Cabrona Is Here for All The Cabronas

By Nohemi Rosales

Photo by Annie Zidek

Photo by Annie Zidek

If you wanna know what’s badass, Latinx, queer, feminist, bilingual, and punk in the Chicago music scene, look no further than Cabrona Band.

Having roots in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala, Cabrona’s members are here to make their presence known in a male-dominated, white-washed music industry.

Their music style has been described as punkish; it’s similar to Spanish rock but with punk elements.  They also aren’t afraid to stray and throw some folk, jazz, classical, and latin styles in there.

It all started when Jax ‘Loca Malcriada’ Ovalle and Becca ‘Basura’ Perez met in high school when they were teens.

“We had actually started a band with one of our friends, who was a dude, and we were like ‘he is so bossy, we just need to start an all-girl band.’ That was our dream for years,” Becca explained.

When Jax went to college at Northwestern, she met Fatima ‘Fatale’ Gomez while playing Mariachi there.

“Long story short, the men there were just like sexist assholes,” Fatima says. “We both ended up leaving at different times. Jax had the idea to finally start the band. At first we talked about me joining the band, but we weren’t really sure how a violin was going to fit in. We finally started rehearsing in October of 2014.”

Drummer, Javier ‘La Virgen’ Lom, didn’t join the band until August of 2015. He and Jax had met in high school, where they played in the marching band together. But it wasn’t until they matched on Tinder that they started bonding over music. Originally Javier got involved with Cabrona as their tech guy, troubleshooting any and all technical issues, but when their original drummer moved out of the country, they brought in Javier.

During their show at Bottom Lounge in early June, the band played for what was described as a “small, but mighty” audience with a lot of energy.

They had played previously all over the city, including at Fed Up Fest in 2015. Jax reflected on the Bottom Lounge show, saying, “Fed Up Fest was like playing to a crowd of fresh ears and at that point our band was pretty much only playing to fresh ears. But at this point, it was mainly only fans in front of us. So we when we were like ‘hey, we’re Cabrona’ we got like a huge cheer, instead of being like ‘hey, we’re Cabrona’ and hearing crickets.”

Originally called Chemical X, an ode to the beloved Powerpuff Girls, they eventually changed their name to Cabrona to more closely represent their roots.

“There was a lot of weird metal bands called Chemical X. One day my mom was tucking me in and I said something rude to her so she said ‘aye Cabrona’ and I was like ‘WOAH. That’s it, that’s the name’,” Jax explains.

The word cabrona, for anyone who speaks Spanish, has a lot of meaning. In English, it means bitch, but the band’s Facebook page offers a definition with deeper significance.

“Bitch: Describes assertive, intelligent, independent, self-confident woman who knows what she wants and struggling to get it without excuses or concessions. Women who challenge and not pleased with obvious answers but always finds the correct answer. Forming relationships and close ties not by necessity but by choice and, consequently, seeks to achieve a better life for herself and those around her.”

For all members, being a Cabrona is something unique, but it also binds them together.

For Fatima, being a Cabrona means having her own persona that she can embody on stage. “I am a classical violinist and a Mariachi violinist,” she says. “Both of those genres and traditions are very rigid in terms of their gender roles, so to me, this is a space where I don’t have to fit into a box.”

Javier says that as someone who identifies as male, the meaning is a little different. “It’s about completely subverting my identity when I’m with the band. When I’m onstage, I just think of myself as being me — not a straight cis-male. Calling myself a Cabrona has changed how I think of myself a lot.”

Similarly to Fatima’s reality, Jax also experienced sexism from the Mariachi group they were in, as well as other male-dominated music spaces.  For her, being a Cabrona means to be bossy and to take control “It’s kind of like when the Riot Grrrls were writing the word ‘slut’ on their bodies. If you’re going to call me that I’m going to reclaim that word,” she says.

Their place in Chicago’s music scene has always garnered positive feedback. Being Latinx or queer are identities that are difficult to carry in society, especially when you’re both. There was one instance during one of their shows at the Mutiny, a Chicago dive club, in which they felt discriminated. They had just played “Jigsaw,” a song dedicated to the undocumented Latinxs in this country, when a white man in the audience started making disrespectful jokes.

“But that’s why we do what we do. Though at the same time, it was really infuriating,” Jax says.

“Jigsaw” isn’t the only song that Cabrona uses to talk about real world issues happening in marginalized communities. Javier’s favorite song is “Celia,” which is a cover of Celia Cruz’s “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” just a little bit more punk in style.

For Becca and Jax, the song “Queen” is the one they’ve enjoyed working on the most. Written by Jax after quitting Mariachi, it was written as a ‘fuck you’ to machistas.  It starts off with Jax singing in a very sweet, girly voice and then it grows in intensity. The song ends with a saying Jax’s mom used to tell her if someone was bullying her: “el valiente llega hasta donde el cobarde deja,” meaning, the valiant one will only get as far as the coward allows.

