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When 21-year-old Ecuadorian singer Carla Huiracocha decided to pursue a career as a musician, she chose an ethereal name to represent her equally dreamy pop persona: Neoma. Inspired by her love for astrology, the name means “new moon,” per its Greek origin, and represents the natural changing of phases. “It’s a name that reminds me that I keep transforming myself into a new person,” says the rising Denver musician, who prefers to go by Neoma both on and off stage. “It reminds me to evolve with my music.”
Neoma’s latest evolution will soon be evident for listeners, too, as she shifts from local lunar pop prodigy to outright star on her new album, Hyperreal, which hits streaming platforms April 29. Created alongside producer and bassist Danny Pauta, drummer Levi Double U, and guitarist and vocalist Aaron Wey, the bilingual, “upbeat heartbreak” album is the vocalist’s 13-track sequel to her 2019 LP, Real, and will launch the group’s Hyperreal Tour across South America after an opening show in Denver at Ophelia’s April 30. The sophomore album explores two years of pandemic-induced reflection, emotional healing, and musical experimentation from Neoma and Pauta, who’ve been enrapturing audiences since their arrival in the Mile High City in 2018.
The pair met thanks to a chance encounter six years ago, when Neoma locked eyes with Pauta at a music festival in El Descanso, Ecuador, where he was guest-performing with her favorite Ecuadorian band, La Maquina Camaleon. The two reconnected over social media soon after, and Pauta sent an unused sample track he had made to Neoma, who, in turn sent back a voice memo with her own ideas. The resulting piece would become Neoma’s first song, “Lunares,” which the two created at Pauta’s home studio, now known as Soundbreaker Records, in Cuenca, Ecuador.
“I was trying to make music for a female alternative pop singer, because [of] how unjust and unbalanced the music industry is—and it’s even worse when you’re in a conservative Ecuadorian society,” Pauta says, recalling how he and Neoma bonded over a shared frustration with the sexism and misogyny toward female artists they’d observed. “So I just thought, It’s a no-brainer.”
By 2017, Neoma had already established a strong South American fanbase; she and Pauta’s second single, “Real,” topped Ecuador’s indie charts that year. In 2018, Pauta moved to Denver with his family. Neoma decided to follow him to the United States so she could fully dedicate herself to her art.
“My whole life, everyone told me what career I should pursue, and music was never in my plans,” Neoma says. “In Ecuador, we don’t have many programs for music. It’s just classical music. I wanted to do music production and we don’t have that career there.”
In joining Pauta in Denver, Neoma dodged the common route of moving to a popular coastal hub like Los Angeles or New York. She released a single in June 2019, titled “Young,” which has since racked up more than 1.5 million streams on Spotify. The following November, she put out her debut album, Real, and teamed up with Levi and Wey to form their current band. The group went on their first U.S. tour in February 2020, which was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hyperreal has since been a collective project for the band, with Neoma taking lead as singer, song-writer, and producer, Pauta honing in on production, and instrumental expertise coming from Double U and Wey.
While stuck at home in quarantine together, Neoma and Pauta wrote Hyperreal. The emotional album, which took two years to create, encompasses heartache, grief, authenticity, and rebirth, akin to the ever-changing phases of the moon. The “internalized breakup album,” as Neoma describes it, brings this metamorphosis to life through haunting hyper pop songs like single “Say You Love Me,” and the project’s final title, “Go With the Flow,” where Neoma describes divorcing herself from her toxic patterns and what it means to let someone go after so badly wanting them to fit into your life. Hyperreal highlights the group’s growth as musicians and producers, too—it’s rich with 808s and new references to hyper pop and hip-hop beats (some made by Neoma), all while maintaining the band’s classic funk, disco, synth-pop, and Latin urban elements in tracks like energetic “Tears at Bae.”
Beyond her lyrics, Neoma’s performance presence exudes power, too. She rocks killer self-curated looks on stage—from her favorite Selena-inspired jumpsuit, to the rhinestones accenting her bright Euphoria-esque cat-eye makeup to her Britney Spears–era buzzcut (which has since grown out into a mullet). Drawing inspiration from the likes of Lady Gaga, Kate Bush, and Selena Quintanilla, the singer refuses to be boxed into one identity, preferring to jam out in Spanglish in her iconic red platform boots.
She admits that when people learn she’s Latina, they expect her to create salsa or reggaeton music, when she grew up listening to artists like ABBA and Shakira instead. “My identity as a Latina comes from being a representation of an immigrant and a representation of all the bilinguals here. I lived in Ecuador, but I also had to learn English to survive,” she says. “Writing music is the strongest statement that I can make.”
While most of Hyperreal is sung in English, Neoma says she doesn’t have a preference for writing music in either language. Rather, she views creating bilingual music as not only a nod to English- and Spanish-speaking listeners, but a process that allows her to tackle universal experiences like love and loss by chasing down words in multiple languages to create harmonies across meaning and sound.
“Most immigrants that are bilingual feel represented by my music and what I do,” she says. That’s the biggest thing for me—when I connect with people that like my music and they tell me their background—I’m making my music for you. This is for you.”
(Read More: Meet the Entrepreneurs Taking Denver’s Music Industry to the Next Level)