interview. La Clara Sofia: melodic synchrony – unveiling ‘Desembocá’ EP

"My stack of vocals makes a good synth, my slamming tongue can turn into an interesting snare"
3 January 2024

In music, some artists go beyond crafting melodies; they become one with their art. La Clara Sofia exemplifies this, using her body as an instrument to convey the intricate nuances of language and sound through emotional depth.

Her journey into music is a testament to the profound influence of her French-Brazilian family, where the amalgamation of bossa nova and soul music became the foundation of her instinctive musicality. Self-taught and cradled in a home resonating with experimentation, La Clara Sofia delves into a diverse range of practices, from body percussion to slam writing workshops, forging a physical and intuitive relationship with music.

The question arises: how can a body produce music on its own? The answer unfolds in the quiet hours of the night, where La Clara Sofia’s body weaves vocal textures, expressing the lived moments of the day through loops of emotion. Her multilingual existence, conversant in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, adds rhythm to her daily life, turning her body into a resonant canvas during this creative process.

“I’m not a singer, I’m alive,” she declares, emphasizing her exploration of primary consonances and vibrations. Her music, a sensory alternative pop, becomes a dialogue between languages and musical language, with her voice dancing between Portuguese and English, intricately interwoven around a dialogue between vocals and bass.

On stage, La Clara Sofia, accompanied by vocal and bass partners, creates an interactive experience with the audience, breaking the fourth wall and allowing the energy of the sun to flow through them. This dynamic interaction ensures her music takes its place not just in her body but vibrantly resonates within others.

In her latest EP, titled Desembocá, a Portuguese term signifying “to open up; to throw oneself into the river,” La Clara Sofia seamlessly blends traditional Brazilian music with subtle touches of trip-hop. This experimental fusion resonates with frequencies akin to artists such as Camille and La Chica, subtly drawing inspiration from the distinctive styles of Björk and Beth Gibbons.

Desembocá is a Portuguese word loaded with energy and imagery, capturing the essence of trusting life fully. La Clara Sofia, being French-Brazilian, lets the voices of Brazil’s music speak through her while infusing the groove and sunshine from the US, shaping her musical culture. Through rhythms, sensuality, and intense emotions, her music becomes a celebration of the body, expressing the ebbs and flows of everyday life.

While the lyrics may remain a mystery to non-Portuguese speakers, La Clara Sofia ensures the meanings are deciphered on stage, translating them into a booklet for her audience. The tracks on Desembocá delve into the senses, emotions, and the intricate dance of the body with life’s highs and lows.

Alongside the release, a music video for the opening track, Tudo Que Tu, revels in the celebration of the body through expressive visuals, emphasizing the primary message of the song. With Desembocá, La Clara Sofia extends an invitation to embark on a journey where music transcends language, and the body becomes a vessel for the profound beauty of the senses.

I can literally make them sound on the spot, by the sheer act of pronouncing words, beatboxing, slapping parts of my body, humming, recording vocal loops

How did your French-Brazilian family’s musical and vocal experimentation influence your musical upbringing?

The musical environment I was brought up in was definitely one where spontaneity was very much encouraged — first because Brazilian culture has a very easy-going, enthusiastic collective approach towards music in general (I mean, you hear it everywhere on the street!). And on a more personal level, I was lucky enough to be given plenty of space to experiment and have fun with sound, not only with Brazilian rhythms that my mother had brought home to France but also because my father was a lot into soul and funk music. I still have very fond, vivid memories of my sister and I dancing freely along soulful tunes from Jamiroquai in the living room whenever it took our fancy. We were always welcome to sing, dance, create and express our felt joy through music.

What are the ways in which body percussion, circle songs, and slam writing workshops can help you develop a physical and intuitive relationship with music?

I guess the thing those have in common is that there’s no intermediate between my sensations or feelings and music, I can literally make them sound on the spot, by the sheer act of pronouncing words, beatboxing, slapping parts of my body, humming, recording vocal loops. I can “soundpaint” very naturally while simultaneously becoming more autonomous with my practice as I define my own “soundscape” along the way. Again, it’s a matter of spontaneity as well as honoring my curiosity towards physical sounds and textures — it really is a deliberate choice as well. My stack of vocals makes a good synth, my slamming tongue can turn into an interesting snare. I don’t try to sound like those instruments, but I do know that I can count on the intimate instrumentarium that is at my disposal, regardless of technical mastery. 

