Née: Drew Arriola-Sands on vocals, drummer Jorge Reveles, guitarist Esteban Moreno, and Ibette Oritz on bass.
Raíces: Los Angeles, CA
Sounds like: Remorseless, righteous revenge against the patriarchy
You should listen to Trap Girl because…it doesn’t get any more purely hardcore punk than this.
“I’m just a battle axe—on or off the stage,” says Trap Girl founder and frontwoman Drew Arriola-Sands. “But it’s taken me a long time to get here, to be in this mindset of, you know, the queen of punk rock.”
As one of very few, if not the only, Latinx femmes making hardcore music today, the hyper-babely, anti-patriarchal bruiser she presents as Trap Girl is driven by personal necessity. She is not a character; Drew truly is a tough girl.
“I try to be,” she says. “I have to be, you know what I mean? I have to be.”
With a mountain of pitch-black hair, often three wigs high, atop an all-black outfit, complete with smoky eyes and gloves, Drew’s signature look recalls the Ronettes—but in a flipped-script future where they emerge from a foggy graveyard to avenge all of Phil Spector’s hideous transgressions. Maybe Tina Turner would be at their side in this hypothetical, too. Drew counts them all as “wig idols,” along with Dolly Parton. Turner gets special consideration, however, because she always designed her own wigs. Drew handcrafts her own.
“I’ve always been attracted to dangerous kind of women. I didn’t know later that I would become one of those women.”
Drew has long been influenced by high-profile femmes. Gloria Trevi and Alejandra Guzmán turned her onto the blueprint of a feminized rocker persona. But growing up first-generation in Los Angeles with El Salvadoran and Guatemalan parents, Drew, like so many other Latinx kids, was also glued to telenovelas. She found herself idolizing the villains, not the protagonists—Itati Cantoral as Soraya Montenegro among them, of course.
“As a child, I knew she was a villain, I knew she was a bitch, and I knew she was fierce, so I really identified with her. I’ve always been attracted to dangerous kind of women. I didn’t know later that I would be one of these dangerous women; it just kind of happened,” she says, culminating with a laugh.
The latest from Trap Girl is The Black Market, an EP centered on transgender issues: the experience of “going through the motions of life” before coming out, she explains, as well as the process of ultimately coming out, and the realities of a world that is dangerous, both socially and medically, for trans people.
On “The Perfect Woman,” a slow storm brews to shred the fallacies of traditional femininity. Then, Drew delivers a brutal burst in the breakneck hardcore punk of “Ivory Handle.” She’s “the most dangerous girl in the city,” rallying her brothers and sisters to join the fight. It’s not all iron-clad resistance, though – would it be very true-to-life if it were? There are also stretches of contemplation, where Arriola-Sands finds vulnerability. In “Trapped for Life,” there is a sense of weariness, of hopelessness, that could be tied to the “pressure of staying alive,” which, as Drew notes, is part of the transgender experience.
But throughout The Black Market, guttural howls, as if to puke out patriarchal oppression, cut through the momentary hopelessness. Again and again, anger takes over; Drew repeatedly crawls out of despair and back into her power, newly fortified and unshakably menacing.
Trap Girl’s 2015 debut, Diamonds to Dust, took a similarly aggressive route in reflecting on sex work. The risks and rough realities that can come along with that—for cis women, trans women, men, and anyone else who’s ever done sex work, she says—are explored, but not without providing possible solutions. Indeed, “Dead Men Don’t Rape.”
Only three years into to Trap Girl, there’s no arguing that Drew has earned a punk queen crown. There’s nobody more fitting to wear it –or smash it to pieces beneath high heels.