Musician Laura Patiño Doesn’t Care If You Call Her A Bitch
This is the first in our Est. Summer Arts Series, featuring female creators hailing from Austin, Texas, who are using their work to explore gender, race, reproductive rights, and sexuality — in other words, to fight the good fight. Stay tuned for more multimedia profiles every Friday.
Laura Patiño is angry. She’s ultraviolet — she’s dangerous. She radiates incandescent dance-pop-electronica as the front woman of Holiday Mountain and wants people in their big trucks to get. off. her. ass.
“I have a Prius and it’s red. It says, ‘Caution Driver Singing.’ If you see that? You change lanes motherfucker.”
She is equal parts kitsch and social commentary, her music — produced with drummer Zander Kagle — deftly toggling between undeniable rump-shaking rhythms and scathing swipes at what it’s like to be a woman in the world, musically and otherwise.
“If you want to be really honest with your political messages and art — you are cast into a certain realm,” Patiño explains. “I really think you can make social change happen — absolutely — but I also think that if you want to become one of the biggest entertainers in the world you’re not going to be able to talk about a lot of things. At least as a woman, you have to end up being a porn Barbie . . . maybe you’re allowed to be bitchy (thank you Nikki Minaj), but you have to fit into this box of things that don’t upset the flow too much.”
Patiño says she was raised in a “pretty conservative” Mexican and Catholic household outside of Denver, Colorado, where shame and confusion about her body was part and parcel of growing up. To see her gyrating in technicolor leotards and warbling about her body — “This is my choice, my body, my rules” — it’s hard to imagine her struggling within her own skin and sexuality, but she insists it’s something she still wrestles with on a daily basis.
“Inherently there was a lot of confusion about my body — that attitude of, ‘you’re asking for it if you’re wearing that . . .’ And that’s the worst fucking attitude. That other people’s lack of self control or other people’s garbage becomes like, ‘you’re just the receptacle.’ Women are beautiful, we have beautiful bodies, and that’s our fault?! That’s our punishment or something?
There are a lot of messages all around us that we aren’t okay as we are. Music, performance, yoga, all of these have all been journeys into me accepting my body and loving it and being able to say, ‘I feel beautiful and safe in my own skin.’ It’s a constant struggle between freeing your inhibitions and feeling like you’re staying safe in society. For me, it’s been a journey of learning to love my own body — that definitely hasn’t always been the case.”
Patiño started playing classical piano at age 5 before wending her way into more experimental music, laying the foundation for the fusion of genres she creates today, merging together reggae, ska, pop, and glam rock; her level of pageantry has been likened to David Bowie’s.
“My classical teacher passed me to a jazz piano teacher when I was about 12 because I would always add in my own inflections or notes to the pieces. She was like, ‘You aren’t ever going to be a classical pianist, get out of here!’”
Patiño and Kagle have been collaborating since they met in 2011 “in a basement” while they were studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, forging a partnership which Patiño says is unbelievably unique.
“It’s just us. It’s a very rare beautiful thing to be able to find somebody that you actually are on a dream-like state-page with, where you’re subconsciously in the same creative space. That’s a diamond rarity thing. It just comes down to two people being aligned in an almost intangible way.”
While Holiday Mountain is on the proverbial map — they just played SXSW, are about to drop an album (entitled Shia LaBeouf, of course), and collaborated with the genre-melting band Mexican Institute of Sound on an epic track and music video (featured below!) — Patiño says the road to stardom is paved with a few broken dreams and the hushed mutterings of “bitch.”
“We’re fed an image of a fairytale where the guy comes up to you and says, ‘I’d like to offer you a record deal!’ and then you’re playing a sold out show in LA! . . . but that’s not real life,” Patiño laughs.
“It’s a lot harder than that. It kind of irks me when [people say] they don’t think there’s any difference to being a woman in the music industry. You come into a room with everyone else and you’re the only woman here and you’re the last person to get their hand shaken and asked their name because people are kind of assuming you’re like the girl prop who’s there to look cute and play the part. ‘Men are doing the work’ — there’s still that underlying assumption — so there’s a lot of having to prove myself and being assertive. I don’t give a shit if I get called a bitch. It’s a very male-dominated industry.”
Patiño also says that nothing else makes her happier than creating, than collaborating with other people; it’s both nerve-wracking and cathartic. She says that in her day to day life she feels her gender “a lot,” but when she steps onto the stage, “I notice that I let it go. I try not to be on a soapbox and tell people how to feel, but I earnestly have beliefs that I don’t know how else to express. My writing and my being on stage is the only time I can exorcise those demons.”