By Noe Gutierrez
More than a chivalrous custom or a phrase encouraging perceived polite gentlemanliness, allowing the ladies to go before the men, the old adage “ladies first” will take a whole new meaning on Saturday, January 26th at Coachella Valley Brewing Company for the FREE event “Ladies First”. Performing live from 6-10 p.m. will be Courtney Chambers, CAKES and the Assholes, The After Lashes, and Jetta King & Tyler Ontiveros. These heroines of the desert are leading the way for all female artists in the valley.
One demigoddess in particular who does not candy-coat her art, music, attitude or words is CAKES. CAKES has remained persistent for years and has not deviated from her fearless approach to…well…everything. You may think the world of her or you may hold her in contempt, but one thing is for sure, you know what you get when it comes to CAKES. Here’s my conversation with the woman who creates her own good fortune.
CVW: Please give us an update on how it’s going with CAKES and the Assholes. New music? Shows?
Monica: “Cakes and the Assholes is still in its infancy, but we are getting our shit together. We are the bad girl and the misfits. Our music is grimy, so full of passion, and our sets are hyped and energetic you can’t help to bob your head. When I got asked to play the CV Music Awards last year, I really wanted to put on a great show and prove to the industry that I was a contender in our valley, even though I keep getting skipped on the ballot as a singer. I put together a group specifically for the show and out of that came Cakes and the Assholes. After the show was over, I was like, “So…um…do you guys want to be in a band with me?” They all said yes. The band consists of Josh Fimbres on drums, Aaron Ramson on bass, Nick Hales on guitar, Rene Almodovar on percussion, and me (CAKES) on vocals. We hope to record an album this year with our hit song Pussy Poppin Blues as a single and if you haven’t heard us play, I suggest you do. We are definitely not boring. Not the most rehearsed and tightest band, but we put on a fuckin’ show.”
CVW: What do you see as the purpose of the “Ladies First” event at Coachella Valley Brewery?
Monica: “The ‘Ladies First’ event is a nod to some of the female musicians in the valley which is great because there hasn’t been a lot of shows like this and the line-up is different, and what better way to bring business to a bar than chicks and rock ‘n’ roll? I’ve also never played at CV Brewery and I love firsts, so it should be for an exciting event.”
CVW: Are women in the arts under-represented in this area? If yes, what can we do to help create more opportunities that are equitable for women? What are we doing right?
Monica: “I feel like the local community has made some strides RECENTLY in making sure women are asked to be in some of the local shows and making a conscious effort to include us especially right now when equality is at the forefront of national news. In 2017, there was a community event here at the mall and I was pretty upset as well as some local women artists and musicians when they posted the flyer for the event and there were no women premiered on that flyer. Did they really just throw a community event with no women in it? As the pussy hats marched in all of our Facebook feeds and all over the news, it was upsetting to see that the people in power of creating these events and opportunities, women no less, didn’t include any actual women artists. I decided to speak up about it, and with that caught a little bit of heat. That’s what I do though. I call out injustices that nobody has the balls to call out because they don’t want to be ostracized. I will stand up for what is right and fair. I even went as far as asking if I could play their event last year but got denied. That’s how big my woman balls are.”
I feel like there is more of a conscious effort in including women artists like I said before because it’s everywhere right now; news, Facebook, shows, women want equality. But like anything else in life, it’s all about who you know and who you are friends with. That’s how opportunities get handed out around here as most things in life. We are just going to have to create our own opportunities.”
CVW: You’ll be presenting special art on the same evening. What can you tell us about your pieces?
Monica: “My showstopper piece that I’ll be presenting for this show is called Xochiquetzal. Aztec mythology’s goddess of desire, pleasure and excess. She is the patron of artists and represents the sexual power of young women. A complete representation of who I am as an artist and as a woman. I painted this piece on wood with acrylic paint and it’s a beautiful piece and one of my favorites. I’ll be accenting it with some simple yet visually appealing paintings that I’m actually working on right now and crossing my fingers will be ready for the show. I’m the queen of procrastination. It’ll be the first time I paint something and have to consciously curb my artistic expression, but not in a bad way. In a more mature, mainstream way.”
CVW: You’ll be performing alongside Courtney Chambers, Jetta King and The Afterlashes. Give us your thoughts & feelings on each artist.
Monica: “Courtney Chambers is such a powerhouse! I actually like and respect her as a person and as a musician and think she’s absolutely amazing. As frugal as I am with my time, I have actually gone out of my way to make sure I show her support and love watching her live. I don’t know Jetta King nor have I heard her music but I’ve heard great things about her and am excited to see her play. The After Lashes are always fun to watch and its awesome to see an all-female band rock the fuck out.”
