Lunar Femmes: Santuario del Bosque
A duo of electronic-intergalactic space travelers & soundscape specialists.
A buddy of mine, Soft Replica reminded me of a recent release premiered on Vapor Memory by Lunar Femmes— a space traveling duo fresh off the release of their latest album Santuario del Bosque. I decided to give the album a listen and I loved it— my favorite track from the album Forest Shrine (13:11). I got a chance to catch up with the artists behind Santuario del Bosque and ask a few questions about how the project came to be, their inspirations, and what’s next on the horizon. Check out that conversation below. ⤵️
Hey nice to meet you
Hi Ram, thanks for inviting us to speak with you!
What was the inspiration behind Santuario del Bosque?
Emmy: After we released our Stargazers EP back in 2018 we started a series of projects focusing on more terrestrial environments. We started with our single Mar de Suenos, which was centered on the sea, and then followed it with Ausencia, which was set in a post-apocalyptic desert. We agreed that the last installment would be about an enchanted forest. Visually we were drawn to a lot of old fantasy artwork and we were listening to a lot of ambient and new-age environmental music, jazz-fusion, progressive rock and VGM. The idea of an android landing on an alien planet was interesting to us too so we put together a story based on that and it all started to develop from there.
Charlotte: The initial demos for the project first came together in mid-2019 and at the time we were feeling an urge to connect more with nature. COVID hit just as we were really starting to flesh these tracks out, so naturally that longing for nature intensified and I think it comes across throughout the album too.
What is your primary objective when making music? Does it change from project to project?
Emmy: We just want to make music that we like and is fun to listen to and perform. So much of the joy we get from making music is during the recording process, long before it's ever released. Even if the music is bad or unpolished, the act of creating something is deeply fulfilling and spiritually rewarding. It's something everyone should have access to.
Charlotte: As we’ve developed as artists over the last 5 years I think our objectives with each release have definitely changed. We were initially just concerned with our urge to express ourselves, whereas now we’re more interested in taking the listener on a journey and building around them an intricate world that they can get lost in.
To some extent, it also acts as an escape from reality for us; to have the opportunity to construct this place that is completely separate from our current situation.
What are some other things you’re currently inspired by?
Charlotte: Heading into Santuario del Bosque we looked a lot at the worlds created in games like Journey, Abzu and Proteus. These are worlds that are heavily stylized but still capture the true essence of nature in a really magical way and we wanted to capture that in both the music and the visuals for the project.
Right now though we’re looking more at media from the late 90s to mid 2000s. We've been firing up old game consoles and listening to a lot of video game soundtracks from the fifth and sixth-gen era too. Emmy basically has the soundtrack to Sonic R and Ace Combat 3 on repeat at this point...
What is it like working as a duo on different continents? How did it shape the sound of the record and your music as a whole?
Charlotte: It can be really tough at times; it’s a mix of both technical and emotional challenges.
From the technical side of things, our workflow can change pretty drastically in response to whatever DAWs we’re using, what VSTs and, more recently, what physical instruments we’re working with.
When we switched from FL Studio to Ableton we found that our file sharing system was no longer intuitive and we’ve since adopted a workflow focused more on screen sharing and remote desktop functionality in response.
We spend a lot of time making sure we have synced local sample libraries as well and, as we’ve started to incorporate more hardware instruments into our setup, the file size of projects has ballooned massively too, introducing a need for shared storage space. We both have to be really considerate of what we add to and remove from that so, in some ways, it's like the millennial equivalent of having a shared bank account.
Emmy: We're also listening to projects on completely different audio setups so it's very common for one of us to hear something in the mix that the other doesn't and we'll do a lot of rebalancing and EQing during the mixing process to make sure we're both happy with the track.
The fact that we’re literally hearing different things can lead to some pretty heated arguments sometimes! We have to be careful not to get too passionate about certain elements and to always be prepared to compromise.
The record seems to pull from a lot of influences (see: "Forest Shrine", a sparse ambient piece followed by "Femmes dans la Forêt", a total 180° into upbeat electronica). Can you talk about what inspired the record?
Emmy: Kero Kero Bonito's Civilization EPs were a massive inspiration to us for this project. We were also listening to a lot of older jazz-fusion, progressive rock and new age ambient records. We had also just got our hands on some old KORG softsynths with these really beautiful, cheesy sounding presets that we were eager to use. Our goal was to create lush and intricate instrumentals that recontextualized these old sounds in a fun, noodly way and we wanted to make sure that every track was distinct, so often we'd do something wildly different from the next which results in these dramatic tonal shifts like you see between those two tracks.
Charlotte: Like many artists, Hiroshi Yoshimura’s album Green was a big gateway record for us and really introduced us to the style of meditative environmental-ambient pieces that we enjoy making so much. It’s almost an unwritten Lunar Femmes rule at this point that we need to have at least one pure ambient track on each release.
What did you learn while making the record? Did anything surprise you along the way?
Emmy: One thing that took us by surprise was how much vocals can transform and elevate a track. It's something you kinda take for granted when you're primarily making instrumentals but when you add that human element it ties it all together and makes it connect emotionally in such a powerful way. We struggled a lot with the instrumental for Femmes dans la Forêt. At one point we considered cutting it from the album as we felt the mix was too rough and there wasn't enough substance to the track, but when we heard Wren Dove Lark's vocal performance over it we were blown away and their work spurred us on to finishing the track.
Charlotte: Santuario del Bosque was the first project we’ve ever really collaborated with other artists on and we’ve found it to be very rewarding. Going forward this is definitely something we’d like to do more of.
It’s also the first project where we feel we’ve really had a real groundswell of support from like-minded artists and peers. As we’ve engaged more with other artists following the release it’s almost begun to feel like it’s the first time our artistic goals have really been achieved and translated well to the listener.
What’s next for Lunar Femmes?
Charlotte: We’ve been teasing it quite a bit on social media, but our next big project is the forthcoming physical release of Santuario del Bosque on Liminal Garden. We’ve been working with them on cassettes for months now and feel that, between us, we’ve put together something really special. The announcement should be coming shortly so watch out for it!
Emmy: We’re also pretty far along with our next album too, which we hope to release sometime in 2023. This again sees a pretty big stylistic change; it’s more inspired by the sixth-gen era of video games and we’re putting together visuals that will reflect that.
Longer term we’re looking to start doing live shows and we’re also looking to explore a few different genres through new side projects, but those are still a long way away for now.