Like many who were kids during the band’s heyday, Miami-based artist and musician Beatriz Monteavaro was first attracted to playing rock and roll by KISS. But her instrument of choice, perhaps, came as a direct corollary of her household pet of choice. “When I was like 7 or 8, I had some friends that lived in Perrine who would pretend to be KISS. They would put a record on and mime,” she recalls. “I was over there once and they were going to play, so, liking cats and all, I picked Peter Criss.”
Now, more than a couple decades later, some things haven’t changed. For one thing, there are still the cats. Monteavaro, better known to friends as “Betty,” counts three of these four-legged friends in the home she shares with her partner, Gavin Perry, also a noted artist and musician.
More importantly to anyone outside of her household, there are still the drums. She’s a veteran of the ’80s and ’90s underground rock scene in Miami, most notably as the original drummer of the sludge-metal act Floor, the band fronted by a pre-Torche Steve Brooks. But for many years, her main focus was her visual art, a body of work comprising painting, sculpture, and installation that’s been shown coast to coast. Luckily for local music fans, in recent years she’s again publicly taken up her other early love, first in the short-lived band Beings, and now in Holly Hunt, a duo with Perry.
This Friday, Holly Hunt opens for the recently sort-of-reunited Floor — now on its third drummer — and heavy-music fans who haven’t caught the act yet are in for a pleasant surprise. Under Perry’s dirty, dirge-like guitars, Monteavaro plays fast and loose, but still on point, and she does so while appearing to be having more fun than anyone else in the room. Her arms flail and she grins so hard it looks painful.
That she’s one of the most visible female drummers in the area — an area which has few — only adds to the triumphant feel of every time she takes the stage. “Sometimes people will come up to me afterwards and say something nice, and that they’re trying to play drums, and I try to encourage them to practice,” she says. “I think it’s good to be out there for those reasons, to encourage others.”
If the number of fellow female drummers seems to be on the rise locally, Monteavaro shies away from taking any credit. She cites Nabedi Osorio of the State Of, K.C. of Snakehole, and Dorys Bello of Luma Junger as favorites, but politely disavows any kind of indirect lineage. “They’re just trying to do their thing,” she says.
It’s this same kind of modesty about her music that perhaps drove her to pursue visual art for so long. She’s hard-pressed to remember which of these interests came first. “It’s hard to say, because the first thing you hear is your mother’s heartbeat. But everyone also colors when they’re little,” Monteavaro says. “But my mom tells me I would draw all the time when I was a little kid.”
Soon, though, came the KISS episode, a penchant for banging rhythmically on household objects, and, eventually, a proper drum set furnished by supportive parents in their Hialeah home. Throughout her teens, she played in area punk bands with fanciful names like the Human Oddity, the Methadone Actors, and Funyuns.
Then, in the early ’90s, she joined Floor while studying painting at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia on the invitation of friend Anthony Vialon, the band’s bassist. Though she managed to record and play with the band for a year over school breaks, she eventually quit to focus more or less full time on art instead. “I thought it was something I could do until the day I die, and I wasn’t so sure about this rock and roll stuff,” Monteavaro says.
It was the ongoing success of the Pixies that started to change her mind about a would-be rocker’s potential shelf life. “Here was this band that was kind of frumpy, chubby, not terribly good-looking people who made great music, and people were into it, and they didn’t have to be these perfect 23-year-olds.”
Her first dip back into the toes of the local circuit came around 2009 with Beings, a trio with Mike Alen and Ivan Marchena. The group quickly scored an enthusiastic local following keen on its loud-and-fast party jams that flitted between punk, noise, and pop. For reasons that remain murky, Beings disbanded almost just as quickly as it rose, playing its last show in 2011.
While that musical loss briefly stung, it opened the field to Holly Hunt, a natural match-up more confusing by the fact that it didn’t happen long ago. Monteavaro and Perry have, after all, been together some 18 years, and previously only played music publicly together a couple times at friends’ parties. “Part of it was going to art school and doing art and wanting to focus on that for a long time,” she says to explain. “But when the opportunity came around to playing with Beings, I was really happy, like, ‘Wow, I can be in bands again!’ ”
Finding her new bandmate from within her home was perhaps part of a long-dormant dream. “Back in the day, I’d really only consider going out with a guy if he played guitar,” she says, “so this was some kind of forgotten grand scheme or something.”
Keeping Holly Hunt as a tight-knit duo has worked out for the best all around. There are the obvious reasons, like the ease of scheduling around only two members, or the ability to write new material and practice at pretty much any time. The comfort level also means more freedom to really push each other’s boundaries. “We already have a long history with each other personally, so we have some idea of how to handle each other,” she says. “Being in a relationship, I guess it also makes it possible to have more heated discussions safely.”
The result is refreshing — sludgy stuff that still hinges on pop structures, and, in a twist, absolutely no vocals to distract from Perry’s riffs and Monteavaro’s one-woman rhythm section. And so far, it doesn’t seem to be getting old for either of them. The band’s track “Cueva” recently appeared on the free all-Florida metal compilation Swamp Abyss Sorcery. This past Tuesday, the group also self-released a new cassette tape, available locally at Sweat Records. And in April, Monteavaro and Perry will hit the road for a two-week trek through the Midwest and Northeast with Rat Bastard and Scraping Teeth.
But Monteavaro’s art career is still going in full force — in fact, she says she’s creating a new series of works, details of which she won’t yet divulge. So how long will this musical turn stick this time? Just like with her previous band gigs, that means as long as she feels it needs to. “For whatever reason, we’re having a good time now,” she says, “and we’re able to push this forward.”
Holly Hunt. With Floor, Post Teens, ShroudEater, and Sure Charm. 10 p.m. Friday, February 24 at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. Admission is $10; age 18 and up. Call 305-757-1807, or visit churchillspub.com.