[Main visual] Susi Pireli


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Susi Pireli

Paula Trama, Inés Copertino

Drama-pop in a queer-fantasy universe bubble

The Argentine duo Susi Pireli, composed of Paula Trama and Inés Copertino, create their sounds inspired by theatrics. With an album and several singles into their career, they unite poetic lyrics with their experimental synthesizers and eclectic array of instruments to explore new musical horizons.

“We have created this creative bubble, which we see as a safe space, protecting us from any negative environment. We try to maximize the potential of this bubble and then take it with us on stage. We care deeply about the fantasy we create between us and our audience, and we strive to make a connection with them, if possible,” says Paula Trama, singer, and guitarist of the duo, from her home in Buenos Aires. “We use our show staging as an experiment, and this is why theatrical elements are so important to us - they allow us to re-experience our songs in new ways.”

There's a code they share amongst their audience, their queer-fantasy universe. Inés Copertino describes it as “melancholic, melodramatic, intense; a drama-pop instead of a dream-pop”. The star of their joint fantasy is the fictional character they gave life to: Susi Pireli.

[Photo] Susi Pireli

“We wanted to give it a proper name,” Copertino, who is in charge of synths, keyboards, and musical production of the duo, tells us. “We wanted to refer to the world of the ladies that allure us.” Susi Pireli is a downtown Buenos Aires version of a yesteryear's diva; someone they could run into at a local hairdresser.

They met on a stage. Inés had been playing keyboards with Amor Elefante, her band for the past 14 years, and Paula was playing songs from her project Los Besos but in a solo setting. “I was fascinated by her, and by her way of singing,” says Copertino. They immediately connected that night. Trama sent her some of her songs. “I thought she was just going to add some synths,” she says, “but she transformed them completely.”

Copertino, who defines herself as a keyboard player, has a producer’s mind. She was six when her mom bought her first keyboard as a birthday present. “I saw it as something ludic, I never thought I was going to become a musician.” Almost a decade after she first played a keyboard, she found herself experimenting with synthesizers. In 2019, she bought herself a Yamaha MOTIF ES6, pushing her exploring a step further. “Its sound [the Yamaha MOTIF ES6] defined the identity of Susi Pireli - it's got a very specific and personal timbre palette that I love.”

[Photo] Susi Pireli

Trama’s mom was also the first to buy her a used Yamaha guitar, the same one she still uses to compose all of her songs today. Her instrument became a shield to hide away her shyness. “I'd blush if someone talked to me, but I felt at ease playing my guitar,” she recalls. She'd write poems and then compose music for them. With time, she became a well-known independent singer and songwriter in the local scene. But in Susi Pireli, she delves into another face of music. “These days I’m obsessed with sax - I’ve got two Yamaha ones, and they’re the closest to how the human voice works: you blow in, a sound comes out.” In the duo, they also play a Yamaha baroque recorder that they found at a flea market. Its sound was featured in their song “Mientras escaneo” (In Spanish, “As I scan”), where they quote “Romanian Folk Dances” by the Hungarian musician Béla Bartók.

The mixture of these instruments allows Susi Pireli to be a duo where the only constant axis are playfulness and romance.

In a Buenos Aires drenched in the autumn fog that creeps up from the Rio de la Plata, Susi Pireli plays “Bolsa de mano” (In Spanish, “Handbag”) in a theatrical stage set-up of their songs. Brilliant, textured and also a little bit nostalgic.

[Photo] Susi Pireli

“Our sound is the connection with our own time, the rest is from another era,” Trama says. The emotional reference could be either Liza Minelli, Nina Hagen, Kate Bush or Marlene Dietrich. Names that serve as a link. “The LGTBQ+ community -especially lesbians- reacts to the performance like a more curious, permeable and engaging audience with us, it's a dialogue tainted by our common desires,” points out Trama. When asked about their place in the industry, they believe that playing at LGBTQ+ venues is different from doing so at the Buenos Aires opera house Colon Theatre: it requires that the audience reacts to the queer codes that they share, as the people inhabiting those spaces have the same cultural sensibilities. “We provide them with melodrama, and we ask them to feel a lot -- and they do,” Coportino laughs.

[Photo] Susi Pireli

In recent years, Trama has seen a greater acceptance of queer projects in the public sphere. “The female on-stage quota bill created space for more diversity in the cultural agenda,” she said. The duo's creative bubble also coexists with a performative experience where the public gets to meet them for the first time. “Interesting things come out of that encounter”, concludes Trama. Challenges to find female performers scheduled on main stages in festivals remain, but each person inspired by their fantasy increases the hope that their community will continue to expand.

Author: Romina Zanellato

Music freelance journalist since 2007 and author of the book “Brilla la luz para ellas” (Let the light shine upon them), a history of female rock musicians in Argentina.

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