“Can you hear that? Oof, they’re very loud. They must be calling for love,” Juana Molina says over the phone. There are frogs croaking in her backyard, and their sounds stack on top of one another in a menacing but delightfully awkward way. Even when she’s on a day off, the Argentine experimental musician leads an exciting life, or maybe it just seems so by comparing her “normal” to the American normal.
The ex-comedian, once-TV actress, and current musician overflows with creativity, but she goes at it in a weird way. Though technically a dark variant of folktronica, most of her music wades through various forms of ambient, experimental, neofolk, indie pop, and psychedelics, swirling in a dizzying combination, over which she sings in Spanish. Molina’s newest album, this year’s delightfully bizarre Halo, gets its name from nature phenomenon will-o’-the-wisp. It’s a green, fluorescent light that’s very rarely seen—she’s never seen one herself, actually—and it moves according to the wind. Molina calls it mysterious, which is fitting given her album is mysterious in its own way, too. It’s always peaceful and cozy, even though, when explained, it sounds a bit off-putting.
“When I create sounds, I take noises that exist on the machine and then distort them. Sometimes I title songs off the names I make, too, because I have to give them names. But I program the sound way before the song is named,” she explains. “It sounds weird, and it doesn’t make sense, but I like that. I think it works.”
To dig deeper into Molina’s quest to reprogram the way we interpret sounds, we interviewed her for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask bands questions inspired by their song titles. Of course, her answers were just as inventive as her songs.
DIGBOSTON: Have you ever been to Paraguay?
MOLINA: I haven’t gotten the chance to visit at all because I’ve only gone for a day. If I had to go there again, I would like to go towards the jungle part of it. It’s something I have in my imagination. I have no idea what it would be like at all.
2) “Sin dones”
DIGBOSTON: Did you have any hobbies growing up that you weren’t good at?
MOLINA: Initially, I was very good at—I don’t know how to say it in English: when you could be good at something but actually you aren’t—basically having very good disposition for sports in general. But I was so reckless that I always ended up with a broken bone or a very bad injury that prevented me from learning more.
For instance, I used to be very good at skiing when I was 19 or 20. I found it quite easy. Then I happened to find my cousin there at the ski mountain who was filming people skiing where he would ski backwards. He told me to just follow him, so I did, and it went very well. All of a sudden, the boot hurt. I loosened them a little bit, and then I couldn’t really handle it. I just broke a leg. That was the end of my skiing experience. I skied for four days really nicely and I thought I was the queen of ski. Then a tiny detail I didn’t know how to manage made me break my leg. I never skated again..
3) “Lentísimo halo”
DIGBOSTON: Why did you name the song a made-up title?
MOLINA: Well, I really liked the idea of the will-o’-the-wisp, because it is mysterious, and the rest of the song is slow. Like very slow. And that’s what “lentisimo” means. So it’s a made-up title, but I liked how it sounded cool, especially because the song itself is very, very slow.
4) “In the lassa”
DIGBOSTON: So what’s the story behind “lassa” then?
MOLINA: I imagined it’s a place where Jane Bond lives. She’s a character from a series called The Adventures of Jane Bond that we have. I just liked to imagine places and things in my mind like that, even though it doesn’t make sense.
DIGBOSTON: This one is made-up, too, but it reminds me of couscous. What’s your stance on that food?
MOLINA: Oh, I love couscous! I didn’t like it at all when I was a kid. I was embarrassed. There was couscous everywhere and there was no way I would eat that. I found it had a horrible texture. It tasted like nothing at all. But then one day, I discovered I really liked it depending on what it’s made with. I’m a vegetarian, so I have to avoid it sometimes since couscous can be made with meat.
6) “Cálculos y oráculos”
DIGBOSTON: Have you ever met with a fortune teller or a psychic?
MOLINA: Yes, I have. I’ve gone several times actually. Sometimes someone comes to you and says, “Hi, I met this woman, she told me everything. I don’t know how she did it.” I only really do it with women. You really wonder how the hell they know what they know. They know you just did something or that another person in your life did something. I don’t think they see the future, but they totally see the present. Even though I go sometimes, I really don’t like going because I can become influenced by what they say. I’d rather not have that silly thought in my mind.
Except once, my dad was married to a woman who reads hands. She told me several things that, many years later, happened. I looked back and thought, “Wow, this woman told me this would happen like 15 years ago.” There was the death of someone, an accident, and more that she told me about. The accident was really bad, and she called it, including the consequences that would happen afterwards.
7) “Los pies helados”
DIGBOSTON: Do you wear socks around the house or only when you’re wearing shoes?
MOLINA: Oh no, no, no. I cannot live without socks. I don’t like to have dirty feet, and washing my feet often is annoying. Except for when I’m at the beach—literally at the beach, on the beach—then I won’t wear socks for a month. Then you can’t put your feet back in your shoes because they become so large. I don’t know what happens to them! They become so different. Before bed, I always, always, always wash my feet. I don’t like to imagine dirty feet on nice, clean sheets.
8) “A00 B01”
DIGBOSTON: What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet?
MOLINA: I’ll have to make this up now because I don’t have one. Maybe the M? Because it looks so nice and is fun to write. Or the O, because it is round and you can make a circle with it which is a perfect shape.
9) “Cara de espejo”
DIGBOSTON: Do you make faces in the mirror when you’re in the bathroom washing your hands?
MOLINA: Yes, everyone does! This title is a made-up expression that means “mirror face.” It means that you know, unconsciously, that there is a mirror in a place like a bathroom. You know you’ll see yourself in that mirror, so you put on some kind of face that makes you look more like the way you like to look. And when you don’t know there’s going to be a mirror—sometimes you find yourself in front of an unexpected mirror, like a store window—then you see your real face and you wish you had never seen it. Because that happened many times to me, I came to that conclusion, that when you know you’re going to see yourself in a mirror, you prepare your face so that you like yourself more. There isn’t a word for it in Spanish or English, but there should be! Let’s make one.
DIGBOSTON: What was the last place you went before taking this call?
MOLINA: I was in my studio in my house. I’m working with someone right now for a silent film I will score in Los Angeles. I have someone making proper notes to help me program the sounds, that way I can look for each sound for each scene much faster. It’s very complicated to play live for a whole movie. The name of the film is The Goddess and Julia Holter will score it the day after me, too! So I’ve been working very hard on that.
DIGBOSTON: Have you ever explored a cave?
MOLINA: I’ve only explored those caves in the water where you can see water. I went there last year. I did not like it because the sun is not there and I don’t like being in the water without sun. The water was freezing. You couldn’t see anything you see in the pictures, because [the photographers] wait for the ten-second moment where the sun hits the water and everything lights up. The rest of the day, that doesn’t happen. It was a bit disappointing.
12) “Al oeste”
DIGBOSTON: What’s your favorite thing about the west?
MOLINA: I always like to be facing west, because when the day is ending, I will have the rays of sun on me. When it’s the morning, you see the sun but soon it stops hitting the walls and you know you won’t see it the rest of the day. On the west, you get to look forward to the sun coming later in the day. It means the future will be better… every day!
JUANA MOLINA. TUE 9.12. BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL, 158 BRIGHTON AVE., ALLSTON. 7PM/18+/$15. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM