A few minutes into the 2006 Humboldt County music documentary Rural Rock & Roll, The Monster Women's guitarist and vocalist Courtney Jaxon describes our little slice of heaven. "There's something strange and magical about this whole place," she says. "It's like we're in the middle of some weird forest where things are different." A bit further on, drummer and vocalist Aimee Taylor notes, "There's a lot going on for such a small place." Thirteen years later, both these things remain true. Our forests are strange and magical enough that director Ava DuVernay used them for her forthcoming adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. And Humboldt's locally produced arts, music and theater continue to fill venues and galleries throughout the county. As for The Monster Women? Still going strong. Formed by Jaxon, Taylor and keyboardist Gary Silver in 2004, the band refers to itself as a "girl group gone to space" and resides in that sweet spot between retro new wave and garage rock.
You've been together since George W. Bush was president, Facebook was still in a relatively nascent stage and the hashtag #EurekaRising had yet to trend. How has The Monster Women evolved over the years?
Courtney: We've become much better musicians after so many years of playing ... There are so many jobs that go into putting on a good show: the booker who coordinates a venue, the promoter who makes eye-catching flyers and uses social media like Facebook or a telephone pole, the sound engineer, the door person, the other performers and an enthusiastic audience — hopefully! It's quite a dance and we've done a lot of dancing.
What are the challenges of being musicians in a small town in a remote area?
Courtney: It's very DIY in this smaller town setting. One of our biggest challenges is finding proper venues ... Two venues that are working hard to keep the scene alive right now are the all-ages venues Outer Space (1100 M St., Arcata), as well as the Siren's Song (325 Second St., Eureka).
Is it helpful or more complicated to also be small business owners? (Jaxon owns vintage clothing store The Little Shop of Hers at 416 Second St.; Taylor owns vintage clothing shore Shipwreck at 430 Third St.; and Silver owns Seamoor’s toy shop at 212 F St.)
Courtney: Yesterday's punks have now become today's small business owners/entrepreneurs! ... After 15-plus years of being best friends and bandmates, it's exciting to be sharing in the world of small business ownership together. All of our shops are within one block of each other.
What are your favorite things about Eureka? Humboldt County?
Aimee: We love Old Town, of course, the thriving artistic community, the natural beauty of where we live. We have many amazing people here and our area is very unique.
Courtney: Humboldt definitely has some magical energy and inspires our imagination.
Aimee: A lot of the bands who come through come back because they love it here. #ilikeeureka!
How does your music reflect this place?
Aimee: We write surreal-themed, otherworldly poppy rock songs. The soundtrack of our lives. Courtney is many generations local Humboldt, I've been here since third grade and Gary grew up on a farm in Ohio, but has been in Eureka now longer than he was there. Most of the songs on our first CD, some of which are still in our song rotation, were written by Courtney many years ago, and Eureka definitely inspired them in one way or another.
Favorite show ever?
Gary: We loved opening for the Slits at [the former] Synapsis, as well as playing at the Eureka Vet's hall (Eureka Veteran's Memorial Hall, 1018 H St.) with Scout Niblet and Afrirampo. Those were amazing shows ... More recently, we played really fun shows to premiere our latest music video, "Lost at Sea," a claymation video by local artist Violet Crabtree that's now on YouTube.
Why does Humboldt County have such a vibrant music scene?
Gary: There are a lot of artists here in general. We believe the beautiful surroundings and remote location lend themselves to the creative process. Arts Alive! is a really fun monthly event and celebrates art on all levels.
How can people visiting Humboldt find you? Why should they?
Gary: You can find our albums at The Works record store (434 Second St., Eureka). Little Shop of Hers, Seamoor's and Shipwreck are where you'll find any one of us any given day. We post our shows on Facebook and flyers around town, as well as advertise our shows in the North Coast Journal. We feel like we appeal to a wide audience with lots of different tastes in music. Check out our videos on YouTube — if you like what you see and hear, come find us!
Our next show is Feb. 1 at Outer Space with K Records owner and Beat Happening legend Calvin Johnson.
You've been playing music as The Monster Women since 2004. Where do you see yourselves 13 years from now?
Aimee: Still rockin'-and- a-rollin'! As David Bowie would say, "We don't know where we are going from here but we promise it won't be boring."