Download a track from new album "Será"
The 2011 release of their agitative debut album "Nuestra" brought Venezuelan indie rock band La Vida Boheme Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations and a trip to the finals of MTV Iggy's Best New Band in the World finals in Times Square. The critics' darlings toured fiercely in the United States and Mexico with songs that reference the Ramones and the Clash, as suitable for the stands at a fútbol match as for a popular revolution. Then they went home and holed up in a recording studio in theirnative Caracas, a city that front man Henry D'Arthenay describes as "a constant panic attack."
"Será" is not only about the situation in Venezuela," D'Arthenay says of the band's extraordinary second album. "In a way, it's about every group of people having to deal with a situation that they won't win."
Read the full interview with D'Arthenay below, and download the haunting track La Sangre y El Ecco ("Blood and the Echo") from La Vida Boheme's "Será," recently released in the U.S. on Nacional Records >>
Your debut album, 'Nuestra', sounded of rebellion. In contrast to that album, whose rousing style you've described as "tropi-punk," your new album, 'Será' is, for the most part, decidedly somber. It opens with a six-minute musical meditation on the social class structure of cemeteries in Caracas.
Well for a long time I thought of it as a dark record, not so much because I wasmaking dark music, but probably because of all of the things that were influencing the record, not only socially but personally. So for a while I thought, yes, it is a very dark record compared to 'Nuestra'. But time has gone by and I've come to think of it like a black-and-white movie. I think it is perhaps dark, but it has more contrast than 'Nuestra'. A lot of people who have been listening to the record have been coming with me with different theories about what it's about. I like the idea that music can involve the audience that way.
'Será' was recorded in Caracas?
Yes, we recorded here in Caracas, with the same team as 'Nuestra', in the same studio. Sometimes we were there from 9 am until 3 am. The process was amazing, but very time consuming. We felt like this might be the last chance for some reason. We felt like, if we don't get this done we're going to be miserable later in Hell, or wherever we are.
Were you feeling like that because of the current atmosphere in Venezuela?
Yeah, of course. Talking about yourself, you always talk about your context, and this being Caracas it's impossible to not be affected by it.
For example when [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez died, my father was in the clinic. I was in the clinic with him. The moment Nicolas Maduro appeared and said Chavez had just died, my dad told me, 'you have to go because they're looting and no one's home.' We were the only two people on the floor of the hospital, it was crazy, usually it is filled. You always have this feeling in Caracas, it's like the zombieapocalypse. I went out in the street and it was crazy, people going the wrong direction on the highways and stuff like that. Gas stations were filled; supermarkets all started closing.
So it's impossible not to be affected by that kind of stuff.
Every time you go to the studio, every time something else happens, every time there's a kidnapping or stuff like that, it's like, whoa, something else can happen to you. I experienced a lot of panic attacks writing the record. A panic attack is sometimes described as a feeling of imminent danger. I feel like that about my whole town, it's a constant panic attack. Even when things are ok, it's a constant sense of something wrong is about to happen.
And that's what I tried to capture with 'Será', so the record was filled with those kind of feelings, of feeling lonely, feeling powerless. 'Nuestra' was very much about we're against this, while 'Será' is more like 'I understand that this is bigger than me and I do not agree with it, but I know that I cant fight it.' It's more like the last cry before everything burns to Hell.
But 'Será' is not only about the situation in Venezuela. In a way, it's about every group of people having to deal with a situation that they won't win.
I can't get the song 'La Sangre y el Eco' out of my head. Can you talk about it?
When I was writing that song, I was in Spain two years ago and I had a recurring dream about those words: 'La Sangre y El Eco'. During the period of writing 'Será' I could not sleep that well. I started having all of these dreams with images and words, so I was writing all of it down. But as time went by, I kind of forgot all about that song. Then we were in Mexico touring, and a friend of ours, actually our booking agent, got kidnapped in Caracas and he got killed, execution style.
The song was kind of a way of canalizing it. I turned to the lyric 'La Sangre y el Eco'. It was the feeling of something going very, very wrong. It was the image of horror trying to capture the horror.
The people that did this were younger than me, just some hooligans. It could happen to anyone in Caracas and it could happen to a lot of friends. Months later,after we wrote the song, other friends got kidnapped.
La Vida Boheme has become known outside of Venezuela. You've done quite a bit of touring abroad, but you are living there in Caracas. Have you thought about leaving?
Yeah, but it's hard. It's not just like let's leave. What are you going to do. All your things are here. I come from a very middle class family. My parents are in their sixties, they're like, 'What are we going to do, how are we going to start again?' We're musicians and our lives have to be kind of in the moment for a while. We have to go to the States, we have to go to Mexico, to go to where people want to hear the record. And we also feel like we have a responsibility to Venezuela. There's no one speaking out there and the people speaking for sure are not telling the truth, so we have the responsibility to go there and say it.
Since the release of the album in Venezuela, La Vida Boheme has done some shows in Caracas. How has the reception been?Amazing. The 'Será' concerts are thought of not so much as a concert but as a visual experience; there are a lot of people on stage and there are visual pieces that accompany each of the songs. It's interesting because people are used to our concerts being a lot of physical movement. And for the first time we're at a point where it's not only about moving around physically. It's very visual. There's a lot of footage of the history of our country in the show.
How are people reacting to the new songs?
People have been talking to us about their experiences. It's no longer, 'well I like this song'. It's 'this affected me because I lived through this'. I feel like we're almost making a play.
More than a lot of people hearing you, it' a lot of people engaged with your songs. I didn't expect people to react that way. I thought a lot of people wouldn't understand it.
But people have strong emotions about it. It's all very exciting.