Tell Me Más: Lúconde Fuses Theater and Urbano in Her Debut Album
Many popular musicians have created fictional alter egos as a way to explore new sonic avenues that they wish to experiment with. David Bowie had Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, David Johansen had Buster Poindexter, Lady Gaga spent a whole season as Jo Calderone, and the less said about Garth Brooks's Chris Gaines era the better, but it certainly happened. For them, it's a kind of performance art — an expression of their interest in stepping out of their comfort zone and giving the endeavor a theatrical flair as well.
The debate about whether these could be considered merely publicity stunts is valid, but for some artists, there's a true creative desire to inhabit these personas. For Adriana Rivera, a Puerto Rican singer-songwriter, it's a culmination of her dream to merge two artistic outputs that have long fascinated and inspired her: music and acting. From this desire and its manifestation, Rivera set herself aside, and in her place emerged Lúconde and their debut album, "La Actriz: Acto I." The EP is a magical collection of alt-perreo, conscious boleros, and progressive Latin soul. As Rivera explains, "Lúconde is basically the mother personality that serves as a vessel for other personas (or faces, as she calls them) to emerge." For that reason, she invites listeners to call her by either name.
Lúconde is an artist with lots of ideas, who has been searching a long time for a way to express them. A child of dancers from reggaeton's early roots, when it was known as "underground" — her mother was a background dancer for Vico C, while her father danced for Ruben DJ — she grew up in a home that valued both music and performance and the overlap between the two. Lúconde was enrolled in ballet, where dance and expression are inextricably intertwined, and sang in her church's chorus, where she began to discover her voice and test its limits and range.
Not soon after, she was convinced by friends to audition for her school's drama club. In a prescient twist, the monologue used for the audition belonged to a role about a character suffering from dissociative identity disorder.
"I remember researching a lot. I remember practicing [the monologue] alone at home. I had no training whatsoever, but I remember clicking with that a lot," she says. "There was a lot of that process that clicked with me very deeply, and I remember thinking, 'OK, I love music and I've always been involved with music, but I think [acting] is going to be something that I'm gonna dedicate myself more to.'"
For "La Actriz: Acto I," Lúconde reached back and channeled the lessons from her days doing theater. She recalls being taken by the way acting helped her to connect with her inner thoughts and widen her view of the behaviors of people around her.
"I learned [to] not take things at face value, which is something that I feel like I'm actively studying within myself and society — just looking at things from different perspectives," she says. "There's always more behind someone, which I also think in acting that's what you [search for]."
During the downtime that enveloped the world in 2020, she began to think about how she could fuse her interests. She began to write, thinking on topics that were close to her. She began to flesh out the overarching concept of the EP and conjured up what would become the roster of alter egos that embody each track: La Malasuerte, Näia Kiyomi, Lilu, Miss Quinn, Bo Aracnia, Adela, and Nina Sorei.
Executing out such a far-out idea for a debut EP was a risky proposition, but she was determined to bring it to fruition. Through mutual contacts she got in touch with Gyanma, an indie fan favorite who produces projects for himself and others out of his own studio, called Alas. Whatever trepidation he had about the ambitious ideas she presented evaporated as soon as he put her in front of the microphone.
"From the beginning, I recognized it was a very unique concept," says Gyanma, who produced every track on the EP. "Throughout recording and producing the music, every track kept evolving, and when we listened to the final album put together, we knew it was something very, very special."
As a companion to the album, Lúconde produced, directed, and starred in music videos for the tracks. It's here that her different personas can truly be appreciated. La Malasuerte, a trickster changeling that occupies every frame of "Macacoa" with mischievous intentions. Näia Kiyomi, heavily inspired by Jennifer Check of the movie "Jennifer's Body," enacts empowered, violent revenge in "6eis." Lilu and Bo Aracnia both break the rules in favor of righteous anarchy in "Bendito Caos" and "Tus Cartas Póker," respectively. In "El Frío del Alba," Adela reflects on the long, sordid history and pain that women have carried throughout the struggle for bodily autonomy, especially in the face of eroding abortion rights.
"This is very autobiographical. What I'm doing is just taking the Stanislavski technique of acting and transforming it into a philosophy of life, because that's who I am," she says. "I feel like acting saved me. Acting gave me so much perspective of life, of people, of society, and of myself. That's kind of where it all starts, because with each character I'm showing different sides and different aspects of myself, and the actor studies the gray area of life, the gray in people."
When talking about her future, Lúconde foresees more projects in the same vein as "Acto I." For now, she doesn't see herself dabbling in more mainstream songs divorced from this album's conceit. In fact, she's already brainstorming which personas she'll utilize again, and new ones to introduce as well. As the album's title implies, it's simply the first act of what will slowly unfold as a larger all-encompassing project.
"This project is synonymous with where I am in life right now. I feel like I'm still in the midst of becoming. This project is a lot of the younger, naive aspects of myself," she says.
She intends to fully expand the visual side as well, founding her own production company where she'll be able to control that aspect of development as well as help other artists with their own projects. "La Actriz: Acto I" was an effort that took a long time to come together, but for Lúconde it has been worth everything she invested in bringing it to life.
"Once I knew that I wanted to be La Actriz in the music industry, I had a direction," she says. "For me that's really important; I've always [felt] like I have to have some idea of who I want to be. In that sense, now I realize how lucky I am to know who I am a little bit. I still feel like I have a long way to go, but I've always had the vision. I've always nourished that. I've always protected that."
The strands that link the light and shadow inside every human being — and the way they can bring people together under better understanding and empathy — are what Lúconde wishes to underscore.
"Everything is connected: our spirituality, our physicality, our mind, our emotions. As an actor, my body, my mind, my emotions are my tools. The more familiar I am with myself, the better human I will be. That's what I'm trying to explore with music. I always say, 'Through my work I am whole,' because I get to express all of these different aspects of myself." It's a passion project that not only makes her feel fulfilled, but hopefully finds fans who'll also appreciate the different levels of creativity that make it up. "I felt like I wanted to be a creator, and I feel like music allowed me to do all that. And I realized I didn't have to sacrifice my identity as an actress. Maybe I could just be La Actriz."
POPSUGAR: What is your favorite word?
POPSUGAR: What is your favorite quote?
Lúconde: "You don't have a right to anything in this life, but there's nothing you can't achieve."
POPSUGAR: What is your favorite play?
Lúconde: "No Exit" by Jean-Paul Sartre.
POPSUGAR: What is your favorite movie?
Lúconde: Well, I love "Black Swan." It used to be "The Pursuit of Happyness." I think now, "Everything Everywhere All at Once."
POPSUGAR: Who is your favorite fictional character?
Lúconde: Raven from "Teen Titans."
POPSUGAR: What are you listening to these days?
Lúconde: Gesaffelstein, Belén Aguilera, and "Scarlet" by Doja Cat.
POPSUGAR: What person comes to mind when you hear the word "inspiration"?
Lúconde: My grandfather. We were very close, and he would talk to me about many things. My favorite quote is something he'd always tell me.
POPSUGAR: Do you prefer to be the hero or the villain?
Lúconde: I prefer to be the villain that becomes a hero.