Throughout the history of popular music, mysticism has been an enduring muse for many a hit songwriter. Stevie Nicks famously sang of a Welsh witch that enthralled millions; David Bowie’s cosmic tales inspired many an astronaut; rock en español legend Gustavo Cerati of Soda Stereo evoked fervid devotion among fans with tales of immortality and spiraling stars. And every once in a blue moon, a younger act will emerge to write their own mythologies anew.
Enter Fémina: the Argentine folk-fusion trio whose plush harmonies, paired with bare-bones percussions, channel the otherworldly essence of Patagonia. Born and raised in San Martín de los Andes, a pastoral small town in Neuquén, Argentina, sisters Sof Tot (Sofia Trucco), Wen (Clara Trucco), and their childhood best friend Claridad (Clara Miglioli) source their creative energy from what they call their “magical” native home. “Spirituality is a great inspiration [for our music], where we find depth and truth,” Sof Tot tells Rolling Stone over the phone, while in between tour stops in Mexico.
The trio moved to Buenos Aires in 2002, where they immersed themselves in the capital’s urban scene, delving into hip-hop and street dance, with touches of bohemian flair. In 2014, they dropped their first album Traspasa, a vibrant, rootsy affair; followed by the mystical folk of Deshice De Mi the next year. Iggy Pop eventually took note and repeatedly featured the three-piece on his BBC Radio show, 6 Music. In their new single, “Resist” — a slice of serene avant-pop that guest-stars Iggy himself — Fémina continue their search to uncover worldly mysteries, which became the crux of their forthcoming third album, Perlas & Conchas (Pearls and Shells), out April 5th.
On Perlas & Conchas, you feature two brilliant artists: cumbia super-producer and accordionist Quantic (a.k.a. Will Holland), and punk legend Iggy Pop. They both bring disparate and powerful energies to your own sound. How did you link up with them?
Sof Tot: Everything that happened around Perlas & Conchas was and is magical and at times surreal. [Collaborating with] both Quantic and Iggy have been beautiful gifts. We wanted to work with a versatile producer who knows how to fuse different styles and sounds that we’re presenting in our new material, and Quantic was perfect for our latest work. We met in Seattle a few years back, and we just hit it off. Once we got talking, his manager proposed that Will produced our new album — like if the universe had heard our wish. He said he loved our work, and so we started recording the album in his Brooklyn studio, Selva Studios.
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The Iggy chapter was totally unexpected and borderline psychedelic. It started when he featured our music on his BBC radio show. We tried reaching out to thank him for the love but weren’t able to. Then, he gave us a second shout out on his show! We couldn’t stay put any longer, so we tried again until we got some replies that led to him. We invited him to our Miami show [in 2017], aware that he has a house there, but he said he was leaving on tour that night. When we landed we headed to the beach, and to our surprise, an unknown number called us, and a deep voice said, “Hey girls, it’s Iggy.” We couldn’t believe it! He invited us over to his house and we went. He was shirtless, of course, and he welcomed us in and knew each of our names. We drank mate, showed us his art collection, and the paintings he did in his youth. Eventually, we said goodbye. We thought it’d be beautiful to sing with him but were unsure how to propose the idea. Then, the very next day, we read his interview in Rolling Stone, [in which] he recommended us as one of his musical discoveries! That was the push, so we emailed him [about collaborating], and he replied, “Yeah sure, I’d love to.”
You’ve stated that your new song “Resist” talks about “the mysterious journey that is life.” What do you mean by that?
Claridad: It’s about the search for identity, being our true selves and everything that it comes with: the lights and the shadows. It talks about love in all its various forms. It’s about following your calling, and not giving up in adverse moments. This is the general premise of our new album. Iggy Pop became a very strong engine who gave us a bigger push and more potency. We admire the passion he has for art.
In the new video, Iggy Pop plays the moon!
Sof Tot: In various phases of the album, we reference art history. The mouth in the sky is a reference to [dada artist] Man Ray, and Iggy as the moon is a nod to surrealism. The idea came after joking around that the surreal thing to do was to add Iggy’s face on the moon, in a Buñuel- and Dali-style.
There’s a witchy vibe to your style — both musically and aesthetically. What inspires this?
Sof Tot: We are very spiritual, each with our own personal search where we find many points of intersection. The three of us are in constant spiritual enrichment. Spirituality is a great inspiration where we find depth and truth. We have our healers that we work with from our hometown. We practice meditation, do yoga, and have also studied the tarot. We each continue to delve further into what resonates most within us.
On the album cover, you wear little more than seashells. What is the concept behind the image and album title?
Wen: Shells transform threats and adversities into treasures — pearls. We’re representing shells and pearls because we can transform ourselves, and sublimate our adversities into something beautiful. Everyone is a precious treasure because we come from a mother. In the album cover, we appear undressed to symbolize newborn. This also emulates different symbolism, from art history, the tarot, and nature itself. Mother Venus gives birth to the whole world.
Sof Tot: In our country, the word “concha” [seashell in Spanish] is slang for vagina. We use the word as an empowerment for women. This is the time for powerful seashells! And the need for love, evolution, and revolution.
When Rolling Stone featured you as Artists to Watch in 2017, you described your hometown as “a magical place” with “a lot of power in the environment.” Can you tell us some of the myths, stories, or encounters that you have experienced in San Martín de los Andes that have marked you forever?
Wen: Our home, San Martín de los Andes, is a place where you encounter nature, and nature has the power to turn you to the essentials — the truly important — and to connect you with origins and the mystic. Patagonia is a place full of myths, from goblins to aquatic creatures and extraterrestrials — myths or truths, believe it or not. We grew up like that, surrounded by that energy, feeding ourselves and being part of it.
You moved to Buenos Aires in 2002, and then toured extensively, from Brazil to Australia and Turkey. What has leaving the country taught you about yourselves?
Wen: Moving to the city was a necessary step to expand our horizons, meet new people from other parts of the world, grow, and to nourish from that creative chaos that cities offer. Traveling is always inspirational — seeing new places, meeting new people, living new stories, and soaking up different cultures and traditions. All of this inspires our art. It’s amazing to realize that, despite different languages and customs, there is one universal language, and music knows how to speak very well for itself. It unites us, and it’s a gift to witness this.
This interview was originally conducted in Spanish.