The art and music world always have a unique and interesting way of intertwining, with musician/artists creating covers for each others’ bands. Ben Montero is one of these; his seamless fusion of art and music reflected in his sketchbook, which features some amazing drawings and album covers he has created for bands.  Currently in LA, Montero is the brain child of the pop rock band Early Woman and pop balladeers Montero. He took some time out to speak with us about his artistic influences, the Melbourne music scene and his two bands.

Does your art life and music life mix at any time?
Yeah for sure in the sense of the word ‘life’. You can separate them into working time tables but it’s all the same energy.

How was it creating the album cover for pond?
It was fun. I’m very honored to work with those guys. Their band is brilliant and they are all top notch people and artists.

It came about because I was housemate’s with Jay in Brunswick recently and we’d just talk ideas and get enthusiastic about what could visually be something different that they hadn’t done before. I drew a few rough versions and they’d direct me here and there. We definitely pulled out the Big Brother and the Holding Company Robert Crumb artwork as a conscious decision to reference. I kept working on it and I wanted to make something that was touching, beautiful and evocative in it’s own right and reflect the music on the album, but with a direct tip of the hat to an iconic image.

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Your sketchbook page is amazing. What are your main inspirations for your artworks?
Thank you! Music I love, friends, daydreams, insecurities. I’m trying to amuse and impress the kid in my imaginary classmates and me. I feel inspired to draw as soon as I get up until I pass out at night. I’m also inspired by colors, mistakes, mess and The Beach Boys, John Maus and burritos.

Do you have any upcoming music covers that you are creating for artists?
I haven’t had any time to take on anything recently because I’m working on some other projects but I’m open to it if I connect with the music in some way.

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What’s your favourite medium to use when drawing? Do you prefer fine-liner on watercolor?
I use both. I’ve been a bit obsessive with that combo for the past 2 years because the actual action of applying watercolor with a brush is very soothing and instantly expressive. I use watercolor paints like they’re textas alot too.  If you haven’t had much money to spend on materials your choices are pretty limited, which is not a bad thing, as It forces you to approach ideas in other ways. I’m like that with music too. I don’t like to own any instruments because I think they can hold you back from writing songs.

You utilise a lot of reds within your works and saturated blues, is there any particular meaning for this?
I didn’t notice. I like red and blue? Is red a sexual thing? You’ll have to ask an art student.

Who are your main inspirations for your artwork?
I like Al Jaffee, Don Martin and Sergio Aragones from Mad magazine when I was kid. Then it was the Furry Freak Brothers, Robert Crumb and Zap comix. Peter Max, Tadanori Yokoo. Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak. I think Fred Negro is such a great comic artist but his Inpress strip is a bit slack. The Australian artist Bruce Petty really blew my mind when I was a little kid. My parents had a book of his collected newspaper strips and I would stare at the pages for hours and hours. Really intense scribble effect.

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What style of music would you say Early Woman is?
A fusion of visceral expression and melodious craft. The unlikely combination of pop AND rock.

How did Early Woman begin?
I put an ad up looking for someone to form a Sonny and Cher cover band and it rolled on from there. Actually the real Sonny showed up so for a little while we were Sonny and Sonny. I was pre moustache Sonny and he was pre skiing Sonny.

Does Early Woman have any upcoming shows around Melbourne?
No but we have an album being mixed now. I’m sure we’ll make some plans at some stage next year when we can handle listening to it.

Where’s your favourite gig spot in Melbourne?
Howler has a great stage.

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How is Montero different from Early Woman?
It’s like real life. Montero is just me being indulgently me and E.W is like, and is, being in a relationship where you have to think as two people all the time. Both sides have green grass. But with Montero there’s only the masculine expression of femininity powering the cylinders without that actual male-female (in the smallest personal sense of those words) generator engaging in push and pull. It’s all pull! It’s a unique men’s cologne with estrogen notes.

Does your music influence your artwork? (or vice versa?)
Well I can’t be influenced by myself because I’m not two separate things. It’s all in the same pot though. I don’t listen to my own music when I’m drawing and I find it difficult to do artwork for my own music.

What has Montero got planned for the rest of this year and into 2015?
Well I’d like to record another album but I haven’t really been thinking about it too much. I may try and do some recording here in LA or come back and do something.

I’m really not sure what’s going to happen.

View more of Ben Montero’s work at his sketchbook page

Poster for Warners Music Australia