Bringing footwork to Belgium, one step at a time
Screams, drum machines, positive storytelling… Summer Satana’s live performances are as haunting and dramatic as they are honest and fragile. Brussels-based self-taught singer, composer and producer Tiphaine Larrosa – her real name – performs on stage with an uncompromising feminist resolve. Noticing a gender gap in the music industry when she was still a teenager at Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, she decided to create opportunities for herself and make her appearance on stage. She hasn’t left it since, and we got the chance to pin her down before her live gig at Poxcat #3 Party.
Words by Souria Cheurfi
Photos by Elies Van Renterghem, shot in Brussels
I like to see women scream on stage at concerts, there’s something therapeutic to it
What’s the starting point of making music for you?
I often start by writing a text before I produce music. I often change the patterns of my live performances, but texts remain the core of my work – as they’re quite strong, they influence the BPM, for instance. I can start from 120 BPM and finish at 160, simply because the story builds up.
How would you describe your texts?
I want my texts to be clear and easy to understand, so as I’m not a native English speaker, I keep it quite simple. It’s something between poetry and statement. My intros always tell a story, and you can follow the common thread through my performance, track after track. But even those intros can vary depending on where I play, be it on the radio, at a nightclub or a concert venue.
You also seem to like to scream…
Yes! I think I was deeply touched by Bordeaux-based band Kap Bambino when I was younger, and more specifically by the main singer, Caroline. I like to see women scream on stage at concerts, and I personally enjoy doing so. I never really learnt how to sing but screaming allows me to open up. After a rehearsal or a performance, I feel really good. There’s something therapeutic to it.
When did you start making music?
I got into music when I was studying at Beaux Arts de Bordeaux – well known for its Café Pompier. A lot of (boy) friends were making music and throwing parties while my friend (Laurie Mortreuil) and I realised all we did was take care of the organisation, decoration, etc. The stage wasn’t given to us, so we decided to take it. We asked Lenny, aka Jardin, to make music for us so we’d pretend to perform on stage. We started working together and ended up creating a real band called Sex Body Ache. My name was already Summer Satana and the two others were called Demented Forever and Lilith PLVLGN. Our band was about performances, music, installations, but also about writing texts and singing, which I really got into.
The stage wasn’t given to us, so we decided to take it
Why Summer Satana?
Before we started the band, I worked on a post-apocalyptic movie and one of the characters was Natacha – a rather stereotyped role. She left and I replaced her as Satana, her evil twin. I kept Satana, but thought it didn’t suit me by itself, so I called myself Summer Satana, because I always wanted to be called Summer as a teenager.
Like that character from the early Noughties TV show?
Yes, exactly! The brown-haired mean girl!
Is Summer Satana a fictional character?
Yes and no. It’s not acting, but it’s really emotional and blunt I would say. And as a woman I’m also trying to show that you can indeed scream on stage and make music with just two cheap machines; that you can do something raw and honest.
So, you want to convey the image of a strong woman?
What I find interesting about performing is the ambivalence it carries: there’s an egotistical side to it, as you go on stage so people look at you and listen to you, but on the other hand, you’re also very vulnerable because you can fuck it up at any moment. So, I’m not trying to show myself as something out of reach, strong or perfect. What I believe in is that the more women perform on stage, the more other female artists will realise it’s possible and dare to do so. If you had told me three years ago, when I was a student at Beaux Arts, that I’d be performing on stage today, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I think you have more to prove as a woman, and that’s not only in the music industry
Do you still have the feeling you have to claim your position as a woman in the music industry?
It happens…I’ve had people coming to me after a performance saying, ‘Oh wow! I wasn’t expecting that. It was really good.’ I think you have more to prove as a woman, and that’s not only in the music industry. I’ve had really great experiences too where people were lovely, even where I was the only woman playing. But even then, I always have the feeling I have more to prove.
Besides the female condition, what other themes do you like to sing about?
I find myself writing a lot about nature. And although there’s something very dramatic about my music – with themes like chaos – I also try to convey positive messages too.