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After Fleeing An Apocalypse, La Vida Boheme Embraces Its Immigrant Story

Mar 29, 2017
Originally published on March 30, 2017 7:27 am

La Vida Boheme plays upbeat music on somber themes. The Venezuelan rockers' last album, Será, came as student protests were erupting in their home town of Caracas. The band's booking agent was murdered; their tour manager was kidnapped. The four members of the group locked themselves inside their apartments. They would later describe the record, which won a Latin Grammy, as "the soundtrack to an apocalypse."

"In our country, people are having a really hard time," says lead singer Henry D'Arthenay. "Our families are having a hard time. The people who are poor are now poorer, the ones who are richer are now experiencing scarcities, the ones that made deals with the government are just rich as hell, and many government officials are being looked at by the DEA for drug trafficking. It's such a crisis of a situation."

Three years ago, the members decided they'd had enough: They packed up and moved from Venezuela to Mexico City. Their life in a foreign country became the inspiration for the band's latest project, called La Lucha, or "the struggle."

"We just had this hunch that if we were to ask the right questions to the right people — you know, 'What was your struggle? What is your struggle?' — we may get some answers ourselves," D'Arthenay says. "I don't believe life gets easier; to keep going, you cannot do it by the force of dictating your life, like controlling. You just have to have your ears open and hope to be the best man you can, you know? And I believe that's good enough."

All Things Considered caught up with La Vida Boheme recently in Austin, Texas, where the band was performing at the annual South by Southwest music conference. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Venezuelan rockers La Vida Boheme play upbeat music on somber themes. Their last album, "Sera," won a Latin Grammy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA VIDA MEJOR")

LA VIDA BOHEME: (Singing in Spanish).

SHAPIRO: They describe that album as the soundtrack to the apocalypse. It came as student protests erupted in their hometown of Caracas in Venezuela. The band's booking agent was murdered. Their tour manager was kidnapped. Four members of the group locked themselves inside their apartments.

HENRY D'ARTHENAY: In our country, people are having a really hard time. Our families are having a hard time. The people who are poor are now poorer. The ones who are rich are now experiencing scarcities, and the ones that, you know, made deals with the government are just rich as hell. And many government officials are being looked for by the DEA for drug trafficking charges. It's such a crisis of a situation.

SHAPIRO: That's lead singer Henry D'Arthenay. We caught up with La Vida Boheme recently in Austin as they performed at the annual South by Southwest Music Conference. Three years ago, they decided they'd had enough. The band packed up and moved from Venezuela to Mexico City.

D'ARTHENAY: We're now immigrants. We know. And I never thought that, you know, I would - even, like, my home in Caracas is going away. That's - like, all those stuff, you know, won't vanish. But home - like, the places where you go and lay your head - that's ours to build now because we have a nomadic life now.

SHAPIRO: Their life in a foreign country became the inspiration for the band's latest project called "La Lucha," or "The Struggle."

D'ARTHENAY: "La Lucha" - when we started to make it, it was around the time life was starting, you know - the grasp of our home, of our fans and those things started, like, disappearing, and we started fading in slowly into our own lives. And we just had this hunch that if we were to ask the right questions to the right people - what - you know, what was your struggle; what is your struggle - we might get some answers ourselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEJOS")

BOHEME: (Singing in Spanish).

D'ARTHENAY: I don't believe life gets easier. To keep going, you cannot do it by the force of dictating your life, like, controlling you. You just have to have your ears open and hope to be the best man you can, you know? And I believe that's good enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOCE")

BOHEME: (Singing in Spanish).

D'ARTHENAY: That was the first song we started working on just before we left for Mexico City. And that moment we left Venezuela, the phrase (speaking Spanish). What are you going to do, you know? It's - was just in the air. It was like, what are you going to do? Are you going to act? Are you going to stay? And also the metaphoric question, like, what are you going to do?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOMINGO")

BOHEME: (Singing in Spanish).

D'ARTHENAY: Sometimes we believe that struggles are something physical. It's not like that. For example, water flows sometimes in a very violent way, but it doesn't mean that water collides against water, you know? So we believe that there's this very beautiful thing to fighting, you know, which for us is basically, you know, having the will to open your eyes the next morning and, you know, try to achieve whatever will give you happiness in your life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOMINGO")

BOHEME: (Singing in Spanish).

SHAPIRO: That was Henry D'Arthenay of the Venezuelan rock band La Vida Boheme. Their new album is "La Lucha," "The Struggle."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOMINGO")

BOHEME: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.