La Vida Boheme, the alternative band from Venezuela, is having a pretty eventful year. Aside from being nominated this year for a Grammy and two Latin Grammy, the young quartet made up of Henry D'Arthenay, Rafael Perez, Sebastian Ayala, Daniel De Sousa, also got accolades by NPR for their debut release Nuestra on its “Top 50 albums of 2011.” Did we mention this band, reminiscent of Bloc party, Interpol and David Byrne, only formed three years ago?
On Monday the band performed at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square as part of MTV Iggy’s “Best New Band in the World” concert. So who exactly are these dudes with paint all over themselves? We caught up with lead singer D’Arthenay to find out.
Nonstop Sound: How did the band first get started?
Henry D’Arthenay: "Growing up in Venezuela during the end of the 90s and the beginning of the 00s wasn't that fun, at least if you were young and into music. Most of the interesting bands in the country had already disbanded by then. There weren't much spaces for kids under 18 to go out and actually see music...nowadays there aren't that many either. So there was really nothing else to do than to form a band! We started in 2006. We were 17, senior year in high school, and I can recall that the only thing we did was play, play, play in every power outlet we found and until something that was not awful starting coming out of the amps."
NS: Did you guys always want to be a band?
HD: "Yeah, I think so...what I think was wrong with us was the concept of what a band is. We saw that The Clash painted their amps and clothes besides playing their music. And saw that Crass was not as much about playing songs as they were more about being a walking pamphlet against the things they saw were wrong. Kraftwerk was fabricating the instruments, or even better, the sounds that they actually needed to express what they had in mind. So we never saw a band as a inert thing -- we saw it as a kind of art-camp for kids that didn't have the facilities, or maybe the determination, to go to art school. We wanted to make music, but we also wanted to make new sounds, to speak out about something, to be a visual statement."
NS: Who were some of your influences growing up?
HD: "It's difficult to say. We could talk about how much punk rock and reggae meant to our early lives, but if we actually had to put the nail down somewhere -- in terms of influence -- I think it would be in the music our parents played in our houses while growing up. And actually many would agree it's the music most of the kids our age from Venezuela grew up listening to: Serenata Guayanesa, Billo's Caracas Boys, Juan Luis Guerra, Oscar De León, Aldemaro Romero, Simón Díaz and Rubén Blades. One local band that definitely stood out for us was Todosantos. They were something so ahead of their time that it was impossible for us not to be influenced by them."
NS: You guys are experiencing an incredible year. How does it feel to have a Grammy nomination and be getting so much attention?
HD: "Weird, I guess (laughs). Don't get me wrong, it's amazing. We were talking about tattooing ‘2011’ across our chest. But when we started working in this project we didn't do it for the attention or even the recognition. It certainly has been amazing to be recognized for doing what we love the most, plus we are a very young band Nuestra is barely our first record, so it's pretty cool to be recognized so early in our careers, but we don't want to lose focus. This band is what we love the most, and we are in it because we want to say something and have no other way of saying it than playing music. So, as long as that drive exist we will be the happiest campers whether we have Grammy nominations or not."
NS: What is on the agenda for your band in 2012?
HD: "Well, it's fair to say you will be seeing us a lot during 2012 or at least we are hoping for that. We probably will be touring the West Coast for a second time during February, then we will go the Grammys ceremony, and after that we will be playing Vive Latino Festival in Mexico and SXSW 2012 in Austin Texas. So if you see four painted guys walking the streets make sure to say hi."