A veteran of Miami’s music and art scenes, Cuban-born Beatriz Monteavaro has played in punk, hardcore, and sludge bands since she was a teenager. Her visual work embraces the macabre, featuring disembodied heads, menacing monsters, and congealed goo. Last year she published Quiet Village, a book of dark illustrations with an accompanying soundtrack provided by her band, Beings. With layered percussion tracks reminiscent of ethnographic occult recordings, and oozing guitar and bass accompaniment, the soundtrack leads the entranced reader through a feverish jungle nightmare. Tom Tom Magazine caught up with Beatriz in her Miami art studio. Bands: Human Oddities, Floor, The Methadone Actors, The Funyons, The Basils, Cavity, Beings, and more.
Tom Tom Magazine: You’ve been playing in Miami bands for the better part of two decades. Tell me about some of your bands throughout the years.
Beatriz Monteavaro: I played with friends in high school. We practiced all summer and we only ever played “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. She couldn’t play the solo so we sang that part. Later I put up fliers in the record stores and Human Oddities called me because they figured out that Betty was a drummer. I was a hired gun, I learned their material, and we played together for six or eight months, it was really fun.
TTM: When did you start to have an impact on how the music sounded?
BM: A little bit with Floor. I wrote drums to most of the stuff, but my proudest moments were the tracks K-Tell Presents and Sunday. I think Sunday has a pretty good drum part. I was back from college for a long weekend so we made the recording. I learned the music, wrote the drum part and recorded all in the same day. We sent a recording to Maximum Rock’nRoll and got a good response. Cavity and Floor have a pretty strong underground following. In fact, Floor is about to release an enormous 10 EP box set.
TTM: The music you sent from those bands sounds kind of hardcore, is that a Miami thing?
BM: I’d categorize it as sludge or stoner or some kind of punk rock. Miami in the 90’s was sort of a breeding ground for sludge rock, but at the time there were only a few bands that were heavy.
TTM: How did the Quiet Village book project come about?
BM: For the past few Halloweens, in an effort to cull my action figure collection, I’ve been giving things out to random people like toll booth workers. In the summer of 2008 I stumbled on a blog called Scarstuff where a guy shared Halloween albums, old novelty recordings with screaming ghouls. Another blog called Mostly Ghostly had a lot of them, too, and I just thought they were really awesome. So I made mix cd’s with drawings on the covers and gave those out, sort of like opposite trick or treating. I decided to document them in a book of drawings, photocopies and preliminary play lists. At the same time Gean Moreno of [Name] Publications asked me if I’d like to do a book. I had just seen this movie called “The Mad Doctor of Blood Island”, a really graphic slasher B movie with a tiki aesthetic that was set on Polynesian island and had an exotica soundtrack. It influenced the look and sound of the Quiet Village project.
TTM: There is a similar energy in the drumming and the drawings in the book. You make rows of staccato hash marks that look like drum notation. The drawings are dark, there’s a real feeling of being stranded on a jungle island tormented by disembodied heads.
BM: It’s good that it communicates that. I’ve been thinking recently about how the hash marks and ribbons look like notation in drumming. Drum notation is writing down time, that’s exactly what people do in prison or when they’re stuck on a desert island.
TTM: There are a lot of play lists in the Quiet Village drawings, stuff that influenced you, but that’s not what’s on the album.
BM: Well I made the book with those songs in mind, but I don’t own the rights to them so it seemed immoral to sell them. So I played the drums to the mix CD’s and recorded the tracks on my laptop. Some songs have three drum tracks, and some have two.
TTM: Oh, that’s why it sounds like something ceremonial.
BM: Then I took it to my band mates from Beings. Mike played bass all the way through and then Ivan played guitar all the way through. Half of the material worked so we used it.
TTM: Can you share your insights on what it’s like to be a woman drummer?
BM: There’s an expectation that you’re probably going to suck. I’m a competent drummer. I’m not the best drummer in the world but I’m pretty good. I’m better at some things than others. So people come out to shows and say, “Oh my God, you’re really good.” Okay, you didn’t believe me? Or people ask, “Are you in a girl band?” No, it is not a girl band.
TTM: Is there something inherently masculine about a drum kit that makes it more surprising when a girl is good?
BM: A lot of people believe that drummers have to be really enormous and muscular. That can help but it’s not necessary. It’s a violent and powerful thing, you’re pounding on something and wielding power. Actually a lot of people love girl drummers. It’s unexpected and if they’re good or even just okay it’s awesome to see.
TTM: Is it different than being a female artist? Do you take the same approach to the drum kit as to a drawing or sculpture?
BM: Although it’s still expected that good artists are men, I think it’s more unexpected to be a girl drummer. You have more of a spotlight on you. In the past year I’ve become less product minded, I’ve stopped caring what the art world thinks and it’s been very liberating. I think art should be expressive, real, authentic, life affirming and encourage other people to go out and do similar things. If people come to your show and they don’t know anything about your band and they like it, well they don’t have to ask a curator if it’s a good idea to like it or if they should buy the record. It’s a lot smaller of an investment, music is more democratic in that way. I’m more interested in multiples right now. That’s why I like the book, everyone can have it and it has context. It’s like a solo show in a book.