photo by FUNAKI
Classic rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have an established tradition of strong female singers with voices that could scrape the frost off your car windshield, but you’d never know that from hearing Don Juan y Los Blancos. Their bat-out-of-hell garage rock evokes both knife-fights and backseat make-out sessions where the blood gets licked from the wounds. It’s Wanda Jackson, but really, it’s Suzi Quatro. Their new 45 is out now on Wild. We speak to co-lead singers Becky Blanca and Don Juan Villicana about nerds, fights, geese, pinball and hate. This interview by Lainna Fader.
Why does Don Juan y los Blancos practice in an old West saloon?
Becky Blanca (vocals): Larry’s parents are badasses. They were a biker couple from Boston and yeah, I only say that to cite proof that his parents are badasses. His dad worked in construction for years so he knew how to build things. So they built a saloon. They started out with the barn—the space we practice in, a small, two-story barn—and then they added on the saloon, and then a jail, and then a barbershop. Now they’re just about done building Larry’s living quarters. Right now he lives in a trailer right next to the saloon.
With his gerbils?
BB: Oh yeah—guinea pigs! Those are his girlfriend’s guinea pigs. Those are rodents that I’m unfamiliar with, but they’re very cute. I had a guinea pig as a child and I used to hang out with it and watch TV and it would lay on my chest and bite my chest! I’d scream and cry and drop it on the ground. So yeah, fuck guinea pigs! I think the only thing I hate more than a guinea pig is a goose.
What do you have against geese?
BB: Dude, they’re dicks. I used to volunteer on this little ranch and this ranch housed and rehabilitated these wild animals. So I got to do all this bullshit. I fed a pony, had to take care of a wallaby. But there was these two geese on the farm and I fed them and for whatever reason, they would chase me around the barn, but I’d always be with somebody who could shoo them away. But I was out one day with a pony and I felt this pinching on the back of my ankles and this motherfucking goose is biting my ankles! I started freaking out and screaming and banging on the door, trying to get back into the building and I couldn’t get in. She was flapping her wings with her head bowed all low and I started running. I jumped like three of those wooden barn fences and it was on my heels the whole time! It was fucking scary! They’re so mean! I talked to other people about it and the general consensus is that they’re kind of aggressive and kind of jerks but the people who own them can control them. The guy who owned that goose picked it up, turned it upside down, and held it by its neck and was like, ‘No! Shut up, you goose!’ They can smell fear. There’s a reason. If I hate stuff, there’s a reason!
Juan said he’s the worst frontman ever cuz he just stands there on stage and lets you do all the moving and the shaking. Does he ever dance with you?
BB: Not really! I mean, sometimes he’ll humor me and sometimes he won’t, but he never really lets loose on stage. He’s really shy! He never wanted to be a frontman.
What can you—or we—do to make him less uncomfortable?
BB: I think when you put in as much work as he does off stage, you earn the right to do whatever you want. He’s not uncomfortable—in fact he’s very comfortable standing there drinking and singing. Best thing the audience can do is get drunk and hang out! That’s pretty easy, right? Honestly, that’s what I’m there for. I’m a really weak songwriter. I do lyrics fine, but I could never come up with songs like his. It’s a fair trade cuz I can definitely dance around and be ridiculous—kinda enough for the both of us, y’know?
Who do you consider a mentor, in or outside the world of Wild?
Juan Villicana (vocals): I don’t think I’ve had a mentor. We used to be the weird band in Wild cuz they’re strictly—well, predominately—a rockabilly label. But now everybody’s kinda doing other things together. More 60s things. I know Luis [Arriaga, from Luis & the Wildfires] changed a lot. I don’t feel that weird anymore. We’re trying other sounds now.
BB: The thing is, I met Juan and our ex-guitarist Aaron when I was 12 years old cuz they were in a punk rock band called C.O.F. who I was absolutely obsessed with. They were my weekends, they were my time after school, I fliered for them, I kissed their asses on a daily basis. I was their merch girl. … They were always my heroes. Me and Juan didn’t talk for a couple of years.
BB: Growing apart. I stole money from him. Whatever. But when we started hanging out again, I never would have anticipated that it would become what it did. I never could have predicted that as a kid. Juan and Aaron and their friends were my idols—my heroes—and it’s bizarre that I’m dating Juan now because it never would’ve happened when I was a kid. Well, and because he was five years older than me, and I met him when I was 12. I love Juan.
What relationship in punk rock history best captures how you relate to each other?
BB: Aw, man! I’m gonna go with my gut instinct. It’s totally gonna be John Doe and Exene, I feel like Exene is a little more melodramatic than I am and I’m way more abrasive than she is though.
Are you gonna get married like Exene and John Doe?
BB: Aw, I wish! Juan’s actually totally not interested in marrying anyone. I’m a hopeless romantic. I would totally get married. He’s one of those ‘It’s just a piece of paper, what’s the point?’ types. But I think he’s an old softie and when it comes to dying alone, I think he’ll propose!
