Teenage angst paid off well for Nirvana, but Krist Novoselic is hardly bored and old. Though he has kept a low profile in the music industry since Kurt Cobain’s suicide, Novoselic co-founded the political group Joint Artists and Music Promotions Political Action Committee (JAMPAC) in 1995, mostly to fight music censorship. On the musical front, he has kept busy with Sweet 75, the band he formed with Yva Las Vegas, a Venezuelan singer he met when she performed at his twenty-ninth birthday party in 1994. They’ve certainly taken their time putting out a record — their self-titled debut was just released — but it’s doubtful the wait has eliminated any of the pressure. After playing in the most important band of the ’90s, what do you do for an encore?
Switch gears, apparently. Sweet 75’s self-titled debut is many things — lounge music, blues-rock, Venezuelan folk — but it’s most remarkable for what it’s not: grunge. “The number one reaction [is], ‘Oh, I heard your record and it wasn’t what I expected at all,'” says Novoselic, sitting in a Geffen Records conference room with Las Vegas. “People have expectations and we have a real big act to follow.” That’s an understatement, and it already looks as though Sweet 75 won’t be filling Nirvana‘s shoes commercially: Despite Novoselic’s involvement, the album failed to make Billboard’s Top 200 its first week in stores. In any case, as he and Las Vegas discuss their unlikely meeting, their unconventional music and how they plan on dealing with shouted requests for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Novoselic sounds more interested in moving forward than dwelling on Nirvana’s legacy.
You’ve stayed active in the music scene with JAMPAC, but you’ve been out of the album-releasing loop for a while. Why come back now?
Novoselic: Yva and I have been doing this band since the summer of ’94 [and] we’ve been low-key about it. A lot of things changed for me in ’94, so I was just kind of experimenting, going all over the place. We were rehearsing, playing shows sporadically … developing the band. We kind of
wanted to bust out but the label was like, no, take your time. They were like a nurturing mother to us.
Las Vegas: Telling us [we weren’t] ready to
date yet ….
Novoselic: And we’d be, like, come on, Mom, we want to put a record out. [More seriously] We’ve been working on this band for almost three years now. It has taken that long to really get things together and develop the songs.
Comparisons to Nirvana are inevitable. How do you feel about that?
Las Vegas: I want to make sure that [media] people talk to us because of Sweet 75 [and] that they’ve heard the record … not just out of curiosity about Krist and the band.
Novoselic: Take it on its own merits. I remember when Eddie [Vedder] and Dave [Grohl] went out with Mike Watt. That was kind of a media circus because of their respective bands. We’ve just done limited touring
because the touring we did has a whole circus atmosphere because of
that whole Nirvana thing.
How do you deal with that?
Novoselic: I think that’s fine. I plan on taking advantage of it … I’ll take the good and the bad. That’s another reason we’ve been low-key: Until we had a record ready to come out that we were comfortable with, there was no reason to jump into the whole media thing. Sometimes I walk by newstands and I can’t even look at magazines because I’ll turn into a pillar of salt or something. If you look at the magazines and the media sometimes, you know it’s just … I try to be careful about it, especially with this band, which means so much to me. I don’t want to get kicked around.
Yva, what does your family in Venezuela think about you being in a band with the bassist from Nirvana?
Las Vegas: I don’t know that [my family] understands. They know that I have a job and that I play music. The only one who really understands what’s going on is my 14-year-old nephew. All my dad knows is that he likes “Ode to Dolly.”
It seems lots of people who were into punk rock — both musicians and fans — are widening their perspective in terms of other kinds of music. Does Sweet 75 fit into that at all?
Novoselic: The punk rock people come from an unconventional perspective — they turned away from conventional things, they were looking for stimulation. When I discovered punk rock, I was pretty bored musically. [I needed] more stimulation.
Everything in life, I figured out, is stimulation. When you’re looking for new music, you want to be stimulated; when you’re drinking a cup of coffee, you want to be stimulated; when you’re watching TV and there’s a show where the cops are busting all these poor people and harassing them and stuff, that’s all stimulation … Everybody’s just out to get stimulated. That’s our whole
culture — the stimulation culture.
You said somewhere that you’ve gotten over your celebrity …
Novoselic: My big analogy is, in 1990, I was horrified by Operation Desert Storm. It was a good time to be cynical, because there were good reasons to be cynical. And then in 1991, Nirvana exploded and all the same people who [bought] into Desert Storm are buying our record. Then it seems it got really hip to be cynical. Punk rockers were always kind of cynical of mainstream culture, [but] then mainstream culture got cynical, and then there was so much cynicism that you could