From the Kids to the Kids: An Interview with La Vida Boheme

By 05 August, 2011

La Vida Boheme have just played a secret show for MTV Iggy in New York. I think it’s fair to say this band from Caracas, Venezuela who mix punk and 80s pop with a ridiculously energetic live show are on their way up. Especially now that their debut album Nuestra has been picked up by Nacional Records. We decided to have a chat with the group to find out what all the fuss is about.

So, congratulations on all the publicity lately. It looks like things are going really well for you guys. How was your recent trip to New York?
Thanks! The visit to New York was amazing, we were a month playing in the city, and only twice we moved from New York to play in Philadelphia and Florida. We did not expect to get the reception we got, and for us as a band it was very special to play in a city to which we owe so much: Blondie, Talking Heads, New York Dolls, The Strokes, Television, Richard Hell, The Ramones, Johnny Pacheco, Bobby Valentin and all that was the sound of the Fania. You could say we went to Mecca to pay a promise to “the Gods on this earth to whom I owe what I do” as said Cortázar. We’ll definitely be returning sooner than expected.

How does performing in the US compare to Venezuela?
For us the difference is that in Venezuela the majority of people know our songs and go to concerts because they have heard the album, it’s fun because they come with expectations of the show and we have to live up to expectations and where possible overcome them. In America, no one has really heard the record, nobody knew who we were, when people came to the shows it was by word of mouth buzz, by chance or, even – to see another band that was not us. So, you have to earn it as they do not come expecting a specific song. You could say that playing in the US this time was like being on a first date: during the first song you just want them to remember your name, and by the end you want to see at least 2 members of the public dancing.

Do you think you could have become so popular so quickly without the internet and giving your music away free?
No, we would not have grown so quickly had it not been online. In the words of McLuhan “the medium is the message.” If we had not given the same album for free at the beginning we would never have reached the ears of Nacional Records, and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to New York. Anyway, it is very difficult to declare on a hypothetical situation or about how certain events would have unfolded “had not happened what happened” in the style of “Back to the Future,” but I think looking at how things have unfolded for us and how vital the internet was in the whole process I do not doubt that without it we would not be where we are now.

Are you really named after an opera?
Yes, and the work of Henri Murger, the poem by Guillermo Aguirre Fierro and song of Aznavour. We are honored to be part of a tradition of works that speak of the human condition and are beautiful and infinitely more important than what we do. We are honoured to live under the long shadow of Puccini.

Who are the biggest influences on the sound of the band?
There are many. We are lovers of albums more than musicians, for “our” range of influences ranges from The Clash and LCD Soundsystem to Buena Vista Social Club and Explosions In The Sky. Painters remember colors, we albums, ha! If anything, “our” joy comes from the fact that we wanted to do something like the many albums that we have been listening to since we were very young.

What’s the music scene in Venezuela like at the moment?
Is very much alive, there are many things going on, many emerging bands, many bands establishing themselves. We strongly recommend people to listen to Americania, to Viniloversus a Los Mesoneros, Algodón Egipcio, TLX, La Clem de La Clem, Ulises Hadjis and Famasloop. When we were 15 years old it was difficult to see concerts that you were really interested in, but today you can see great concerts in Caracas almost every day. We’re beginning to have a touring circuit in the country, all totally self-managed. From the kids to the kids 🙂

Who is your Venezuelan idol?
Vytas Brenner, Jesús Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Renny Ottolina and José Ignacio Cabrujas.

Could you recommend something by one of these that you think people should listen to?
The truth is that I named mostly Venezuelan intellectuals!! The only one who is a musician is Vytas Brenner. Their best album is called La Ofrenda, which is from 1972. Listen to “Frailejón” with headphones and see what I mean:

Now that Nacional Records are releasing your record do you have plans to tour more of the US?
Yes, we will return soon to America. This time we could only play in Florida, New York and Philadelphia, we expect for the next visit we’ll add more states to the list.

Any other plans?
We are working on new material for an LP, EP or just a single for nobody knows the truth. We can only say we are working on new things without worrying much about the format they’ll be released on. But when the time comes to release them, we will know!

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