Angélica Garcia adds her native Spanish to her album Gemelo

“My blood speaks Spanish to me,” Angélica Garcia sings in “Red Moon Rising,” from her 2016 debut album Medicine for Birds. Garcia was born in California and now lives in Virginia. The album leans toward indie rock and Americana. But the lyrics proved prophetic.

She’s already thinking about the legacy of her maternal grandparents, who came from Mexico and El Salvador, and the musical legacy her parents have preserved. Garcia’s second album, Cha Cha Palace, further explores what it means to be a bicultural Chicana growing up in the San Gabriel Valley—a quintessentially American experience, but a deeply personal one experience. “Always wearing my roots and flying the flag,” she sang on “Jícama,” which former President Barack Obama listed as one of his favorite songs of 2019.

“One day I took my grandmother to see ‘Palace of Cha Cha,’” Garcia, 30, said in a video interview from the kitchen of her Los Angeles apartment. “I realized that I had recorded an entire record about growing up in El Monte, and she didn’t even understand. I suddenly realized that I was missing out on a whole aspect of my culture and people because of the language I chose to write in.

Garcia’s new album “Gemelo” (“Twin”), released Friday, expands on her lineage and ambitions and features Spanish-language lyrics. True to its title, its songs are filled with dualities: angels and demons, grief and healing, dreams and reality, mirror images. The album opens with a melancholic anthem called “Reflexiones” (“Reflections”), and on “Gemini,” Garcia sings: “Everywhere I go I see double.”

The music is mostly electronic, programmed, looped and layered to unleash the immediacy of Garcia’s voice – sometimes ghostly, aerial, sometimes near-screaming. There are moments that bring to mind Kate Bush, Björk, Mia and Sandigold.

Garcia spoke Spanish at home with her grandparents, but said she lost it “once I entered the public school system.”

“Honestly, I think the most punk thing I’ve ever done is Chicana in Spanish,” she added. “Everyone has a variety of feelings. Some people say, ‘Your Spanish is really bad, don’t do this, it’s embarrassing.’ ” And then there are other people who say, ‘Fuck Spanish, it’s the language of the colonizers,’ yada yada yada.

But, she explains, “I just realized this is what I want to do. From now on, any music I make will be in two languages ​​- or if you count Spanglish as your own language, Then all three languages ​​are ok.

For Garcia, everyone has their own mood and musicality. “For me, English is like a sword fight,” she said. “It’s very sharp and fast. And Spanish has a poetic feel to it. You walk around something to get to it. Or you sit in front of the window on a rainy day and write. And then Spanglish feels like a party.

“Palace of Cha Cha” was released in 2020, and Garcia was on tour when the epidemic broke out.

“I put a lot of work and intention into understanding where I came from and where my family came from,” Garcia said. “I remember like a madwoman writing all these journals, brainstorming ideas, and hanging everything on the wall and try to connect everything. I try to understand what things I might have, what qualities they are, like what is ingrained in me and what is mine?

One of the first songs she wrote was “Juanita”; it came like “a gift,” she said. It’s an electro cumbia — a cornerstone rhythm in Latin America — with lyrics that tell of a mysterious encounter: “You make me wake up/Your voice is the voice of the stars,” Garcia sings. After writing the letter, she learned that one of her great-grandmothers was named Juanita.

Garcia grew up surrounded by music, singing and living in harmony with his family. Her mother had a recording career in the 1990s and was promoted as Angelica; her stepfather worked in an A&R but later became an Episcopal priest in Virginia. Garcia auditioned to attend the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where she learned the subtleties of classical and jazz technique; her classmates included Phoebe Bridgers and members of Haim.

But her most important lessons came from her mother, who immersed herself in the volatile moods of Mexican ranchers. “Her way of teaching was to make me start over,” Garcia recalled. “‘No, do it again. I don’t believe you! When you sing dramatic music, you have to go all the way. I’m learning to harness the power of emotion.

The Richmond, Virginia, indie scene gave Garcia the space to try different styles and experiment; while making Cha Cha Palace, she was playing in five bands simultaneously. After the pandemic hit, she moved in with her grandparents and then moved to Brooklyn, where she stayed for a year and a half before returning to Los Angeles at the beginning of this year. In New York, she worked at House of Yes, a dance club, performance space and party room in Bushwick.

“Every night has a different theme,” she said. “I would ride my bike home at 4:30 in the morning in my little lightweight outfit and watch the moon and the sun trade places and avoid the mice.”

At the same time, she was writing new songs—mostly using her voice, singing and rhythm, melodies, harmonies and melodies. During the interview, she picked up a TC Helicon Looper, a gadget she uses frequently on and off stage. “The most freeing thing for me is singing, so loops help me flesh out my ideas,” she said. “This is almost my wife.”

Garcia had already been in touch with Carlos Arévalo, the guitarist for the eclectic, retro-tinged Los Angeles band Chicano Batman. He discovered her music during an expected opening act on a 2020 tour that was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, she started sending him songs she was working on; he suggested ideas and possible producers. Eventually, she convinced him to produce the album himself—his first.

“I know this is a pivotal record for her career,” Arevalo said in a video interview from the Chicano Batman tour stop in Oklahoma City. “She wants the world to truly see her for the first time for who she is on her own terms, not what brands think she should be or what her community thinks she should be.”

Garcia had a firm idea of ​​what she wanted: “She didn’t want it to sound like a band,” Arevalo says. “She wanted it to sound like pop, electronic music. She has a running joke: ‘Like Radiohead with booty.’ “

“Gemelo” doesn’t aim for dancefloor simplicity; nor does it capture the popular rhythms of reggae music that conquered the world. It’s an introspective and cathartic album, about what Garcia calls “the cycle of grief.” Garcia composes her own, often irregular, rhythms, and she revels in dynamic contrasts, from quiet and melodious to explosive.

Garcia said that when she was writing the song, “Something made me cry in the room, really low. First of all, it’s just sad, right? But when you stand up and try to be vocal, when you hear ‘Oh, but With a bass line, you get excited when it sounds really cool. It’s the coolest superpower a musician has ever had,” she added. “We can take something that is really debilitating for a lot of people and turn it into something else — a completely different experience.”

In “Color de Dolor” (“Color of Pain”), she sings about drawing inspiration from her grief: “Although I would never cut my ties with my pain/I fill them with color,” she vows. In “El Que” (“His One”), she confronts a debilitating figure who “creates coldness, seizes energy, controls, confuses,” and she warns, “Don’t follow me in your ways.” Shadow – I have my light!

For Garcia, music has always been “a place where I can express myself exactly,” she said. “My whole life I have tried to follow the calling of music.”

She smiled and pointed at her head. “It’s very noisy here.”

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