San Antonio Music Awards 2014 Current’s Choice: Femina-X

What does a band that claims Aphex Twin, Erykah Badu, mariachi singer Vicente Fernández and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as influences sound like exactly? You’d be hard-pressed to come up with Femina-X out of that cross cultural jumble of influences, especially given the overt turn-of-the-millennia Björk vibe the group exudes. However, that wide-ranging eclecticism comes more into focus when speaking with Femina-X’s frontwoman Daniela Riojas.

Take the new song “Hieroine” she’s currently working on. “It’s based on a character I’ve been coming up with whose superpower is wielded through hieroglyphics, using symbolism to communicate in this universal way,” Riojas explains. “[The lyrics] are really just gibberish, but the idea is to represent emotion in a personal way, just not one that makes sense alphabetically.”

This idea of finding offbeat ways to approach songwriting, be it lyrically or musically, seems to follow a trend with Riojas, who first formed an interest in electronic sounds through the roundabout path of classical music.

“I was in concert band all of high school, playing French horn,” she explains. “So when I got to [the electronic composition program] Reason, I saw a lot of correlation between classical and electronic, the way the music swells and moves. Even the map of the screen is built like a musical staff, so it’s been easy to translate musical notation to the MIDI stuff. It’s just more malleable, allowing you to build everything: the bass, drums, the little weird electronic sounds.”

She took many of those early electronic experiments to Pop Pistol singer/guitarist Alex Scheel, the two collaborating to flesh out the first Femina-X tracks.

“The first tracks I played live were very bare bones, just me and a laptop,” says Riojas. “Then Alex jumped in on guitar to help out, then Jorge [Gonzales] from Pop Pistol came in on drums and then Jacob [Burris] on bass.”

That four-piece lineup has carried forward to the present, with Chris Cooper now subbing in for Gonzales on drums. For his part, Scheel spoke about the challenge of putting aside his frontman duties in Pop Pistol to fit his role in Femina-X.

“It’s about being in a supportive role rather than a dictatorship role,” he explains. “It’s been good for me. Especially when we’re working on music, a lot of times everyone in the band will all hear something and say ‘yeah that’s great.’ But [Daniella] just has this whole different way of hearing things and she’ll often catch something that needs to be fixed. She’s really good about pushing us to improve.”

“We’ve already had the itch to tour around, but I think we still need to work on getting shit down right now,” said Riojas. “We have about seven solid songs that we could put out, maybe an EP. But even [with] those singles recorded, it feels like we’ve already evolved into something different.”

It’s a restlessness that’s kept them as one of SA’s most intriguing new acts to follow.

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