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A whale, then a witch, then a bird: an interview with Rubio

A whale, then a witch, then a bird: an interview with Rubio

Rubio performs at the Holocene

Rubio had never performed in Portland before the Chilean duo walked on to the stage at Holocene, the opening act for Ambar Lucid. Their setup was humble: a drum kit, a guitar, several midi keyboards, and a freestanding cymbal, but once they started performing, the charisma of vocalist Francisca Straube, accompanied by the supertight interplay of electronic beats, and the live drumming of Lego Moustache (Nicolás Arancibia) had the crowd captivated. 

Central to the act is Straube’s vocal range, which stretches from ethereal pop tones to guttural primal noises that deviate from all melodic structure. Rubio’s energy is contagious as well, inviting the crowd to dance along to their club rhythms, with everyone moving in anticipation of a new guitar riff, or a splash on the freestanding cymbal with a free hand. By the end of the set, Rubio had won the crowd over, with one concertgoer remarking that they “came for Ambar, but are leaving a fan of Rubio too.” 

Writer Bre DePriest had the opportunity to do an unconventional interview with Francisca Straube. Questions were sent beforehand and translated by Rubio’s manager Vanessa Sandoval.

Bre DePriest: Your sound reminds me of a dark club circa 2003, lost on the dancefloor in a sea of dancers listening to boomy bass, exciting beats and delicate vocal melodies. Growing up how did you feel about music in general? What drew you to creating the type of music that you do? 

Francisca Straube: Since I was a child I have always been a big music lover, from grunge and post rock in my early days to ethnic, trip hop, techno and classical music now. I think that one has stages in life. There are times when one listens to a lot of music and there are days when one doesn’t listen to anything at all. Techno enters my veins for quality in terms of sound. I love subs, and everything that involves textures and synths is a trip for me. I love mixing electronics with voices. A world of sound experimentation opens up for me. And everything that is hypnotic fascinates me, I will always want to investigate that journey. I have always been of minor keys, more melancholic and deep sounds. Happy music is difficult for me, it does not enter into my being. I have a much deeper taste in every way. That’s why I think it’s so hard for me to live in this world and there are so many things I don’t understand about humanity…Rubio is an experiment of melancholy, rhythms and different styles. But melancholy will always be present no matter what style you experience. It is part of my daily life, and of existing.

BD: How was being a drummer influenced your electronic beat making?

FS: I started playing drums at 11 years old and from there my life changed, or rather took a direction towards music. As a girl, I go around percussing everything that comes my way. For me, rhythms and pulse are something that are everywhere, from walking, having sex, or any movement that appears in everyday life…When I started to dedicate myself to music I had no idea about melody, I only had a notion of rhythms, and little by little I have learned the whole language of what melody is, but always from pure intuition. So when it comes to composing the rhythm, it is the first thing in my composition, and I think it is because I have had it since I was very little, and it comes very naturally to me. And today with all the creative tools that exist, it is a giant world to discover. There are too many sounds and textures…ugh…infinite.

BD: Your dynamic vocal melodies seem to fluctuate drastically. How does mood affect the sonic atmosphere you create vocally?

Mmm, I am very fluctuating. They once told me that I could cover several cars on the train in terms of my vocal range. I like to be a whale, then a witch, then a bird and so on… I am very grateful for my vocal states, since they allow me to fly without shame and modesty. When I invent the voices in my songs, I first create them with an invented language, and then I add the lyrics. I think that makes me fluctuate, since I navigate all the spaces with my own language.

BD: Who inspires you musically?

I love James Blake, how he produces, and his creativity, both vocal and aesthetic, he is someone I admire a lot. He has very good taste. Mmm favorite drummer? Hmmm, I don’t think I have one. Maybe the drummer from Blonde Redhead or Radiohead. I love the rare medium rhythms. I think that the influences that mark are when one was a child. There were several artists that marked me, that today I still feel in my soul, like Kurt Cobain, Nina Simone, Patty Smith, Jonathan David, Thom Yorke…I think they were very important in my childhood and adolescence, and they marked my musical path.

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BD: As a producer, what are some challenges you’ve faced in the industry? What has felt victorious throughout your career?

I think that dedicating yourself to music is a constant challenge. The arts today in the world we live in are often hostile and lonely. We live in a horrible capitalist world, which affects me every day, and music is my escape and my salvation. I am very grateful to be able to make a living from my music and make art. It makes me happy and my heart is filled with love. And I think that the victorious thing is being able to live from what I do with enjoyment, passion, love and humility. Having a team that believes in me is a wonderful thing. Being able to grow day by day with what I do is something very exciting.

BD: ”Lo Que No Hablas” feels deeply personal and raw, can you describe your process? What influenced this song?

FS:Yes, this song is very personal. I think we all have something that we don’t talk to anyone about… and that we keep quiet. Life is raw sometimes… I am very existential… I go through very lonely times without understanding the world and then I return to enjoyment and the present… a constant coming and going. As for the song, I wanted to do something with classical and electronic music for a while. So we started playing with a sampler of classical works and then mixed them with beats and darker electro melancholic sounds.

“Lo Que No Hablas” is now streaming everywhere as the latest single in advance of Rubio’s upcoming LP, Venus & Blue.