Formerly in Sweet 75
with a certain Nirvana dude.
The name Yva Las Vegass may be a dim memory until you cast
back to the mid ‘90s when a post-Nirvana Krist Novoselic hooked up with her in
Sweet 75. She had been playing around Seattle,
and after a chance gig playing Novoselic’s birthday party the bass
player invited her to jam. Impromptu
sessions led to a proper band – the name Sweet6 75 comes from a poem by
Theodore Roethke – and, within months, a major-label record deal and opening
slots for heavy-hitters like L7 and Dinosaur Jr.
For whatever reason (take your pick: lackluster marketing,
musical differences, the vagaries of the music industry, a listening public not
ready for a queer woman of color), Sweet 75’s debut album failed to find much
success and the band fizzled out in the late ‘90s. The intervening years have
found her continuing to create, albeit in distinctly under-the radar fashion. Yva
Las Vegass currently resides in Brooklyn and
is finally getting around to release a new album, I Was Born in a Place of Sunshine and the Smell of Ripe Mangoes, on
the Moniker label. It’s due March 13. (Moniker is helmed by Robert Manis, the
record collector who brought Death …For
The Whole World To See to Drag
Yva picked up a guitar in the early 90s and headed out to
busk in the streets of Seattle.
Over the last twenty years she’s gotten beat up for her music, been homeless
and a drug addict, suffered heart attacks mid-set, had her teeth stolen,
starred in a full-length documentary film and played all over the world and she
still rages harder than ever. That said, I Was Born in a Place Of Sunshine and the Smell of Ripe Mangoes is
no blast of harsh noise. It’s an often-gorgeous collection of tender ballads,
raucous cuatro workouts, soul-purging epics like “Crack Whore” and
traditional Venezuelan work-songs, a raw and astonishing distillation
of Yva’s vast and varied life-experiences. “There’s not much catering
to the English-speaker on this album,” she notes. “The bulk is sung in Spanish,
just as there’s not much excuse for a 21st century American not to speak at least
Born in 1963 in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela,
to a musical, middle-class family, Yva earned a ticket to boarding
school in the states as a result of teen rebelliousness-which suited her fine.
“I’d just seen Porky’s, so I really
wanted to come to the US,”
she laughs. After a series of educational mishaps (“No school would hold me,”
she says), she ended up in Seattle
and decided, with a friend, to try her hand at street performance. “We played
for like five minutes and we had enough money to buy a Whopper,” she remembers.
“We were so excited.” The rest is history.