Elena Cataraga was destined to become a star. If that name sounds unfamiliar, it’s because these days she goes by Lena Scissorhands as the frontwoman for metal act Infected Rain. But many years ago, when she was just 8 months old and accompanying her parents to their dance rehearsal, one act set everything in motion for the future singer-songwriter.
“Something really curious happened when I did my first steps,” Lena recalls. “I was a very young toddler, nobody even expected me to start walking, and it happened on the dance rehearsal stage. I was driven by the music to go! That definitely influenced me loving music, for sure.”
If the story ended there it would still be a fun tale of how the musical bug was implanted in Lena’s head, driving her toward the career she enjoys today. But wait, there’s more.
“Another cool part of the story is that my band’s first show, in 2008, happened on that very same stage,” she says. “Accidentally! I didn’t know about it at the time, my mother told me when she found out.”
The building where all of this happened was one of many Soviet-era block buildings that dominate the architecture of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. There wasn’t much of a music scene while Lena was growing up, in part due to the realities of the still very young nation.
“How do I put it nicely? Moldova is a very small and very poor country,” Lena says. “That means that there aren’t many opportunities, especially not for something alternative and especially not for artists. Growing up, when I started listening to alternative music, there were places you could go to see bands. There are none at the moment and there were none when Infected Rain was starting.”
Every once in a while somebody would take a chance and open a bar or pub with a stage for bands to play on, but more often than not they would be shut down within months. This forced Lena and her bandmates into a tough place. They would either have to give up their dream of being in a band to find steady work, or work their tails off to get out of their hometown and make a name for themselves.
So they hit the road. They toured all over Russia and Ukraine at first—they didn’t need a visa—and then once Europe opened up restrictions they could expand the radius of their tours. Touring took a toll on their lives at home as friends moved on to start families and change priorities. But for Infected Rain, the hard work paid off.
In January the band released their fifth studio album, “Ecdysis.” The name comes from the scientific term used to describe the process of a reptile shedding its skin, an especially apt title given how the band have reinvented their sound on the album. The pandemic gave the band time to tinker with things, including changing instrumentation, and the result is an album unlike any of their previous four.
“The pandemic had many negatives, don’t get me wrong, but there is this one beautiful part where out of nowhere someone just gave us time,” Lena says. “Because we had time we could explore certain things we couldn’t before. I feel like this album is very special because we had so much time to dedicate to each sound. Not necessarily to make it perfect sounding, but to satisfy our needs and make sure it delivers.”
The title of the album refers to the shedding of skin, and while adding tattoos is physically the exact opposite of ecdysis, the overall effect is the same—something new is created. Lena’s first tattoos were black-and-grey, including a small angel and a bit of tribal on her lower back. Then when she wanted to get large-scale wings on her back, in color, she met AD Pancho through a mutual friend.
“I started getting tattooed by him when he was tattooing at his home in Moldova, even before he tattooed in a shop,” she says. “He did my wings, he did an entire sleeve for me, he covered up my tribal with a skull and flowers. I used to get tattooed by him big time until he moved away from my country.”
More recently, Lena’s tattoo tastes have veered away from color and back to the darker side. She’s been working with a pair of artists in her current home of Las Vegas to achieve this fade to black. Ilya Cascad blacked out Lena’s sleeve and did some geometric work for Lena, while Miguel Camarillo, known for creating sinister demons, has been inking her leg sleeves.
When a creature sheds its skin it isn’t the end, it’s a continuation of life, albeit with a different physical presence. It’s an evolution. When Lena and Infected Rain hit the road for their U.S. tour in support of “Ecdysis” they may look different and sound different than they had in the past, but at their core they will always be a band who found triumph through music.