Interview with Fer Franco: An Innovative Guatemalan Composer Finally Claims His ‘Ritos de Paso’

Fer Franco © Concepción Huerta
Fer Franco © Concepción Huerta
‘Ritos de Paso’ represents a bold creative statement for newcomer Fer Franco, who’s teamed up with several of his fellow Central American composers and an old mate from his time spent living in England to create a captivating six-track experience.
Stream: ‘Ritos de Paso’ – Fer Franco

This record purely exists because of the pure joy of making music with a group of people.

Guatemala has been making music for longer than almost any other nation in the Americas – as evidenced by the 3,000-year-old clay flutes and wooden drums left behind from the Olmec civilization – and has kept its musical productivity at a high level still to this day. One individual doing his home country proud in that department is Fer Franco, who has been tinkering with electronica production for some time and is now set to release his first full-length album of new music, Ritos de Paso.

Ritos de Paso - Fer Franco
Ritos de Paso – Fer Franco

Even as a prominent Guatemalan musician, Franco doesn’t limit himself to either Guatemala or music-making. He’s been described as a “dazzling multi-careerist” who’s engaged in academia, real estate management, and audiovisual content production. He’s also spent time living in Manchester, England and interacting with the artistic community there – most notably local rock performer Gary Burton, with whom Franco performed for a time in an alt-rock group named Cosmos Collapse. That band is now no more, but the two have maintained their creative partnership, to the point where Burton was brought onboard to assist with the production of Ritos de Paso – as were Guatemalan composers Mabe Fratti and Alex Hentze, and Mexico City’s Héctor Tosta, known professionally as I. La Católica.

“This might sound a bit cliché, but it’s totally true – this record purely exists because of the pure joy of making music with a group of people,”  Franco says of his loyal crew. “It wasn’t always easy, but generally speaking, I was very detached from expectations and very detached from ‘Oh, it has to be good’ or sound a certain way. It was more like, ‘Let’s let things happen.'”

And happen they did. Across these six tracks, modern and traditional sounds are combined to form an ominous and psychedelic soundscape, with the main production team engaging by turn in arpeggios, guitar, mellotron, bass, synthesizers and more. It’s clear that Franco the Frontman sets no restrictions for himself when it comes to letting the sounds in his mind ooze out onto record, and he now has an innovative and hypnotic solo debut project to show for it.

Atwood Magazine spoke to Franco about the production of Ritos de Paso and, indeed, what sort of “rito de paso” producing a debut album represents for him personally.

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:: stream/purchase Ritos de Paso here ::
:: connect with Fer Franco here ::
Fer Franco © Concepción Huerta
Fer Franco © Concepción Huerta


Ritos de Paso - Fer Franco

Atwood Magazine: What sort of contact did you have with music while growing up in Guatemala? How did it inspire you to pursue music professionally?

Fer Franco: I had a few key influences or figures that were gateways into new and exciting music as I grew up. My older brother introduced me to artists like Radiohead, Björk and The Cure (all life-changing when I was a teenager), MTV when they actually played music, [and] a friend called Patrick who was tech-savvy and found ways to obtain entire discographies.

So, even though it wasn’t easy to find new music (not many record shops, radio shows or live shows), I don’t think I was deprived of having access to artists and being inspired (even before the Internet!).

Now, in my early twenties, I moved to Manchester and a new world opened up. I met some of my closest friends to date and had the opportunity to experience a consolidated music scene. During these years, I went to more shows than I can recall, recorded in amazing studios like Spirit and started to see possibilities to pursue music in a more serious way.

Since this is your solo debut, what sort of introduction do you want to make to your listeners as they hear your music for the first time?

Fer Franco: I just want listeners to hear the music and make it their own, I don’t have a particular intention beyond sharing it and having people experience it however they want to.

Fer Franco © Daniela Pinto
Fer Franco © Daniela Pinto

What are the “rites of passage” that your album title refers to? Are they personal/creative/artistic, etc?

Fer Franco: Good question! Both personal and artistic. Before making the album, I was kind of “stuck” in different ways, creatively, musically, professionally… and felt the need to step up and grow out of my own skin.

When I started to play with ideas for the album, I read Joseph Campbell’s “Hero of a Thousand Faces” and the concept of rites of passage stayed with me. Then one day, I thought something along the lines of… “Why don’t I make an album that explores this idea and [that] is also a rite of passage in its own right?” Now that the album is finished, I do feel like it worked. I feel lighter, more confident and overall more comfortable inhabiting my own skin.

With so many Guatemalan and Mexican artists involved in the making of this album, how would you say the finished project represents the current sounds of Central America?

Fer Franco: I think this type of music is pretty niche, especially for Guatemala, so I’m not sure it represents the type of music being made in this part of the world. I would say it’s more of an outlier.

Now for Mexico, that’s another story; there are many musicians who are exploring all sorts of new and interesting sounds and genres. I spent almost a year in CDMX from 2021 – 2023 – going to shows, recording studios, record shops, museums, galleries, etc. That definitely influenced the songs and the overall sound of the record.

Fer Franco © Daniela Pinto
Fer Franco © Daniela Pinto

One of the only people not from Central America in this project is Gary Burton, from the UK. How does his presence help to give the music a bit of British-ness?

Fer Franco: I’ve been heavily influenced by British music (many years before actually moving there). So, for one, I think my biggest influences come from the UK.

Also, I would say that the album does has a certain sense of British-ness, not only because of Gary but also because it was mixed and mastered in the UK by Tom Leach and Katie Tavini, respectively. This wasn’t necessarily deliberate– more an outcome of having spent many years living there and also finding amazing friends and collaborators who happen to be from the UK.

What are some of the main lyrical themes on this album? How does the music convey them?

Fer Franco: I think the themes are kind of related to the transformation that happens through a rite of passage, which is by essence a process of death and re-birth. So, the songs address different stages of states of mind necessary for that process to take place. Like the second single, “Eliminar Lo Innecesario,” is all about removing what is not essential, letting go and letting certain things (memories, habits, beliefs) die away.

The album’s order follows that process in a kind of cyclical way, starting with the track “Ya No Vivo Aquí” which is about recognizing the need to let go and being open to a transformation of some sort. The ending track “Nunca Termina” is about how we’re always changing, always dying and becoming.

Since you're “a man with four careers,” according to one article, how does making this music project help you to stay true to the other three careers?

Fer Franco: I have other careers, mainly in technology and education, but I think making music is what keeps me grounded as a human being. So, without it, I don’t think I could do much else.

The other thing I would add is [that] my work outside of music has a lot of scope for trying new things out, and being engaged in something as creative as making and playing music helps me bring something new to the table.

Do you have hopes to tour and perform this music live in the near future?

Fer Franco: Yes! There’s a show in Guatemala (29th of Feb) I’m currently producing with Mabe Fratti, which will include the first live performance of these tracks. I’m pretty excited because not only will I have the chance to share the stage with people who played in the record– like Mabe and Héctor, as well as other close collaborators like a drummer called David and my brother (mentioned above)– the show also includes performances by Mabe and Mexican band Mint Field.

After this, I hope to play in Mexico City later in the year and tour the UK in the spring of 2025.

Anything you'd like to add?

Fer Franco: Thank you for this space. Making music and sharing it with whoever wants to take a listen is truly a dream come true.

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:: stream/purchase Ritos de Paso here ::
:: connect with Fer Franco here ::

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Ritos de Paso - Fer Franco

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