Can you elaborate on the way your body communicates the lived moments of the day through vocal texture loops at night?

I store a lot of impressions, emotions, feelings throughout the day. At night, as long as I am in a space that is quiet enough for me to summon those, I can download them and let them flow in loops, in humming, in melodic phrases, very smoothly and directly from my body. I guess it is a very primitive, natural mammal thing to enter your “burrow” — whatever form it may take, depending on whether I’m staying at a friend’s, recording music in the studio or just sitting in the private comfort of my own bedroom — and experiment from that space where nobody else is watching or hearing anything. From there I can be fully-fleshed, so to speak, tend to my body and listen to what it has to say more acutely, without outer interference. I always get reminded of Michael Jackson, who used to arrange, structure his own demos in a similar way, that only requires close attention somehow.

Could you explain the concept behind your first EP, ‘Desembocá,’ and how it reflects your musical exploration and influences?

Desembocá can take on a lot of different meanings and that is precisely what appealed to my ears: in Portuguese, the word can be applied to a river as well as a bottle of wine that is uncorked and poured into the glass, into the sea. It also simply means to open up your mouth — to unblock your voice. I like the fact that one single word comprehends in one and the same movement both releasing my first EP — which is like throwing myself into the sea — and letting my voice flow! I had to pick a Portuguese word because this is my mother tongue and the one I’ve chosen to write with the most. Visually it is also imbued with memories from my family in Brazil — more specifically from Belém where one arm of the Amazon throws itself in the ocean — as well as Europe on the other shore, zillions of miles away. In a way I feel my mouth is spreading words and sounds for the two shores to connect through music. 

How do you convey the meaning of your Portuguese lyrics to non-Portuguese speakers during your performances, and why is it important for you to do so?

Before the show, I offer people a card — which looks like a tarot card — and via the QR code, they can access a libretto so as to better dig into the lyrics perhaps with more depth after the show. During the performance, I usually tell the story of how a song came to me; I might throw in some key words for my audience to understand the spirit of it but I also trust its own evocative, poetic aspects to do the magic. So the lyrics can open some doors in people’s minds, and at the same time let them be immersed in the beautiful, melodic, wavy languages of Portuguese and Spanish. 

Could you share an insight into the themes present in the tracks of Desembocá, particularly Tudo Que Tu and Chiquita​ and discuss how these themes celebrate the body as a vessel for senses and experiences?

The whole EP celebrates the body as a recipient that enables the confluence, meeting with another liquid body that could be either or both a lover and, or a love song. The beauty, I find, is that ‘Desembocá’ is a recipient that can be sensory and mystical all at once.

‘Tudo que tu’ is overloaded by countless, intense feelings, whether provoked by music, arousal or excitement. ‘Chiquita’ is pervaded by a certain kind of sadness, one that pertains to minor and major deaths one experiences in life, that sometimes leave scars in the body — scars that ask of you to give them enough room to heal.

Where do you think your music fits in today’s world?

I’m not particularly fond of genres, but I’d reckon somewhere between alternative pop and world music? I guess I mostly perceive music as a means of expression, investigative exploration but also as a curative method. And I do believe it is not just therapeutic but healing indeed, it is a form of curative care — for oneself and others. There is a communal sense in the vibrational aspect of sound that comes through active listening; sharing music live or listening to it at home.

If you could tour with any musicians, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

To be fair, I would include Bobby Mc Ferrin, Camille, Björk, Elis Regina, Erykah Badu, Céu, Stevie Wonder, Caetano Veloso — a motley crew of French alternative, 70s Brazilian acts and soul legends — interestingly enough, Camille is the French exception on the stage but I do admire her unapologetic sense of creative freedom, just as I appreciate Björk’s and Bobby Mc Ferrin’s individual experimental take on music. Each in their own specific way, Elis Regina and Caetano Veloso magnificently convey the singular beauty of Portuguese language, also in its musicality; I would very happily let Erykah Badu and Stevie Wonder be in charge of the groove and, last but not least, Céu is quite representative of that joyful mix of influences as a whole. I imagine we would all share a potluck type-of-lunch, every one would bring their own soul food to the table — a spicy, cajun-style, new-yorker jam for sure!

If you had to describe your sound in three words what would they be?

Sensorial, slippery, sweet trance.

What do you want people to take away from listening to your music?

I want people to feel sensual, creative, witty — alive!