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In recent years, Sofía Naara has snuck up on us to quietly become one of our favorite talents in the Buenos Aires independent music scene. While her previous work with the project Ohdiosa and the boisterous power-trio Mugre had already caught our attention, it was her latest solo album, Las Torpezas, that truly cemented her as a unique talent to look out for.
A masterful exploration of the complexities of human emotion, Las Torpezas is a beautifully enigmatic and layered album that showcases Sofia’s unique creative vision. Produced by Lucy Patané and Mariana Michi, its intricate soundscapes are nuanced and mysterious, with a healthy dose of experimental flair woven throughout, while still remaining accessibly melodic and emotional. Its lyrics deal largely with the process of self-transformation through interpersonal relationships. This striking combination secured the album’s place among La La Lista’s 22 best Argentine albums of 2022.
Las Torpezas didn’t have an easy entry into the world. It took three years of work (interrupted by a terrifying global pandemic that upended life as we knew it) to finally reach completion, and yet it feels as natural and organic as if it had been simply breathed into existence. Each track on Las Torpezas invites listeners on a deeply personal journey through Sofia’s world, as she expertly navigates between melodically rich compositions and emotionally charged, percussive arrangements. Her artistic prowess shines through in every note, earning her recognition as one of the most compelling talents in the local music scene.
Sofia Naara is bringing the songs of Las Torpezas to the stage, with a show on April 21st at La Casa del Árbol and one on May 24th at Casa Brandon (tickets available here). In our exclusive interview with Sofia, she shares intimate details about her experiences over the last two years, her creative process, her artistic journey, the making of Las Torpezas, and the challenges of bringing its nuanced sounds to the live stage.
Tell me about your journey, your creative and artistic process over the last 2 years, because there was a quite disruptive situation for everyone making music. Tell me a bit about how you navigated that.
I sat down and grabbed on to the album because I started it at the end of 2019, so in 2020, I was in the middle of the process, and the work I was doing was so big. There were so many people involved and so much still to do that my process was just that, supported by the sense of continuity. Life was at an absolute pause. So, making an album was a guide, a reason, something that kept me in touch with what I had been doing years before the pandemic, what I wanted to continue doing in that strange present, and what I was going to continue doing when it was over.
It was like being connected with something very concrete, which felt good. Knowing “today I have to do this, I have to listen to that, I have to record, I have to send audios,” I don’t know, there was a lot of activity. Virtually, the process of making the album served as a raft. And on a personal level, I started in one place and finished the album in another. It was like when Alice fell into the hole; I came out as a different person. I changed very concrete things thanks to making the album, so in addition to being a raft, it was also a tunnel I came out of.
This album has a pretty well-defined aesthetic identity. Although it is eclectic, there is a clear sonic continuity. Were you looking for a specific aesthetic, or did it develop as you recorded?
When we first met with Lucy Patané and Mariana Michi, we said, “Well, let’s listen to everything we have, let’s kill whatever we have to kill, and let’s move forward”. There were two songs that were left out because they dealt in a different language, and there was one that made it further into the process until I realized I couldn’t inhabit it. That left us with 13 songs. My goal was always to create a complete work with its own journey, and my intention was always to sequence it in a way that felt like a journey, even if it was different for each person. These are such relational songs that, for me, within each song, there is a little scene. So, my intention was always for each song to have its own universe, within an island, and inside there are tribes or shelters, but in the end, it is all a journey within that same place.
And what happens to the song that you couldn’t inhabit? Do you consider it for another project, or do you abandon it fully?
It’s the first time I record something so long and can leave songs out because the previous experiences had been much more compact, an EP or a single song, and everything was very clear. So, it’s the first time that I could say “well, I have these leftovers I’m leaving out.” Right now, I’m keeping them in a little drawer, not sure if it’ll ever come out. For now, they’re just sleeping there, not even thinking about other projects.
What instrument do you compose with? I’m always curious about that with people who play percussion if that somehow affects the way they compose if the rhythm is the first thing that comes to them.
