La Vida Bohème: Dance Rockers Harness Chaos And Conflict Lead singer Henry D'Arthenay looked to his Venezuelan home for inspiration in constructing the band's latest album, Será.

La Vida Bohème: Dance Rockers Harness Chaos And Conflict

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If you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THING CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. And it's time now for music.


LYDEN: The Venezuelan band La Vida Boheme is one of the most popular new bands in all of Latin America. Their first album, "Nuestra," was nominated for two Latin Grammys. Their new album, "Sera," debuted at number one on the iTunes Latin rock and alternative charts. A few weeks ago, I caught up with the band's lead singer Henry D'Arthenay, who spoke to us from a studio in Caracas.

HENRY D'ARTHENAY: Actually, my last name is D'Arthenay. It's French, but my dad always says that it's the D'Arthenay from Carupano, which is a region from here in Venezuela, making it not D'Arthenay, but D'Arthenay.

LYDEN: It makes me think of The Three Musketeers, d'Artagnan.

D'ARTHENAY: Yes. They used to call me d'Artagnan in school.

LYDEN: Esquire magazine compared La Vida Boheme to The Clash, thanks to their brash style, their head-on challenges to social stratification. La Vida Boheme's new album is filled with songs about Venezuela. And this new song called "Cementerio Del Este" translates literally as "Cemetery of the East." It touches upon the class divide that exists in the country.

D'ARTHENAY: We have two main cemeteries: the east side cemetery and the south side cemetery. And the east side cemetery now, a lot of people like middle class and upper middle-class people are buried in the Cementerio Del Este. South side cemetery is now very crowded. And the worst part of it is that south side cemetery, it's beautiful. It's one of the most beautiful places in Caracas, and it's left to ruin. And the fact that the deceased are also divided by class (unintelligible), which I always found, you know, awful.

LYDEN: Yeah. You know, the whole panorama makes me think of when you drive into New York City, for example, from JFK airport. You're going through an enormous cemetery. And then I'm thinking about the terrain of your music. You've got this song, "Cementerio Del Este." It starts off with this slow chorus of voices. And then it kind of turns into this '80s new-wave dance tune. And I was thinking that it reminded me a lot of the '80s band Joy Division and Ian Curtis.

D'ARTHENAY: Yes. And, you know, this whole idea of starting with a very simple thing, you know, with (unintelligible), which is how the song starts with the voices, and, you know, suddenly entering this like a new-wave thing for me was also like a metaphor, you know, how something so very pure like progress can be very swift, can be very, you know, like elegant, but at the same time it devours things.


LYDEN: You know, I wanted to ask you, since you are in Caracas and your family's been there for generations, this is a country that, you know, here in this country, the U.S., we really think of Venezuela for its political chaos. And you could say that that has occurred long before the death of President Hugo Chavez. One of the songs on this album, "El Mito del Progreso," translates to the "Myth of Progress."


LYDEN: We hear this loud drumming and what sound like TV ads, which talk about the glory of Venezuela, channels being changed. It really captures, I think, a sense of chaos.

D'ARTHENAY: Yeah. I think the "Myth of Progress," it speaks for itself, the title, you know? Sometimes moving forward is not necessarily evolution. And I feel, in a way, that we forgot that we were supposed to move forward as a country. In some way, I sometimes feel like we haven't moved forward. I think we're living, like a Mexican friend of mine would say, la pausa, the pause. It's like you never get resolution. It's just still.


LYDEN: I'm speaking with Henry D'Arthenay, and he's the lead singer of the Venezuelan band La Vida Boheme.

There's this beautiful, beautiful track on your album, "La Vida Mejor," and it translates to loosely "The Better Life." We're hearing Latin percussion, modern pop, rock. And you mix a lot of things, it seems to me, in studio. Do you ever write these songs thinking you're going to perform them in live concert?

D'ARTHENAY: Well, with "La Vida Mejor," that song's like the music of it, it happened like very spontaneously. While we were in New York, actually, we were playing like this gig like a public assembly in Brooklyn. And suddenly, we had a problem with the lights. You know, they kind of went out. So we started, you know, just jamming until the problem got fixed. And suddenly, the song was developing itself as we played.

So I got back to the apartment where we were staying, and this phase was stuck in the back of my head. So it was como va a ser la vida mejor, how could life going to be better?


D'ARTHENAY: And in the same time, I was going through this very, very awful phase in my life. And at the same time, I was comparing it to the one of my country. And "La Vida Mejor" was like therapy for me. It was like saying I will accept this even if it's bad or good. The better life for me, the translation of it "La Vida Mejor," what I love about the song, I think it's a celebration of existentialism about doubt, you know? How could you tell life is going to be better? Maybe it won't be.

LYDEN: How old are you?


LYDEN: I think you're just young enough to be existential, Henry.



LYDEN: Well, I think it has been "La Vida Mejor," a better life for you.



LYDEN: Thank you so, so very much for speaking with us.

D'ARTHENAY: Thank you. A real honor, really.

LYDEN: It has been a real pleasure for us. That's Henry D'Arthenay, and he's the lead singer of the Venezuelan band La Vida Boheme. Gracias.

D'ARTHENAY: (Foreign language spoken)


LYDEN: And for Saturday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. Check out our weekly podcast. Search for WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on iTunes or on the NPR smartphone app. Click on Programs and scroll down. Or follow me at nprjackilyden. We're back on the radio tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.

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