the stripping clown. As a DIY pop artist, it's rare that I find other artists that sound like me that I can perform with, so when planning the tour, it just made way more sense to tour with a sideshow burlesque show than other bands. (Note: Kiki's Sordid Sideshow will only perform at the Fitzgerald's show.)
HP: It's been quite awhile since we talked, and the album is just now coming out. What's gone into these songs that's taken a year to get a release?
BM: Impatience. It's been ready for a long while now. I've been talking to a lot of people in the industry, going in and out of town figuring out who's going to manage it, which publicity company is going to take it up, and then there was all this logistical stuff like copyrights, etc., coordinating people; it all takes a massive amount of energy.
I don't think these managers/publicists quite knew what to do with me, and I got tired of waiting, so I said, "Screw it." I can do it on my own. I want Houston to have this record.
HP: More than any other goth artist we know, you dance up to the line of straight pop. Is that just you, or do you think pop music itself is edging back towards a spookier time?
BM: I love pop music. It's super-goth by design: Pop music is where music goes to die.
HP: Our favorite track off the album is "Fall in Love and Kill Myself," and if we're reading it right, it's about attachments drowning you. What's behind it?
BM: Thank you. It's my favorite as well. It's about a deep, unrequited love between two star-crossed lovers. It's basically revealing my true self to that person, a "thank you, and farewell." The music is supposed to sound like a hopeful despair, because as much as it hurts to love that person, that relationship was designed to teach you a greater deal about yourself and help you grow. A swift kick in the ass that gets you on your path, and that's where the hopeful part comes in.
HP: A lot of the album is somewhat thorny romantically. What's the role of love in your songwriting?
BM: It's all been a learning curve for me. I'm not the best when it comes to love and vulnerability, but I'm getting better at it. I want to be good at it.
HP: There's an odd chaos to your music, with rich melodies sort of rubbing raw against big drums. Is that something you're seeking intentionally, or just something you can't help?
BM: It's intentional without being intentional. I just want it to sound big and bold, elegant and dreamy and beautiful. I live in my world. That's what music sounds like in my world.
HP: What's the first thing you want to do when you're out on the road?
BM: Stay there.
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