I mostly composed with the guitar or a cappella, which is what comes most organically to me. I don’t hear the rhythm first, but in my original guitar compositions, there is something a very strong rhythmic element. There’s something quite drum-like or related to keeping time throughout the piece or staying in a loop and repeating and repeating. I don’t know; there’s always something very present at the rhythmic level.
Was playing drums something you fell into, or was it the instrument you started with?
My first experience creating my own sounds was when I was 5 years old, I suppose. My first sounds were always songs. I’ve always been very connected to the song format, and covers, and karaoke, but not to writing my own songs. When I was older and started to explore music as a craft I became drawn to percussion, that is, accompanying songs with something that had also been very innate to me, which was rhythm and percussion instruments. I started accompanying Jazmín Esquivel with the cajón, but right away, I was like, “I think I’d like to play the drums.” So I didn’t just fall into it, I chose it. It also changed as a result of the local scene, I started to see that people could use a bass drum and a can, so unconsciously I entered the world of drums, but always prioritizing the song. I’m not going to study how to play 6/8 triplets or 3/4 triplets for 5 hours straight at 182 BPM, that is just not where my interest lies.
After working on an album for three years, do you feel like you can sit down and listen to it as a complete work, or are you fed up?
I’ve never listened to anything as much as I’ve listened to this album in my life. At the time of the mix, I listened, listened, and listened until I had nothing more to say. I also listened to it again recently, to write out the lyrics and send them neatly to the person who will upload them because you can put the lyrics on Instagram, so I listened to it again to make sure not a single word was out of place. Yeah, I listened to it a lot, to be honest.
It’s a very thoroughly crafted album, I liked it a lot.
It’s big. I felt it was growing, it’s a 3-year-old infant living life.
What are the challenges and pleasures of bringing the songs from Las torpezas to the stage?
Self-demand is always my biggest challenge, of course, in all aspects of the project. I have to fight small internal battles, sometimes more, sometimes less, to connect with what is available, with what we have for everything to go well. Of course, this point has a direct relationship with the economic challenge that has been surrounding most of us for too long: if I don’t have enough resources to put together a team that covers the needs of the ideal, starting with a “large” band in which to distribute most of the sounds that make up the album, how do I translate these songs live without having to spend months and months saving money to afford it?
Towards the end of last year, I managed to understand the limits that existed and build a desire that didn’t feel limited: I found a great and genuine desire to reduce the songs to a rawer form, presenting them in an essential state independent of the adornments that appear in the album. That’s how I called Euge Sasso to reinterpret all the songs from Las Torpezas on the acoustic guitar, with her immense sensitivity and her wonderful handling of the instrument. The pleasures began to materialize first in the form of illusion (while writing the message to Euge), and then in the form of rehearsals, conversations, new calls (to Caro Angriman, to add her poetry, to Jose Chevalier, for the stage art). Both the artistic process of conceiving, developing, and interpreting the concert-work and the bond that is formed among those of us who dedicate ourselves to that task are my greatest pleasures. Being an artist, and being one in society.
In addition to the musical side, the album has a significant visual treatment and aesthetic. Will we see it reflected in the shows?
At the moment, no. The concept that the album’s aesthetic carries will prevail: fragmentation and re-union. The songs, fragments of the album will be united by Caro Angriman’s poetry, and the entire concert will be divided by time and space, in that the first part will take place one night in April, and the second, another night, in May. As for the particular aesthetics of each show, La Casa del Árbol will be a stage-home, with elements that feel more like “home,” while at Casa Brandon, we will be situated in a context of projections, playing with the sensation of non-place or “dreamlike space” that, at least for me, that particular cultural space provides.
What have you learned anew about these songs when adapting them to a live format? Do you see them differently?
In this particular sound and scenic proposal, more than seeing the songs with different eyes, I see them again with the creator’s eyes: a gaze that enhances, rather than defines. I learned that if I want to take the basic elements of the songs (melody, harmony, rhythm) and build different versions with them for each time they are presented on stage, I can do it. It’s a feeling of reinvention, independence, and recycling that does me a lot of good in many ways.
Sofía Naara will be performing on April 21st at La Casa del Árbol and on May 24th at Casa Brandon. Tickets are available here.