CVW: You are well-known for your outspokenness and boldness. I believe a majority of people are appreciative of that. It’s expressed in your art as well. Have you had to harness those qualities over time? Is there a family history of being so courageous?
Monica: “I’ve absolutely had to harness my boldness and whether that was from maturing and realizing some things aren’t really worth fighting for or from actually being out-casted and not being able to do a lot of events in this community, I learned to just do me. I think because I wasn’t from here I needed acceptance and when I wasn’t getting it, I would be upset and poke my chest out. I’ve learned to be confident and secure in who I am as an artist which in turn has led me to calm down a little. Just a little. I’m still very outspoken and like to tell the truth, which doesn’t make me a bad person, just makes me an honest one. Even though I bite my tongue a lot now, I still express my true self through art 100%.
My mother is a tough female. We come from a long line of tough women. I want to say I’m one of the softer personalities in my family. I don’t feel like I got enough love growing up but I definitely feel like the strong, independent, woman that I am today wouldn’t exist without that tough love or the pain and loneliness I endured. I’m proud I don’t let people walk all over me. I’m proud that I can ask for what I want and achieve my goals and not be scared. I’m proud I don’t depend on a man to dictate my life and how I should live it. It took a little while to grow into this person but I’m there and confident, and I hope to inspire women to stand up for who they are and what they want.”
CVW: Trick question: Is there something you won’t do in the name of art?
Monica: “Yeah, I don’t fuck for opportunities.”
CVW: Congratulations on your appointment as General Manager at West Coast Cannabis Club. How did that come about and do you see a career in the cannabis industry?
Monica: “Thank You! I was hosting a weed paint night and manager Tatiana Yturralde from West Coast Cannabis Club contacted me through Facebook asking if I needed a sponsor and I was like, ‘Hell yeah! I would love a sponsor!’ We came to have a business relationship that way. It was a random day and she said something about needing a social media marketing person and I thought to myself…I hate my fuckin’ job! It’s been 5 years and they’re never gonna promote me, why not? If I could slang drinks, I could slang weed and my social media is wicked. I quit my job, took the risk and pay cut to be a bud-tender, and now less than a year later I’m a General Manager running a store. I wake up every day so grateful that I found people who took a chance on me and who are helping me reach my potential, providing me the tools to utilize my strengths and grow into a fine businesswoman. So thank you to my boss Kenneth Churchill for bringing me on board and to Tatiana Yturralde for absolutely everything. The cannabis industry is the next gold rush and I am proud to be at the forefront of it with a solid company and team and I look forward to a blossoming career.”
CVW: You are also owner of Maniac Art & Photography and have your work available at maniacgirls.com. Where do you see your artwork and merchandise headed?
Monica: “I’ve let Maniac Girls go to the back burner for now while I settle into my role as General Manager. I’ve spent the last 15 years selling my art, vending, doing shows, working tirelessly to make something of myself and now that an actual career is on my horizon where I’m making money, the thought of making things when I want or painting what I want for PLEASURE sounds way more appealing. If you only knew the amount of money and time I have spent the last 15 years devoted to my art you would shake your head. The hustle is hard. With that being said, I have a lot of my money invested in all the vintage items I still have and merchandise so I will probably push to sell it online here once I settle into my new career.”
CVW: You’re originally from San Francisco. What are the similarities and contrasts between that art scene and the one developing in the Coachella Valley?
Monica: “I left San Francisco when I was young and didn’t get to experience the art life up there so I couldn’t really say. I did spend some time in the Midwest and Las Vegas and I have to say Vegas’ art scene is the shit. It’s competitive like everywhere else but with a lot more talent because there is more money devoted to cool artists for the hotels and clubs. I used to sell my goods at the ‘First Friday’ in the arts district and I did so well there. Every cool bar or hotel I went to, it was riddled with art from so many great artists and innovative ideas that I was pummeled with inspiration every time I went somewhere. The Coachella Valley doesn’t offer that much to local artists here for growth. You have to create your own opportunities. I mean, I guess I could paint on trash cans that they place all over Coachella Fest but that wouldn’t really make me feel that good about myself as an artist so I guess I’ll pass. It seems like the youth and muralists benefit more out here. The galleries are sad. I used to walk El Paseo before the Instagram days and go to the library to check out art and it was very limited. Now I have Instagram and can see art in the comfort of my own bed for hours and the cool thing about that is that I can see all types of art, not just the juried or select artists that some people think is worthy. Thank goodness for the internet! Maybe when Desert X comes back and they bring artists from all over the world we’ll have something of an art scene and hopefully when the art scene does flourish again, it won’t be talentless shitty people gaining money and notoriety off the backs of actual talented artists. I just threw shade.”