Swirly, twirly hair, stage names as titles of their invented biographies of little divas and their complicated lives across the US, all holding on to the same dream: singing.
Pepper, Cherry and Sugar (Valentina Ruggeri, Vera Dragone and Teresa Federico) are three singers in the 1950’s style, with the band name Ladyvette, playing pop songs from the 90’s to the light, pulsating rhythm of swing music. Almost four years into the formation of their band, Ladyvette have already performed in many Italian theaters and achieved their goal of performing in the vintage, melodic New York they’ve been inspired by (kind of like in a homecoming as they would say).
When and how did you meet?
Ladyvette came to be 3 ½ years ago. It started off as a game in the train from Genova to Rome, when Pepper came up with an idea and called Sugar and Cherry, who still didn’t know each other. What idea was it? The next day we were divas in petticoats, high heels and bright red lipstick!
You picked a specific time, the 1950’s in America. What attracted about that period?
The 1950’s, especially in America, were years of creative rebirth, versus war and destruction. So in this unstable historical period we decided to laugh in the face of crisis by becoming Divas. It was a period of elegance, class and femininity, but especially a time of hope and lightheartedness, which are all values that need to be found again now.
There is no denying that the fascination for style is very strong. Then we were attracted to the rhythm, the lindy hop and all the vintage culture that permeates the swing music.
It is quality music, fun and bright.
How is it different from the 50’s in Italy?
Right after the war, Italy was still struggling to recover. Wellbeing came later, in the 60’s, with the economic boom. In Italy the image of women was still very far from the American vision. Women struggled to find a place in society, most were still peasants.
Irony is the main ingredient of your songs, with witty theatrical scenes and sharp lines. What do you enjoy about this choice?
The 1950’s atmosphere allows us to be ironic about our world today, with the right amount of detachment, being able to deal with women’s issues in a new, never vulgar light. We are little Divas, we bring about the elegance and style of the great divas with an addition of irony and particularly self-irony, which people can relate to. That’s our winning formula.
America, New York especially, is the place to be for all those who love jazz and swing. It’s a testing ground for any singer, as Liza would say “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”. Such a crowded music scene provides for very high-adrenaline experiences, it’s kind of like bungee jumping! We also happen to be neurotically curious about things, we need to see what happens on the other side of the world and be part of it.
Given the international vibe of your trio, you’d expect to hear more songs in English.
We sing both in Italian and in English, with foreign and Italian classics, pop songs from the 90’s with some swing and irony in them. But what we enjoy the most is our fun, original songs. They’re all in Italian now, but we’re looking into the possibility of translating them and writing more in English. Though we’ve come to realize how Americans love hearing Italian songs, our language has a strong, exotic charm to it.
Back in October you performed at several events in New York, from Siderwalk Cafè to the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. Was that the first time in the Big Apple for you? What was the experience like for your band?
They love us in New York and they proved it! From day one we were welcomed with genuine enthusiasm. We got to sing in historical places like the Birdland, Joe’s pub with Chiara Civello, in a ton of different, awesome little clubs. It was magical! We had photo shoots and appeared in American and Italian-American TV shows. We loved the way they welcomed us and surely plan on going back soon.
What did you find most fascinating about the New York music scene?
It’s incredibly easy to find opportunities in New York. Italy often falls short in that, you are promised things that don’t happen, whereas in America they really do happen. It’s about merit, if you prove what you’re worth, chances are given to you. Plus there’s offers for all music genres and tastes. All sorts of music is played, everywhere, at all times. New York thrives on music!
Is it hard for an Italian singer to stand out? How did you get where you are?
We are three actor-singers. When we embarked on this experience, we immediately realized how our path would involve multiple aspects. We created a sort of musical variety, with a strong theatrical influence and lots of improvisation, which is what makes us unique in Italy. We perform in concerts as well as theaters, we’ve been in many TV shows and even got to be part of the TV fiction “Il paradiso delle signore” on Rai1. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy! We’re faced with obstacles on a daily basis, but we’re resilient too. Luckily there are three of us, when one feels down, the other two can support her.
Do you think America follows swing of the 1950’s more than Italy?
Jazz and swing classics are deep-rooted in America, it’s like in their DNA. In Italy there were many successful singers in the 1940’s (Trio Lescano, Rabagliati, Bonino, Buscaglione), but Italians still feel like this music doesn’t belong to them. That’s the very reason we grew so interested in swing, lindy hop and vintage in general. Let’s put it this way: Italians are starting to love this genre, while in America it’s a long-lived love.
If Ladyvette could pick any place in America to go on tour, what would it be?
Anyplace would work! It’d be very interesting to see how people react in different parts of America. So, our tour should cover the whole country! We definitely can’t wait to perform in Las Vegas, it matches our lamé outfits!
What are your plans (real ones and wishes) for the future?
Just one: conquering the world!
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