Though they’ve all found healing through making music, their songs are not just for them. Having been told that their music has been therapeutic for their listeners, Cabrona wants to ensure that the feeling remains. As first generation Latinxs, they want to represent others who are underrepresented.

“I don’t get to see many Latinx people on stage with guitars singing about machismo and that’s incredibly important,” Jax says. Javier states that he wants their songs to, “put fuckbois on blast.” Can I get a “hell yeah,”?

Their music, more than anything, is about reaching out to marginalized people and making them feel empowered. It’s about allowing people similar to them to vibe with them and feel good about themselves in a world that is constantly trying to make us feel bad for being queer, or brown, or different in any way. It’s about loving ourselves and saying ‘fuck off’ to those who don’t agree.

 

Follow Cabrona on social media and get in touch with your inner Cabrona:

Facebook: facebook.com/cabronaband

Twitter: @cabronaband

Instagram: @cabronaband

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/cabronaband

Bandcamp: cabrona.bandcamp.com

See the whole issue here.

Sarah Bogosh: An Interview

By Annie Zidek

Sarah Bogosh is a Chicago-based illustration artist, who often forgets she’s 26. Her repetitive drawings deal with the burden and beauty of carrying pain, through animal motifs. More of her work can be found on Instagram under the name @badponies.

Photo by  Jinno Redovan

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Have you grown with your work over the years or has your work grown with you?

I think if you look at the work, and if you know me personally, you can definitely tell that the work has grown with me. It’s always a reflection of the things I’m feeling at that specific moment in time or a reflection of things I’m going through. [That] influences changes in imagery and tone.

How have you seen your work evolve over the years?

I’ve worked with a lot of different mediums over the years. I studied printmaking in college at the Kansas City Art Institute and had access to inks, presses, and all kinds of expensive equipment. The year I went to college was the first year that they discontinued the illustration department, so when it came time to pick a major I ended up in the printmaking department instead. It worked out because printmaking is very heavily drawing and pattern based and besides learning the process, we were basically allowed to do whatever we wanted. Sculpture project? Sure. Sewing? Go for it. Which was great because I mostly just wanted to draw and

I was also a really bad printmaker. I didn’t have the patience or precision. I would just do stuff and be like, “I know this is the wrong way to do it but let’s just see what happens.”

I was definitely influenced a lot by the repetition of the process of making multiples. I was allowed a ridiculous amount of studio space and by my senior year we were all making these enormous drawings. After I graduated the only space I had was the living room of my apartment, so I started embroidering because it was portable and I could watch hours of TV while I worked on projects. Even once I moved back to Chicago I kept doing needlework because I was living in the suburbs and working two jobs in the city and commuting. It was easy to work on public transportation. Eventually I got impatient with that and went back to drawing and I am a much happier and less irritable person now. I usually work in pen and ink, markers, sometimes paint and pencil. Drawing is a lot more of an instant gratification process. [It’s also] easier for me to manipulate. I am both impatient and a control freak so I think it suits me best and makes me happiest.

What got you into creating art?

It was the only thing I was actually good at. I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember. I used to have to go to work with my mom and I would sit and color or draw for hours. I was lucky enough to have other artists in my extended family who encouraged me to keep doing it and the support of some really great teachers along the way.

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Would you consider any of your work confessional?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that of my current work, but when I was doing a lot of embroidery I would give the pieces stupid long titles that had very little to do with the piece but would blurt out my personal problems, mental health issues, [and] guilty feelings about things that were happening in my life at the time. I had titles like, “All the Previous Homes (And All My Laughing Damage Deposits)” or “Signs Point to Yes (But This Headache is Well Deserved)”. Always along those lines. I think if any of that still exists in my current work, it’s much more buried and veiled.

I'm big on pattern in my work, partly because I usually dress myself in patterns and partly because the repetition is calming to me. My life and my art are always intertwined. I'm in a band and I write songs that I make drawings of or I make drawings and give them titles that I end up writing songs about and then I tattoo them on my body. I’ve always, always used animals in my work. I’m bad at drawing people and I’m just a scowl-y person. I like animals better than I like people. I think using animals makes some of my themes a lot subtler and beautiful for someone to look at or stomach, rather than using people—especially with the ideas of self-harm that have been pretty present lately. A lot of it deals with pain, carrying it with us and piling it on—just really dealing with over the top mental health issues while still trying to just fucking stand up and keep going. And there’s beauty in that too. I don’t want to be super blatant with it because it’s so personal and I still struggle to be open about those things in general.

What inspires you to create?

I’m really inspired by everything I see around me on a daily basis. I’m constantly looking for imagery on my way to work, on the bus, reading— I listen to people speak and catalog things I like to use later. My brain doesn’t turn off very often. Whatever comes out on paper is all of that filtered through my personal feelings and experiences. I’m trying to collage it all together to make sense of where I’m at. It’s sort of a weird way for me to organize myself into the world.

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Photo by Jinno Redovan