Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

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.”

Published in Features

Venus and the Traps have continued to dazzle local-music audiences at places from house parties in Coachella, to The Hood Bar and Pizza, to even the McCallum Theatre, as part of the East Valley Voices Out Loud showcase. The band’s sound combines punk, psychedelia and surf rock. Playing bass for Venus and the Traps is James Montenegro. For more information, visit James was kind enough to recently answer The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

It must’ve been at the Date Festival. When I was a kid, my parents took me to see some band like Foghat or something. I don’t remember much in terms of music, but I do remember a lot of middle-aged drunk dudes dancing around like fools and falling into the folding chairs. It was great. Being a kid, I was more in tune with the slapstick side of life, and found that to be more amusing than the music at hand.

What was the first album you owned?

Metallica’s Kill ’Em All. It was a burned copy a friend gave me in middle school. We didn’t listen to that kind of music in my household, so I would listen to it late at night when everyone was asleep, with my headphones plugged in to the family radio.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’m listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, NickCave and the Bad Seeds, Roy Orbison, Bobby Fuller, and Sam Cooke.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I don’t get pop music in general. It’s redundant, so much so, in fact, that attempting to listen to it is almost a meta-experience in figuring out (who) the artist is explicitly ripping off. I’m talking about the Lady Gagas of the world, who probably have a team of writers who could give her some substantial material, but instead hand her a reworking of a Madonna hit.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I would love, LOVE, to see Devo perform live, and I think that’s a very easy thing to do. I just don’t have the funds or the time.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Cajun music. Enough said.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I never gave any consideration to this. Offhand, I’d say in a very localized sense that The Hood is pretty tops, because they bring in a band I’d love to see play at least once a month, and I make it a point to attend. Bring in Devo!

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

I can dismiss song lyrics very easily, but for the past two days, a lyric will enter my head from time to time, because I’ve listened to the song so much recently: “All the tired horses in the sun, how am I supposed to get any riding done?” from Bob Dylan, “All the Tired Horses.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The Clash changed my life immensely when I first listened to them. I must’ve stolen London Calling from Borders, now closed, when I was in high school. Reading the lyrics, I was taken aback. These were four guys playing some real intense music, with a lot of intellect, and they told stories as well. It was like the pop-punk equivalent of folk music, which makes sense, because punk is basically the extension of what the Beats had established in the 1950s—punk in terms of politics and philosophy, the working class, nihilism, the whole thing.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’d ask Joe Strummer of the Clash: “How do you give off the appearance of never having to make a compromise, and still achieve radio-play status?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“In Dreams,” by Roy Orbison.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Combat Rock, The Clash.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“(Working on the) Chain Gang,” by Sam Cooke. Do it with friends, and have them do the “oohs” and the “ahhs” in the background. Have a few stiff drinks, then do it again. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13