Ben There, Done That: Singer, Songwriter and Cartoonist Talks to The Oracle

Cartoon by Ben Montero.

He left Melbourne, Australia with just a suitcase and now travels the globe, drawing. 

Ben Montero, 39, wears many hats, among them being an artist, songwriter and pop singer. 

“It sounds corny, but expressing myself and connecting with other people,” said Montero, on what he enjoys the most about making art and music. “It’s a way to deal with each day and it’s a way to make yourself and others not feel so alone.” 

Within the past year, Montero has been living in Greece, with stops in Poland, Spain and Morocco. Currently, he can be found in New Orleans, with hopes of returning to New York in the near future.

For as long as Montero can remember, he has created cartoons, sometimes with stories behind them. But in the past few years, it has taken the spotlight as the major focus in his life. Originally, sketching cartoons for himself, Montero was asked for drawings and artwork, which blossomed into a full-time opportunity. 

Drawing comics to entertain his various bandmates led to making posters for shows and doing album artwork, to designing T-shirts for various bands. 

Among the album artwork in his repertoire includes Australian psychedelic rock band Pond’s 2015 album, “Man It Feels Like Space Again,” a tribute to Cheap Thrills’ 1968 release “Big Brother and the Holding Company’s” album artwork, made by Robert Crumb, a man who is a significant influence for Montero. 

“Everything inspires my artwork,” Montero said. “It’s hard to know because I’m just drawing from the well filled with all the junk I love and have collected over the years. A good artist knows how to juggle the junk and is confident to utilize the power that the junk radiates.”

Montero has had art exhibitions in his native Melbourne, London and Athens, Greece. The multitalented world traveler said he would have generated more artwork, but sells it all online to be able to keep traveling. Without a website, Instagram and Tumblr are where his colorful and vibrant creations can be viewed for the time being.  

Whether it be in bars or elsewhere, Montero draws his occasionally relatable cartoons wherever he can find a vaguely-flat surface.

“Mostly I treat it as a diary for myself to work through whatever is in my mind at the time,” he said. “It helps to work through loneliness and fears and funny thoughts that pop into my head.”

Montero’s other outlet, music, is a critical part of his life. Now, the frontman of his current band, “Montero” he described the sound as “romantic soft rock top 40 gentlemen’s lounge psychedelia” along with “touching on other forgotten areas of past and future top 40’s.” Their first album, “The Loving Gaze” debuted in 2013.

Last month was a historic time for Montero, who played their first three shows in the United States, with all dates in the New York City area. In the finale of the Big Apple tour, Montero brought in some new revolving members. MGMT’s James Richardson and Will Berman and Jay Watson of Tame Impala and Pond fame, teamed up with Montero for a show at Union Temple in Brooklyn on Oct. 29. Montero’s former housemate, Watson, who collaborated with the band on their upcoming album “Performer,” made his Montero debut playing lead guitar. 

“Mark E. Smith from the Fall said ‘if it’s me and your granny on bongos it’s the Fall,’” Montero said. “That’s pretty much how it rolls for me. Whoever is around. I’d love to keep James [Richardson] and Will [Berman] and Jay, but they’re busy guys. I love those guys.”

Also on the radar for the band are more live performances, in which Montero jokingly hopes will lead to a Super Bowl performance.

In regards to live shows, Montero said he enjoys them a lot more these days. While younger, performing used to make the journeyman musician very anxious and nervous. 

“Everything in the world can make you anxious, so why let that one particular area be like the rest of the world?” he said. “It should be your own world. Also, I don’t have to carry any instruments or set anything annoying up which is a bonus. I can just sing.”

Alternating sketching with commissioned work and juggling it with mailing out jobs that he is usually late with, Montero said he tries to avoid other vices. 

“I’m still working on the best ways to communicate via drawing, so it’s a developing process that I don’t mind people witnessing,” Montero, who alternates sketching with commissioned work said. “Yeah sometimes there’s stories [within my sketches]. That’s a primal thing to tell stories and it’s a primal thing to want to hear stories! So both the audience and creator can both make a little sense of the cosmic nonsense or be able to laugh at it for a few moments.”

As for advice for others paving their creative paths, Montero lacks words.

“I forget sayings,” he said. “All those corny sayings are true.”

About Melissa Kramer 157 Articles
Melissa Kramer is a fourth-year journalism major who lives for sports and music.