Nearly a decade in the making, Femina-X’s KIVA comes to fruition at the most relevant moment. As heart-rending images of frightened immigrant children torn from their families at the US border fill our conscience, I can’t help but consider “Save Me, Coyote”, a poetic song from the Latin alternative band’s forthcoming album. The emotionally charged piece was written in 2015 in response to the huge influx of child immigrants fleeing poverty and violence. Femina-X often opens their live sets with “Save Me, Coyote” and the single is one of several thought-provoking explorations to be included on KIVA, a conceptual, Latin-folk journey filled with tremendous joy, heartache and optimistic perseverance. The evocative sophomore album will be released on July 6th and is the band’s medicinal response to the increasingly uneasy climate of our national and global society. We were fortunate enough to speak with Femina-X’s passionate frontwoman, Daniela Riojas, and peel back the layers of KIVA. See what the compelling vocalist had to say below.
Femina-X laid it all on the line with your debut, Multiverse. How does KIVA compare or does it not try to and instead go towards a completely new direction?
There are definitely both similarities and differences between Multiverse and KIVA, but despite the difference in sound and instrumentation, the two albums still resonate from the same source. Multiverse was a collection of far-reaching explorations; it was not intended to be a cohesive body of work. Instead, it was trying to stretch genre and convention as far as possible while maintaining somewhat of a pop structure. Each song meant to be its own universe. With KIVA, there is an intention of cohesion. KIVA is our medicine album and our response to the increasingly uneasy climate of our national and global society. We also brought some very old songs back into the fray, including the first song that me and Alex Scheel (guitarist) made together 7 years ago called “Happy Roof Dirt” and a song I started writing 9 years ago called “Tiny Girl” that I finished this past year after my mom past away. “Cura A Mi Madre” is a song I wrote for my mother when she was admitted to the hospital last May, not knowing she’d never leave and it’d be my last ode she’d hear. KIVA is a very emotional album, filled with tremendous joy, with grief, and with a willingness to live through it all hoping for something to give back to the world.
What was different about recording and producing KIVA compared to Multiverse?
Recording the majority of Multiverse actually took much less time. We spent a week at Sonic Ranch and Brainville in El Paso to record all the instruments and half of the vocals. What took the longest was getting a computer and set up that we could mix the album on and also learning ProTools completely from scratch. We worked with several engineers, trying to find the right person to mix Multiverse with, but we eventually realized that we needed to do it ourselves and then set out to learn the program and get the necessary equipment to open up our project files. Needless to say, that process can take some time!! By the time Multiverse was released last year, we already had a new album to record, but we knew we had to release Multiverse first and give it its time to live in the world. After a tour and filming a new music video, in October of 2017 we stepped into a new studio with an engineer and began recording KIVA. From the get-go, we wanted to capture a live band sound with full drums, strings, voice layers, guitar and bass with less emphasis on electronics. (there’s really only one song with definite electronic sounds ‘Las Caderas’)
Will KIVA possess that other-worldy aesthetic that Femina-X has seemed to master so well?
Yes, KIVA will still maintain its other-wordly vibe. I think that will likely be an inherent part of our music, no matter the different ways we choose to explore it. It isn’t something we set out to do, it is something that forms intuitively, which is why I say the ‘source’ remains the same from Multiverse to KIVA. Ceremony, nature, optimism, fantasy, science, and a need to carve out a slice of oasis are all a part of who we are as people. So naturally that all flows into the music.
Will the new album hit hard on Femina-X’s Latin roots?
Yes definitely! I think KIVA will more concretely define Femina-X as a Latin alternative band that is exploring its roots. And the “alternative” aspect of it will find its voice more prominently alongside the “Latin.” The fusion is happening on many levels. There is jazz, Native, African, tropical, folk, desert, and otherworldly coinciding in different ways.
We still get defined or labeled as electronic/rock even though we haven’t played with electronics in a very long time. Though, our live set up will include translating vocal harmonies and string parts to key parts, lending all the songs to an ethereal quality.
Will KIVA touch on some of the social commentary that’s so relevant right now?
I wrote “Las Caderas” on an upturn from grieving…wanting to step back into the joy of life after feeling the great loss of my mother. Though, the lyrics are a bit critical of our divided lives and perceptions of each other created by social media. It’s also a critique of the kind of hostility and bullying that happens online, including ordeals that I’ve personally went through. Social media, for all the good that it’s done, has also created a newer kind of pain. Public shaming and unbridled spillage of anger, hate, and vitriol are something that we’re absorbing and having to internalize, deal with, and move through nowadays. I hope we can get to a point of communicating better and using these tools with more compassion and sense.
What do you hope listeners will take away after hearing KIVA?
I hope that they walk away experiencing a cascade of sounds, colors, images, emotions, and thought-provoking ideas. And that they all in some way make them feel more connected, not alone, and reflected. I hope they will feel a stir in their soul and a feeling of being alive.
KIVA will be released on July 6th with an official release party that evening at Sam’s Burger Joint in San Antonio. For additional information visit http://www.femina-x.com/.