On Music, Gothic Reggaeton And Caribbean Identity: An Interview With JEVA

In December 2018, #BBATX is partnering with Unbounded Agency, Thank You For Sweating and Red Bull Music to highlight some of the incredible performers in their upcoming showcase, Equal Axis.

Today, we’re happy to introduce you to one of the evening’s artists, Austin-based creative JEVA. “JEVA is a musician, DJ, performance artist and organizer with a flair for reinvention and rebirth. Originally hailing from the gritty queer performance punk scene of San Juan, Puerto Rico, JEVA uses their sets to invoke late nights of dirty dancing outside of a dive bar in Santurce after an underground rave.” (You can find JEVA on Instagram and Soundcloud.)

This interview was conducted by #BBATX Projects and Operations Coordinator, Natalia Rocafuerte.

Photo by @rickygetsweird

Photo by @rickygetsweird

Q: How would you define your creative practice and approach to music?
I like to dive deep into "holes,” i.e. YouTube Holes, Wikipedia Holes, Spotify Holes, Google Holes, etc. I get lost in the information and start visualizing how I can mix all these elements to create something authentically stupid. So say, I started reading a lot about Mary Toft, I'm watching "Dancing Queen,” and I’m think about making a performance in which I birth a bunch of pink rabbit pieces while "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin plays in the background. The same can be applied to music. On one hand I love to listen to real goth stuff like “Alien Sex Fiend” or “Christian Death,” and on the other hand I love underground and reggaeton like La Nana and La Goony Chonga. I mix that up in my music and create a gothic reggaeton song. As for DJ sets, it's all about how I can make the most clashing things compatible, I try to get away with a lot of stuff that may or may not backfire. It's all a leap of faith.

Q: When did music become more than a hobby for you? what did that shift look like?
I guess it would be when I started training as a classical singer when I was 15. I wanted to be a part of the creative process and see music as more than just this magical thing. I wanted to see the technicality behind it. It was an intense shift—conservatory training is intense, it's filled with a lot of critique to the point that it feels like nitpicking. Movies like "Black Swan" and "Whiplash" exaggerate what that type of life is (for example, that professor in "Whiplash" would so be fired), however it kind of does feel like that in one's head. Professors will find every flaw and one kind of gets obsessed with reaching perfection.  

Q: How do you set goals and boundaries for yourself as an artist?
A friend once said: "Done is better than perfect,” and that really stuck with me. I apply that to myself in my craft, let that be in my performance art, DJing, or music. As for goals, I can get way into my head and think: "I want to make an event that 500 people will go to and I will get on a pole and start doing CIRCUS TRICKS!" Of course, at my current state of capacity, that is impossible. So I try to boil down this fantasy into core concepts: "I want a group of people—realistically, let's say 100—and I want to dance like a serpent. OK, let me stretch and practice every few days and make it as beautiful as I can." I try to make everything as real as possible and not beat myself up when things don't go as planned. It's all a learning experience.

Q: What are you looking forward to? in your own career? or perhaps in the industry, at large?
I am aspiring to eventually be a master of my craft, to be able to live off doing this. I would like to be in a nice circle of people where I can be a kooky, old person. Keep in mind, I don't want fame. That's too much work and misery.

Q: What currently inspires you (could be people, places, things, Instagram accounts—you name it)?
JEVA: I am very inspired by Caribbean identity. I try to explore in my work different aspects of what living in the Caribbean is like, let it be from my own lived experiences or how foreigners perceive us. I also like to satirize colonial perceptions of tropical life in my imagery (artificial flowers, Hawaiian prints and oversaturated colors).

Q: Could you explain your artistic name and why you chose it?
JEVA is Puerto Rican slang for girlfriend (I've heard it used mostly for casual dating, though I've also heard it used with serious partners as a cutesy term) but it also refers to someone who is a total babe. One can also use "jeva" as an adjective. "Ella está bien jeva” equals “she is such a babe.”

Want to dance all night with JEVA? Head over to Redbull Presents: Equal Axis on Saturday Dec. 15 from 10 PM to 4 AM at 607 Neches St. Austin, Texas. Austin collectives, Unbounded Agency and Thank You For Sweating, have teamed up to create this incomparably unique event featuring local multidisciplinary DJs, performance and visual artists, running the spectrum of humanness. Equal Axis will be host to artistic contributions from POC, queer, gender non-conforming and non-binary creatives as well as allies, using the event as a platform for visibility around queerness through expression, performance, activations and installations, as well as Maya Jane Coles' Texas debut. ALL ARE WELCOME, just be yourself, bring yourself, and your dancing shoes. Tickets are only $10 and available now.

Jane Claire HerveyComment