For example, there is a kick ass rock band out of Seattle called Visqueen fronted by Rachael Flotard. Their original bassist was former Fastbacks front woman and Northwest music legend Kim Warnick. She later stepped away from playing in Visqueen, but it was Warnick who introduced me to Visqueen and Flotard. It was Flotard who introduced me to their new bassist Cristina Bautista, who filled Warnick’s bass playing shoes.
Now, two years after Visqueen’s killer third album Message to Garcia, Bautista has branched out to release her solo debut EP Gold Parts, coincidently released on Flotard’s Local 638 label.
Gold Parts has Bautista opening up about such heady topics as finding yourself in a sea of doubt, to the struggles of becoming an adult, to learning patience. Proudly confessional, Bautista’s voice is sweet and openly hopeful while handling her bass with thunderous precision. Additionally the distorted buzz-friendly guitars and hard-hitting drums bring the songs to a point where they can’t be held back. Mix in some strings, synths and atmospheric soundscapes and you have a six-song EP which will take hold and stick with you long after the songs are done.
Recently the diminutive Cristina Bautista talked with Innocent Words about the fantastic Gold Parts debut, overcoming the darkness and making it personal.
Innocent Words: When did you first start entertaining the idea of a solo album?
Cristina Bautista: I actually made my first solo EP five years ago, but back then I didn’t really know what to do with it once I had it. Then life picked up and it ultimately got buried in the years. When things began to quiet down after Visqueen’s touring season last year, I was restless and propelled to stay busy… so I started revisiting my own songs and making plans for Gold Parts.
IW: Did you have any intention of using these song ideas for Visqueen or were they all written solely for Gold Parts?
Bautista: These were all my own from the get-go. The songs on this EP are ones I wrote before I joined the band, but I honestly don’t think a Visqueen song would be a Visqueen song if anyone other than Rachel wrote it.
IW: Who did you have playing on the EP?
Bautista: I have a whole community on this record! I would go into Phil Peterson’s studio, record skeletons of the songs, and then we would ask anyone who swung by to help decorate.
Phil’s a supremely gifted cellist and bassist, so he’s all over it. He was also working with Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground a lot at the time, so those guys make a few appearances. Our friend Eric Howk was a big part of me even recording the songs to begin with [“The Cyrkle (Champion”) is actually my tribute to him], so he gets credit for most of the guitar you hear on the record.
Phil’s family (also monumentally talented) helped out with strings, horns, backing vocals. Friends would just come in and add on, to the point that we started losing track of exactly who played exactly what on which songs, it was just communal alchemy. And then just prior to mixing, Ben Collins in Detroit added some finishing touches and recorded some additional percussion.
Bautista: Gold Parts refers to the invaluable good to be found in any and everything. I feel like every person and experience is a gift — maybe sometimes in really awful wrapping paper. This record came from absorbing a lot of sadness, but in digging that out I’ve grown so grateful for the strength and perspective and for feeling devastated enough then that I know how to be this ecstatic now.
IW: You are just 24, but these songs have a heavy message of personal growth, the innocence and urgency of youth. It’s all very personal I assume, was it hard to open yourself up like that?
Bautista: I’ve always dealt with growing up through writing music. It’s more of a coping mechanism or compulsion than an effort. If I commit something to song, it’s acknowledging that there’s something universal in everything personal. It’s hugely comforting and empowering.
IW: The lyrics — if personal — come off like you went through a really rough patch in your life, what went on?
Bautista: I was lost when I wrote these songs. I went through a really unhealthy relationship and its excruciating collapse. I went to school in Los Angeles just to realize I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do. I just wasn’t doing a very good job of being appreciative of my own life and the good parts of it. In hindsight I think I was groping around stumbling from dark corner to dark corner with my eyes half shut for a while.
IW: The cover of the album is based on Edward Field Sanford Jr.’s “Divinity of Light.” Where did this inspiration come from and how does it relate to Gold Parts?
Bautista: “Divinity of Light” is a statue I fell in love with in Birmingham, AL. I see her as a warrior simultaneously peaceful, triumphant and transcendentally unfuckwithable. When I started thinking about Gold Parts and digging out turmoil, I imagined it being like pulling electricity from the ground after years of swallowing it as a lightning rod, and it looked just like this statue. I wanted to stand with that same look of placid victory and fearlessness with my hands full of lightning.
IW: Is it harder doing a solo album since you have more responsibilities?
Bautista: More than the responsibilities, I think what makes it seem harder is feeling like I’m starting all over again from square one. But that’s also a big part of why I’ve chosen to be more hands-on with this release than anyone needs to be. I haven’t worked with any manufacturers. This EP and anything people buy in support of it is something I literally spent nights and days assembling with my own two hands. It’s a little intimidating to start over, but if I’m lucky enough that I get to make a new first impression, I want it to be personal.
IW: What is in store for you, will there be another solo release? Are you still playing in Visqueen, what’s going on there?
Bautista: I’m always writing a bunch and am hoping to have my current live band ready to record a full length in January. I’d love to be able to have something new out in the first half of 2012. I want to tour as much as possible with this project. I am also still playing in Visqueen. Maybe by the time this gets out we’ll have made some announcements, but for now all I’m allowed to say is that we do have some surprises coming up in the next couple of months.