Y La Bamba Talks Identity And Self-Expression: BUST Interview

by Haley Maiden

The Portland, Oregon-based band Y La Bamba is the perfect mix of smooth electronic music and folky pop, with the presence of unique and etherial vocal melodies. Frontwoman Luz Elena Mendoza is a vision with her silver bowl cut enchants you with soulful crooning. She spoke with BUST on issues of identity, community, and exploring physic powers.

Luz, a good portion of your songs are sung in Spanish. I would love to hear about the significance behind creating bilingual albums. 

It’s a visceral route. I write and create the way it unfolds out of my heart, mind, and body. It’s that mystery of love and memory sifted together. It’s what comes out naturally. It’s my translation to another way of emoting and communicating all that is within me out into this physical reality. It’s my breath, it’s a way I know myself emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally.

Does your identity reflect this balance of English and Spanish in your music?

The question of identity has been on my heart. I am a extension of my mother, my father, my brother, my ancestors, my friends, my community. I am what I have consumed and what I have been affected by, the hard and the good in this world. Being a Chicana Mexican American has been and is a strengthening journey. I feel like it’s so strong — celebrating our beauty and history, and being it and healing from and with it. I write in Spanish because it wants to be sung, I write in English because it wants to be said. And for so many reasons I can’t understand, well, that is left to the unknown. And within that kick lies that balance that is what it is in my art. That is what it is to be alive and human and let that be its voice, its own will.

Would you tell me a little bit about your life leading up to Y La Bamba?

I was in Ashland, Oregon struggling with some health issues pretty early on in my 20s, and I was a body piercer and was in and out of playing in bands. It was a really beautiful time, I love those Ashland folk. Then I moved to Portland, and of course had some jams with friends, and one thing led to another, and I have been on my path since.


Would you talk a little bit about your new projects and what you are currently working on?

I am getting ready to go on tour soon and right after I am working on a Day of the Dead celebration in PDX (Portland) with my community, and that is something that I put my heart into. I am ready to record another album. I have so much on my mind and heart. It’s a conversation that I will continue to share in this world, so stay tuned.

How has the Portland community responded to your music over the years you have been based there? 

Portland has been my home and has been my rock for 10 and half years now. There’s so much love here, and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what has molded me into who I am. Portland and the homies here have been kind and supportive to my path as a human. I am just who I am, and there is a lot to heal, learn, and to grow from.

Do you notice a big difference in audiences when you tour around the Country?

Yeah, it varies for sure. I love going down the Southern borders, it’s where I feel at home. I love Colorado, California, and I mean, our East Coast friends have always been kind to us.

In your opinion, which elements must be present in order for a concert to be successful? 

Preparation and meditation.


As a female artist, do you think there are double standards in the industry? 

I can answer this questions in so many different ways. Yes. I have been growing so much the last couple of years through hindsight. Just seeing what I have been and still go through by being a first generation, light-skinned, Mexican, tall woman in this industry has hurt my heart in so many ways, on so many levels. Geesh. I have found so much love in playing with my lady friends of color here in PDX and encouraging one another to be present and be who we are, compassionate fierce warriors that have a voice and that we are so strong that it speaks for itself. It is clear that our beauty and strength intimidates all industries.

Have you learned any major lessons from other bands that you have toured with? 

I love seeing that family on the road who take care one another. That is the ongoing lesson in life. When you are on the road it’s so key to be kind and check yourself.

You are a role model for many aspiring indie musicians (especially young women), do you have any advice that you’d like to share?

Explore your psychic abilities. Dream big, sing loud, and celebrate your vulnerability.


Photos from Y La Bamba’s Instagram

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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