Ana Frango Elétrico is an amazing young talent. Having released her second album, Little Electric Chicken Heart, she is making her way as one of the most talked-about new musical acts. Elétrico’s unique blend of garage rock guitars, breezy bossa nova, and thoughtful lyricism makes for the perfect soundtrack to both isolated self-reflection and sun-kissed walks. I talked with her about her songwriting process and recent album.
Jack: What inspired you to make music? Who are your influences?
Ana: Mainly, my musical partners and friends. I have been playing the piano and doing other musical practices since I was young. This was essential to my development as a composer.
My influences include Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil, Itamar Assumpção, Caetano Veloso, and also my contemporaries, Ava Rocha, Negro Leo, Maria Beraldo. They inspire me and stimulate my composition process.
Where did the stage name “Ana Frango Elétrico” come from?
“Frango Elétrico” means “Electric Chicken” in Portuguese. My last name is Fainguelernt, of Russian origin, so “Frango Elétrico” came from a poetic exercise, playing with sound and meanings of the words of my last name.
I enjoy having an alter ego; it gives me the freedom to create in other perspectives. Also, the way it sounds is like a fusion of humans with animals and machines (Ana Electric Chicken).
It also addresses the fact I do not belong to any of those “great families” of Brazilian composers, which we get a lot of over here, so it breaks the patriarchal surname heritage.
The sound of your latest record differs from your first record, Mormaço Queima. What inspired the change in direction?
My recent album, Little Electric Chicken Heart, came from a three-year process of development from my experience at the studio, between Mormaço Queima and LECH. Mormaço Queima was one of my first experiences in a studio, recording songs I wrote at 16. I recorded them, wanting them to be the way I conceived them in my head. The idea for it was—a “decadent bossa-pop rock played in a punk way.”
I carefully planned LECH, from the first to the last song, from its conception to its mastering, from the microphones to its cover. There was a wish to exercise and execute my thoughts as a producer, as opposed to only a singer, guitarist, or composer.
What was it like recording this record in the studio? Who helped you bring your ideas to life?
Martin Scianm, who produced the album with me, all the musicians that took part in the recordings, Antonio Neves, who did the brass arrangement. It was an adventure.
We took all the equipment to an old studio with a huge recording room and high ceilings, which was exactly what I wanted. We took a week to finish the tracking. Then, more meetings with Martin to record the voices and overdubs, and then it went to the mixing and mastering process.
I took part in the mixing process, which I liked a lot. It’s something I’d like to keep on doing in my future works.
Do you have a favorite song of the record?
I like my guitar on Tem Certeza?. It embodies the manner in which I play. And also Chocolate, I like the freedom I had in recording that one, regarding my voice and the whole musical conception.
The record opens on the tune Saudade, given the meaning of the word as “a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia, being both happy and sad at the same time”. Do you see this as a mission statement for the record?
People in Brazil used to say that “saudade” is a word that only exists in Portuguese. The choice of this tune to begin the album is an important decision. The whole album speaks about issues of a “little electric chicken heart,” which is mine, and its entire atmosphere is about evoking nostalgic sensations and feelings, a kind of déja vù.
In Saudade, your verse roughly translates to “Maybe I’m not afraid of the thunders”, what do you mean by this lyric?
Maybe I would translate it as “Maybe I’m not SO afraid of the thunders”. This “so”, it’s important because it means that, even if we’re afraid, we’re not paralyzed, we can deal with that. It means not being afraid of love, of our deep feelings, our internal thunderbolts, being alone…
Can you tell me more about the lyrical themes on the song Promessas a Previsões and Chocolate? These are two of my favorites of the record, and I noticed that they were addressing similar themes.
Promessas e Previsões, is the only song on the album I didn’t write (“Tem Certeza?” I wrote in collaboration with Bruno Schiavo). I lived in São Paulo for a few months in 2018, and while doing so I met Chico França, the song’s composer.
When he showed me that song I was astonished. I thought, “I really want to record this.” Chocolate is an older song, which I had already recorded as a live version on the 2016 collection “Xepa/Nata” (available on the main streaming platforms).
On LECH, I was going through some of my older songs and decided Chocolate was one I wanted to realize on this album. The similarity between both versions is their lyrics. I speak of ordinary stuff, scenes, and objects, but I sing about them as if they are something surreal or fantastic.
I found the lyrics to another one of my favorites “Torturadores” very interesting as it seems to address the dictatorship in Brazil. What inspired you to write a song like this and why did you end up juxtaposing it on a more upbeat instrumental?
Torturadores means torturers. It was inspired by the story of a Brazilian woman who was tortured by an official during the civilian-military dictatorship in Brazil. Since then, she had gone into a deep depression.
Things like this happen here because of the militaries who tortured and murdered people during the dictatorship and were never judged or condemned, as they were in many other countries such as South America.
Another thing that inspired that song was the Escrache, which is a demonstration in which a group of activists go to the homes or workplaces of those whom they want to condemn, especially ex-torturers and dictatorship collaborators, to influence decision-makers and governments into a certain course of action.
It inspires me as I say in the chorus: “searching/torturer’s names and addresses/only to tell/the grandchildren and doormen/who do have the right to knowing”.
Any plans for what’s next?
An American tour on my “to-do list.” My plan is to release Little Electric Chicken Heart there on vinyl and then go on a tour. We’re looking for the right partners to make it happen. I am planning to release a new compilation, re-recording some tracks from Mormaço Queima, played by LECH’s band and a new original single on which I play the piano.
Around 2022, I hope to release my third album. For now, though, because of the pandemic, I’m with my family at our country house. My mom is fighting cancer, so we’re taking care of her. I’m not concentrating on writing or composing during all this.
What is a Little Electric Chicken Heart, anyway?
I used to joke that it was a barbecue at an antique shop. But it’s about loving many people, the small feelings that are pretty big. I used to quote a poem from the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky which fits very well. Its name is Backbone-Flute:
For all of you,
Whom I loved or a love,
Hidden like icons in the cave of the soul,
Like a goblet of wine at a festive gathering,
I shall raise my heavy, verse-brimming skull.
More and more often, I’m wondering-
Why shouldn’t I place
The period of a bullet at the end of my stanza?
Just in case,
I am giving my final, farewell concert.
Gather into the brain’s auditorium
The bottomless lines of those who are dear to me.
From eye to eye, pour mirth into all of them.
Light up the night with the by-gone festivity.
From body to body, pour the joyous mood.
Let no man forget this night.
Listen to me, I will play the flute
On my backbone tonight.
Ana Frango Elétrico’s recent album Little Electric Chicken Heart is out now on all streaming platforms.