Even before i met Anna Cuevas, her project Dès Vu was enshrined with a sort of mythical presence. My partner first turned me onto her work when we were sourcing bands and projects for a benefit show to combat the racist and xenophobic US border crisis, which has denied safe entry for thousands of asylum seekers to the US, we reached out to several acts and the first one to respond with a resounding yes, almost instantly, was Dès Vu. Benefit shows can be tough, as underground music shows usually have a razor thin margin financially for paying artists/performers as it is, without even taking into consideration money for the space/promoters, never mind extra money to donate to a cause. The financial logistics of running a small to mid sized DIY show and coming out in the black are often next to impossible without a big crowd, sponsors, and a hefty amount of press backing the event.
“Dès Vu means the the awareness that this will become a memory,”
For many micro scenes benefit shows often require the artists and space to donate their time, money and resources to be able to raise enough money to make a big enough financial impact, with the artists donating their time, talent, and resources for free. Putting together (last minute) or any benefit shows often cuts down the choices of performers, as many simply cannot donate their labor for free or discounted artist fees, so the fact that Dès Vu not only agreed to play our show, and immediately stated that she didn’t need payment, and we’re excited to participate was just the boost we needed to get the benefit show rolling, only later, and still at the time of this interview am I figuring out that activism is a big part of the work of Des Vu, so it was no surprise that she were our first ally in bringing together a solid lineup. We sat down and spoke with Anna about her creative process, education, and future creative endeavors.
Welcome to Decaycast Interviews, please talk a little bit about the origin of your current recording and performance project Dés Vu?
Dès Vu (day voo) quickly manifested early 2018 in Birmingham, AL, my hometown. After a long writer’s block, one day I played one of the synths of my now-producer, and what became the EP’s “cycling affect” flowed out. That breakthrough compelled me to transform sketches I’d been writing on my synth into full songs. Dès Vu means “the awareness that this will become a memory,” and that all feels like a dream now that my musical path pulled me to the Bay.
How is the Bay Area different from Birmingham based on your experience within music artists and activist circles?
I’m really grateful for my Birmingham roots helping me bloom into who I’m becoming, but I see and hear myself far more in the Bay Area creative communities. Here there’s a lot more music in the spirit of what I make, and I don’t get questioned about being racially ambiguous, which has been really refreshing. In many ways I feel more comfortable performing here despite not knowing nearly as many people as where I grew up. Birmingham has a strong DIY community and network of grassroots movements, but those circles were pretty separate. Here there’s much more overlap which really resonates with my music. There’s also more people and resources for more radical organizing and direct actions, but the movement in Birmingham works as hard, just in a different way. They are such different places and I’m still adjusting to what initially felt like culture shock but in a good way for me. One’s preference just depends on what one is seeking and wanting.
Can you talk a little bit more about radical Organizing and the connection to your work if any?
Though not an inherently political project, my music instinctively weaves some radical anthems among more prominent ballads centering mental health. I consider those themes deeply connected; one way being how racism and capitalism shape the climate of modern society.
In Alabama I did a lot of grassroots work with workers’ rights, immigrant justice, prison abolition, reproductive and gender equity, and police brutality. Despite no longer having the stamina to continue frontline organizing, solidarity will always be a part of my work as I feel compelled to embrace the movement In my platform. However, while the EP’s “decolonize” and the single “for Rojava” highlight anti-imperialism and anti-fascism, my music primarily strives to create a world beyond this one.
So more of a vision of a different future than responding to the current one?
I like how you put that – it does respond to the current one but is also pushing for something more in a healing way.
Also knowing you’re a teacher In Oakland, had this affected your work at all in any way ? Have you ever we shown your students your music?
Actually yes, I recently had a music idea come to me about when public schools close for good and all the dynamics that entails. It’s not something those outside of education probably hear much about and discuss even less but through music, I can highlight that disparity that branches beyond schools and seeps into our communities, and yes I have shown my students my music.
Do you think social distancing has had an impact on your practice so far? Have you been in the mood to make music / art or not so much?]
Social distancing has had a big impact on my practice so far the first nearly three weeks (at the time of this interview) of quarantine, I really struggled with maintaining a creative focus. At first, I started feeling imposter syndrome, like why was I not using this extra time to churn out new material. . Then I realized that the change to working remotely in education was not only not allowing as much free time as many who sadly lost their jobs, but was also taking an extra emotional toll with the urgency to prioritize mutual aid for our school’s families. Parent conferences by phone prefaced academic updates with asking what basic needs, if any, the families lacked. Some weren’t sure how they were even going to get more diapers diving in to a bit of mutual aid outside of my job, looking to social media more to stay connected, and feeling the need to stay updated with news deeply affected my headspace for a while before I noticed how much it had negatively impacted my basic self-care. I felt kind of selfish for wanting to work on my music more than usual during these times, but now i’m reminded how crucial our own healthy wellbeing is before helping others so much embracing that notion now, i’ve started naturally practicing, writing, and recording fluidly again. As a solo artist with a bedroom recording setup. my imposter syndrome was exaggerated since i wasn’t even having to adjust to virtual group practices like many I know. Creating feels more like medicine than it ever has as it’s helping me process our new collective reality. My practice feels even more purposed now; though still very much digging inward, i’m projecting outward a lot more, like sending energy instead of staying in my own head so much. This will likely be a permanent shift as it will be impossible to ever completely forget these times we’re currently navigating.
Any future projects you’d like to discuss or general things to let our readers know about anything?
My producer is nearly done mastering the re-release of my EP, though unsure when I’ll be able to tour on it. My music video locations are also currently on pause, but I’ve been working on new songs for about a year and am learning to produce it myself
I do have another music project I’ve started but haven’t announced more details of yet and am not rushing it.
Generally, I encourage those who are financially able to donate to Bay Area mutual aid efforts: some that come to mind are houseless aid through :
Bay Area Workers Support (sex workers),
Oakland Food Workers’ Fund, and We Are The Ones Mutual Care Fund — * for the unhoused, East Oakland Collective is taking donations for hand-washing stations ($162 / month) and portable toilets ($142 / month) PayPal: email@example.com
Follow Des Vu on Instagram : @mind__mirage