When I called to let the members of Venus and the Traps know that our readers had voted for them as the 2016-2017 Best Local Band, they were surprised, to say the least.
The East Valley-based band beat out War Drum, The Myx, Brightener and the reigning champ, The Flusters. I headed to Indio to speak with the band members: James Montenegro (bass), Perla Martinez (vocals, guitar), Eddy Lazcano (guitar) and Moy Sanchez (drums).
“I was in shock,” Montenegro said. “I was like, ‘Really?!’ … I was sure The Flusters or Brightener were going to get it.”
Venus and the Traps may be a little more mysterious than those other finalists. I’ve only seen the band play a couple of times—yet the sound is unforgettable.
“We started in October of 2014,” Montenegro said. “Perla had written some songs, and I knew she wanted to start a band after her previous band dissolved. I told her I would help her out with some songwriting and playing bass. Perla’s aunt’s kids are taught by Moy; he teaches drums at (Thermal’s) Westside Elementary. Perla’s aunt was like, ‘We know a drummer.’ So we hit up Moy and started jamming with him. We had a guitarist, but he wasn’t able to come through, because he lived a ways away, and Moy suggested we bring in Eddy.
“By January 2015, we did our first show at Club 5, and we had a full set by then of eight or nine songs. The driving force is Perla; she was writing the songs before we became a thing.”
Why do they think they earned so many votes? Sanchez guessed it’s because the band isn’t afraid to step out of the box.
“It’s not a generic style, and it’s unique to us,” Sanchez said. “We’re all different, and that’s our sound.”
Martinez said she’s sometimes surprised by audience members’ compliments after shows.
“Sometimes when we play shows, we see people just standing there, disinterested,” Martinez said. “But then they come up to us afterward like, ‘I really liked your band!’ I didn’t expect to get that comment from them, given they stood there with a scowl on their face. It’s random people who we never would even think would like us. We had this metalhead guy tell us one night, ‘You guys ripped it! You threw it down!’ and was super excited. It was really cool.”
Montenegro mentioned one show when the band members realized they may be on to something.
“We’re not easy to identify, as far as our sound and style is concerned,” he said. “… We played a hip-hop show at Plan B one time, and we were the only rock band there, and everyone else was playing off tracks and rapping. We thought, ‘How did we get this show? We’re going to bomb.’ When we were done, there were people clapping and coming up to us saying, ‘You sound great! You guys are dope!’ I think a lot of artists will show their appreciation for the music; it doesn’t matter kind of music it is.”
Martinez told a strange story about how the band’s name came to be.
“I had a dream, and in my dream, I was standing at the shore of the ocean,” Martinez said. “There was this big-ass gash on my hand, and I was bleeding all over the water. All of a sudden, a penis appeared. A wave brought this penis, and it’s just floating around with all the blood and everything. That was my dream, and that was it. I looked it up on Google. … The birth of Aphrodite and the thought of Venus went hand in hand. I was talking to a friend of mine, and he was like, ‘Venus flytraps,’ and I was like, ‘No, Venus and the Traps!’ We ended up just going with that. I am the only girl in the band, so it worked out that way. As far as traps (also a slang term for transgender people) go, people have come up to me saying, ‘No one is in drag in your band or transgender. So why do you call them that?’ In a way, we, as people, are kind of traps, and we always make different impressions on people.”
Lazcano discussed the band’s sound.
“I think I’m a writer in the moment,” Lazcano said. “I think I’ll suddenly be sitting there, and I’ll be like, ‘I need to play this.’ I’ll just stop whatever I’m doing. … Something in my mind is like, ‘Do this!’ and I’ll do it. I’m not someone who plans riffs or anything. Even when they show me riffs or whatever, I’ll be like, ‘OK, I kind of have an idea of what I want to do. … I’ll be at home or work, and it’s going to hit me.’ It does hit me eventually. It all gets pushed together like a nice cake of various flavors.”
Venus and the Traps have been recording and are nearly done with a six-track that should be released soon.
“These songs are the first ones we wanted to put out,” Martinez said. “One of my biggest things about making music is that I want documentation of it. These six songs are the first set, and we want to just put them out there.”