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SXSW regional preview: South America

Nancy Flores
nflores@statesman.com

South America

La Vida Bohème

Venezuelan rockers La Vida Bohème have pulled off a meteoric rise since the quartet's humble beginnings writing lyrics in parking lots and rehearsing in abandoned offices without electricity. Band members often ran through unsafe downtown Caracas streets with guitars and amps in tow to avoid getting mugged or kidnapped at night.

"But it was a place," said La Vida Bohème's lead singer and guitarist Henry D'Arthenay. "One to experiment with no time restriction and one where we could get inspired from ... I think it was very important for our music to be writing songs there. We got very influenced by our environment."

It's no wonder that their socially conscious lyrics with danceable rhythms have won over legions of loyal fans who call themselves "La Resistance." The SXSW showcasing artists are scheduled to perform at 1 a.m. Wednesday at Soho Lounge and midnight Friday at Maggie Mae's.

La Vida Bohème — D'Arthenay, Sebastián Ayala, Rafael Pérez Medina and Daniel De Sousa – snagged Grammy nominations earlier this year with their first album "Nuestra," and their dance punk music was also included in the soundtrack of the popular "FIFA 12" soccer video game.

" ‘Nuestra' has been a huge thing in our lives," D'Arthenay said. "But I think it is sane to see it for what it is: a record that's doing well ... That brings everyone in the band comfort."

La Vida Bohème sports a signature onstage look in Venezuela — paint-spattered outfits — that they hope to show off at SXSW. Lately, the rockers have taken the stage wearing all white and let pumped-up concert-goers splash them with colors.

We caught up with bandleader Henry D'Arthenay as La Vida Bohème prepare for their first Texas visit.

How do you ensure that after such a successful start that the momentum continues?

Henry D'Arthenay: There is a beautiful essay by Tennessee Williams called "The Catastrophe of Success" where it talks a lot about that subject. I think it's very important for young people experiencing success to read it. It put things in perspective.

We are far more proud of working so hard on something we believe in than the success or failure that may come from it. I am just happy to have a steady work as a musician, which is the thing I know how to do and love, and to do it with people I respect and love.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges musicians face in Venezuela?

I think the biggest challenge musicians have in Venezuela is that it's very rare for a person to be living just from music here. There is no industry whatsoever, which in one way is amazing because everything is D.I.Y. all the way, which brings much more beautiful records. But at the same time (this) brings less opportunities for one to make a living out of art.

We have no (transportation infrastructure) which sucks for any music movement because it makes touring a lot harder.

Also, there aren't as many venues for middle-sized bands. I mean we pull a lot of people here in Venezuela, but we are not Ricky Martin. So we are in a weird gray zone: too big for the small clubs and too small for the huge venues.

What's the rock scene in Venezuela like at the moment?

Fruitful. We are very privileged to be in Venezuela nowadays; well, at least musically — politically (it) is a whole different scenario. But artistically, it is astonishing.

A lot of bands are doing music for the love of music, and people going to the shows and forming a community. Finally, it seems we are having a music scene after such a long time. It's amazing.

Now that we are living such troubled economic and political times, kids are picking up on local art, local books and local music and getting together through them.

For you guys this may sound dumb, but here in Venezuela we never had a big culture of appreciation or love for the art done at home. Old generations always seemed to be very skeptic of what local bands had to offer in comparison to foreign acts. But nowadays people seem to be really enjoying the art that's done here as much as the one that's recognized internationally. We are learning to accept who we are as a country. We are learning to appreciate it. I truly recommend to anyone that loves music who is reading this—come to Caracas. You won't regret it.

More from South and Central America

Tita Lima

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Online: myspace.com/titalima

About: Austinites might recognize this Brazilian vocalist from her work in the Echocentrics, a soulful funk band with a psychedelic edge from Grupo Fantasma's Adrian Quesada. Lima's avant garde-tinged vocals come from her childhood influences. She's the daughter of Liminha, bass player for Os Mutantes, a Brazilian psychedelic rock band.

Could fit on a bill with: Ocote Soul Sounds, Adele, Sade

Astro

From: Chile

Online: astrosonidoespacial.com

About: Often ranked in "bands to watch" and "top songs of the year" lists, the Santiago-based quartet brings pop, electronic and alternative music together. Rumored to perform excellent live shows, expect this band to become a fan favorite.

Could fit on a bill with: El Guincho, MGMT, Gepe

Juanes

From: Colombia

Online: juanes.net

About: Don't miss the chance to check out this Latin American superstar and rock legend at ACL Live. Juanes has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide and has won than 17 Latin Grammy awards.

Could fit on a bill with: Prince, Maná, Bono

Bomba Estéreo

From: Colombia

Online: bombaestereo.com

About: No strangers to Austin, this Colombian electro cumbia group returns to the capital city and brings their high-energy dance rhythms. Bomba Estéreo masterfully blend hip-hop, dub and even Colombian folk rhythms that results in an explosive sound.

Could fit on a bill with: Systema Solar, Choc Quib Town, Isa GT

The Great Wilderness

From: Costa Rica

Online: thegreatwilderness.bandcamp.com

About: Inspired by British post-punk, The Great Wilderness' atmospheric alternative rock sound has all English lyrics. The band name refers to their creative process, which the band has said focuses on the space and layers of sound.

Could fit on a bill with: Sonic Youth, Joy Division

Sol Pereyra

From: Argentina

Online: solpereyra.com.ar

About: If you've heard some of Mexico's Julieta Venegas' albums, you've also heard the multi-instrumentalist talent of Pereya playing in many of Venegas' songs. Sol Pereya launched a solo career in 2009, and has been winning people over with her blend of pop, hip-hop and ironic lyrics.

Could fit on a bill with: Anita Tijoux, Ceci Bastida, Lily Allen