JV: I think it’s a stupid thing to do. I don’t know. I just don’t see any reason for it. People always say for financial reasons but I don’t know about that. I don’t really believe in love at all—I think people just like each other a lot. I think people can get married if they want to but me personally, I just don’t see a reason to. If you love someone, you don’t need any paperwork to prove it. Also, the whole ceremony is retarded. I would never wanna do that. I’m Catholic so all the family stuff, two hours in church—it’s all really boring.
What’s the longest you’ve ever shouted at each other—either on stage, or off?
BB: Oh my god! Ha ha! I don’t know. I’ve never had a timer handy and I’ve always been belligerently drunk when we’ve gotten into shouting matches. I really—Juan is very even-tempered. I really have to provoke the shit out of him to get him to yell back at me. I’m so obnoxious and have done it on several occasions. We’ve gotten into a fight with probably an hour of just fighting and then there’s like the two or three hours after the fight where you talk about what the fight is about, forgive each other. And I’m a crier—I can admit it, I’m a big crier. It comes with the territory! We’ve been dating for what, four years now, and we’ve fought about everything and we’ll probably continue to fight about everything. Everything I do is completely emotionally driven and everything that he does is completely logical.
Who’s the best pinball player in Don Juan?
BB: Larry! I think if Juan practiced enough, he could get as good as Larry, but Larry has the machines at his house and he’s totally better than everybody.
JV: I would say me for sure, no doubt about it whatsoever. Not Larry—she’s a liar. I can tell you that there’s one vintage pinball game they have there and I rolled it over. No one else has done that! I’m calling bullshit on Becky.
At the Whistlebait two-year anniversary show you led a ‘Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!’ chant and talked about Halo 2 coming out. Is your band as nerdy as you are?
BB: Oh, man! I do vaguely remember leading that chant and it’s all cuz I also work at Best Buy and I put out video games and I put out advertising materials all the time, so I always know what the newest video game is. But I’ve never played Halo. I’ve never played Starcraft or Call of Duty or anything. But whenever I talk to someone who does, they’re always really excited.
You’re a nerd impostor?
BB: I’m a real nerd! Just not about video games! I went to school for a while to study music theory and I’m a nerd about that. Definitely nerdy about music. Well, I would call it nerdy—Juan would call it annoying obsessiveness when we’re writing songs.
JV: Video game-wise, I collect the NES games, the original Nintendo games. Anything with more than four buttons on a remote is too hard for me, too much for me. The best is original Contra. And Punch Out. I beat Mike Tyson! That’s something to brag about. I beat him, and that was the happiest day of my life.
BB: Every job I’ve ever had, I’m a fucking nerd about. I love Best Buy and I love Frysmith and I get really enthused. Also, I like Lady Gaga, and I guess that’s pretty nerdy too. Are you gonna put this in the interview? I like, OK, I totally like that her songs are catchy. They’re easy and catchy, no doubt about it. I really like the lyrics. She writes really clever things. But I think what I like about her most is that she realizes that the singer-songwriter market—as a girl—was tapped, was done, quite done, so she created a persona and sold the shit out of it and people got obsessed with it and continue to be obsessed with it and now she can make a living doing whatever the fuck she wants. She can get away with murder cuz she’s such a badass.
Would you wanna come crawling out of an egg on stage?
BB: I don’t have access to incredible designers but the sad part is that even if I did, I never would’ve come up with a bubble suit! She just does stuff that makes you think, ‘Aw, that’s so ridiculous, that’s so cool.’ Totally insane. More power to her, dude. And anyone who hates her, hates her cuz people won’t shut up about her. That’s not enough of a reason to hate someone! A lot of the time, the most talked about people are talked about cuz they’re interesting. She’s weird as fuck and she’s totally milking it, but way to go, Gaga.
When you pull a girl out of the audience to dance with you, has anyone refused?
BB: Yep! There were two times. You know what? Fuck Orange County. One time in Orange County, I got totally stood up by every girl I tried to dance with. In Don Juan, I’d only been stood up once by this super cool rockabilly girl in Rosemead. She was there with a date, and she was sitting at a booth. I walked over shakin’ it at her, and she wouldn’t even look at me. She just stared forward, completely serious. The guy she was with was even looking at her laughing like, ‘Really? You’re gonna sit there and ignore her and be a bitch?’ And yeah, she was! That’s exactly what she did—sat there with a bitch face. She was no fun at all, so I went to dance with somebody else! It’s a bummer, but the girl was a twat, so who cares? I’m gonna have fun with everybody else.
I think most people would consider you asking them to dance an honor!
BB: Ha ha! Dude, people like that—if you don’t wanna have fun, don’t go to a bar, is all I’m sayin’. If you wanna be a wet mop, stay home.
DON JUAN Y LOS BLANCOS PLAY ON GOOD DAY L.A. ON THUR., MAY 17., AT 8:30 AM. DON JUAN Y LOS BLANCOS’ PODER BLANCO IS OUT NOW ON WILD.