In the dark bars and venues of Atlanta, a battle cry is heard in the form of a sweet voice that trails off into a ferocious snarl, accompanied by an explosive yet perfectly melodious arrangement of instruments. They tell their stories with reckless abandon: their sorrows, anger, and exaltation. They are Bitter, a four-part “emotional queer rock” band that is recent on the scene but has left a strong taste in the mouths of those who have seen them play. Auntie Bellum met up with bassist Camila Izaguirre and singer/guitarist Maritza Núñez to talk about their upcoming release, why they love Atlanta, and why we are all over “white dudes turning music into a sport.”
Where are you guys from?
M: I was born in Texas, but my parents are Mexican, so I want to say I’m Mexican. Every time someone asks me where I’m from, I say I’m Mexican.
C: Same. I was born in Georgia, but my parents are from Venezuela. So anytime someone asks, I say I’m from Venezuela.
What are you working on right now?
M: We are going to release an EP. It’s really exciting because it has happened in a really short time frame, I believe. We’ve been a band for like six months.
C: Yeah, it’s definitely been really fast.
M: So we got really lucky, and we got someone that recorded us for free, our friend/manager Randy. And he’s doing all of our stuff.
C: Randy was at a show we played and he just talked to us about helping us out and being involved. He’s been such a big help. When we went to record, I hadn’t met Randy besides from when we talked at the show. I thought ‘He probably knows so much about music and it’s going to be intimidating and weird,’ but I got there and it was awesome. He was so friendly and I felt so comfortable around him.
M: And he knows so much! He has so much experience. We really did get so lucky. So yes, this is a DIY scene, but by no means is the EP in a DIY environment. He knows what he’s doing, and I think it’s a huge honor that he wanted to work with us. Our single is going to be released in less than a month, and our EP will be released in early 2017.
C: We’re really excited for people to hear it.
Where can people find it?
C: We’re going to have physical copies, and it’s also going to be online.
M: We have a website. There’s going to be a preorder link. There’s going to be tapes and vinyls and all kinds of crazy stuff.
What are your plans for 2017?
M: We made it to the EARL! We’re going to play there, which is apparently a big deal. It takes bands awhile to get there. We were asked by a band to play with them, so that’s a huge thing that is happening in January. Hopefully in February we’ll release the EP, and then after the release, I feel like it’s going to open up a lot of doors because we have something out there. Now we can send links to people that we want to get shows with, and I think a tour is definitely on the table.
What is your favorite thing about being part of the music scene in Atlanta?
C: My favorite thing is that it’s given me a way to meet people who are like me and a space to express myself.
M: Yeah, definitely. I like how open people are to different things-to listening to anything. It gives you an opportunity to meet different people and listen to different kinds of music, which is cool. And I guess the scene is pretty supportive, if you sound good [laughs].
C: Yeah, I think the Atlanta music scene is very accessible for anyone who just wants to participate. Anyone can become involved; you just tell someone you want something and people will help you.
M: I used to think it was really hard to get a show. I used to think it was impossible. But once you actually get out there and just ask, it’s really easy and that’s the really cool part. And I think people should know that.
C: Yes, it’s very DIY. The people who run venues are always at shows-they’re not some figureheads that you never see. They’re around and accessible and very nice.
What are the biggest struggles you feel you’ve experienced being a Latina woman in the South?
M: I guess in general, there’s very few Latinos and Mexicans in Georgia. I grew up in Houston, Texas, so there’s Mexicans everywhere. Here, there’s few Latinos, and there’s even fewer Mexicans because usually you see Colombians and other Latinos, but you don’t really see Mexicans, so that’s been interesting. And white people are so bold in the South, you know? They’re very open about their racism, which is very different because again, I’m from Texas. There’s racism there too-it’s Texas-but it’s also Houston. There’s a lot of Mexicans and Latinos, and you’re around your people. And then the music scene, it is different being a brown girl because a lot of times, people will be like “I like the way your hair looked when you were playing” instead of saying “I like your song.” I mean, I definitely do get compliments on the music, but sometimes that makes me afraid that people-white people especially-are just tokenizing you and feeling like you’re exotic…It’s definitely flattering, but it’s also scary to think in a way that your art may not be taken as seriously as if you were just a white girl.
C: And we had some really important conversations about that when we were talking about how we wanted to present ourselves, with our whole band, on our website because we wanted to be very upfront about what we stand for, and sometimes people are scared of that. So for us, it’s kind of like, maybe you have to be a little bit implicit with that stuff, because it’s still a badass way to do it. People are still supporting you without really understanding this thing that would make them uncomfortable. But what I was going to say about the question is that when I think about being a Latina in the South, I think about being an immigrant in the South. Being a daughter of immigrants in the South- that’s what I feel has really affected me. Experiencing both cultures, especially when one of the cultures isn’t accepting of who you are in many ways, is a very strong feeling. I live with it every day.
M: Yeah, Camila and I always talk about this and how sometimes when we go to shows, they’re very white. And sometimes you just don’t feel comfortable. Yeah, you’re in a position where people admire your art and people go up to you and compliment you, but it’s never really beyond that. You just feel like you’re there to do something and then you should go.
C: And even when there is representation and I feel that the person I am is included and represented onstage, I still feel uncomfortable sometimes. Just because of the people who are there and the space; it’s very hard for it to feel 100% comfortable for me.
M: And I mean you’re never going to get that [feeling of being 100% comfortable], but it’s definitely a strong feeling being in the South.
What makes you feel strong?
C: Thinking about my parents and their struggles and accomplishments as immigrants.
M: I guess it’s supportive friends and myself, you know. I have control over how I react to things, so I try to be brave and believe in myself.
Do you have any advice for other girls/people in general who are trying to start a band or put themselves out there the way you are?
M: I’d say, if you’re a brown girl that wants to do it, do it. That in itself will be a sign of resistance against this whole culture that we grow up with and not knowing where we belong and all of that stuff. There’s not many times where brown girls are celebrated, so to celebrate yourself in a music setting is pretty powerful and it’s fulfilling. Just do it. Find people who will support you and not restrict you.
C: Go for it and make a space for yourself because when you do that, you make a space for other people like you. You matter and your music matters. Existing outside of yourself and being open about who you are, even though it’s a hard thing to do sometimes, is worth it. When you’re brave, you make other people feel brave, and that’s important.
*This is the second in a series featuring Latinas and Latinx in the South by Isabella Gomez.
Isabella Gomez is a second-year Journalism student at Georgia State University. She is also pursuing a double minor in Film & Video and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. A native of Venezuela, she will probably speak faster than you can understand in either English or Spanish, but will happily oblige if you ask her to slow down. Apart from going to school, Isabella enjoys fighting the stigmas surrounding menstruation, binge-watching movies and TV shows, awkwardly dancing at concerts, and hula-hooping. Follow her on twitter @isabellephant