To The Source: Angélica Garcia Interviewed

New album 'Gemolo' takes the songwriter to her core...

Barack Obama chose Angélica Garcia’s song ‘Jícama‘, a celebration of Mexican-American culture, as one of his favourites of 2019. “This song is about not being seen for having a dual identity,” Angélica said shortly before the political icon revealed his audio habits. “The US is a country made up of people from other countries. This song and video are a love letter to kids who grew up embracing two worlds just like me.”  

Born in Los Angeles to Mexican and El Salvadoran parents, Angélica Garcia’s heritage and background informs her creativity. To date she has released two albums: ‘Medicine for Birds’ (2016) and ‘Cha Cha Palace’ (2020), developing a singular voice in the process.  

Now signed to Partisan Records she is set to release her new album ‘Gemelo’ on June 7th. Recently announced as support for IDLES in Mexico, you can catch Angélica Garcia at the Great Escape in Brighton this weekend, before a full UK tour over summer.

CLASH writer Julia Mason caught up with Angélica Garcia backstage in Austin, Texas, to talk about her heritage, her ever-evolving artistry, and using music as a space for spiritual guidance.

‘Gemelo’ is written in Spanish – was this partly due to your grandmother not being to able understand previous album ‘Cha Cha Palace’ (2020) which had been in English?  

I started to experiment with Spanish, it was a language that I had grown up hearing my entire life. I speak Spanish at all because of my grandmother. And the first things that I learned to speak in Spanish were prayers.  I would repeat them after her. And having the realisation that I made ‘Cha Cha Palace’ as a sort of a love letter to my community and culture that raised me. Then realising that there was a whole other fold of family and community that I wasn’t going to reach because it was in English. That impacted me. 

I always sang in Spanish because as a kid growing up, there were three mariachi singers in my family: my mother, my aunt and my uncle. So I thought, for this next record, what if I actually tried to write in Spanish. I’d always been so afraid because I knew that my Spanish was imperfect. And it was actually a battle, getting through the writing process of ‘Gemelo’, coming to terms with what level I was. 

I didn’t realise how political speaking Spanish was. There were elders that were like “your grammar is absolutely terrible. You’re disgracing the language.” And then there were young kids that were “this is the language of the coloniser.” Then there’s in between, a lot of Chicanos speak Spanglish, this imperfect subculture of the Spanish language.  Depending on what region of the country you’re from in the States, your Spanish is different; depending on what country your parents are from, your Spanish is different. So it was this whole journey. But I definitely feel more comfortable with it today than I’ve ever been in my life because of having gone through this process with ‘Gemelo’. 

Can you talk about the themes of the album, this consideration of your intuition and your conditioning. And that’s something that as human beings we just don’t always pay attention – to the intuitive side. 

The record is called ‘Gemelo’ and that is Spanish for “twin”. The idea was that we have ourselves in the flesh navigating life in real time. But we have if we listen carefully, a very intuitive self, that’s guiding us through these journeys and challenges of life. It is fully in Spanish, but I wouldn’t say ‘Gemelo’ is an album about my culture necessarily, like I think ‘Cha Cha Palace’ was, but I realised that a lot of ‘Gemelo’ was almost like a process. It’s processing through stages of grief. And a lot of those things that we’re grieving were connected to my culture and social conditioning and my conditioning as a woman. 

You name it! You pick it apart, the Catholicism, the womanhood, the second generation and first-generation kid, the Spanish, just everything. It was like all of these things were kind of coming apart at this time. Even the way I designed the record to play – the first half was almost more in the emotional body when grief first strikes you and you’re just kind of sitting in the feeling of it all. It ends with ‘Mirame’ which is like a prayer asking for guidance and release. And then the second half of the album begins with ‘Y Grito’ and it’s okay now, because you asked to learn. And it’s almost like I wanted it to feel like you just crashed into your body and immediately are having to let go.

And I loved reading about the producer for this album Chicano Batman’s Carlos Arévalo.  I believe you initially connected over Instagram…?

I randomly had an interview with Guitar Magazine years ago. He saw this interview and was like “hey Angélica it’s Carlos” and we just became friends online. We started sharing music and he became a mentor to me. He was teaching me “these are the plugins that you need for this”, “this is the kind of vocal processor you need”, “this is the kind of interface you need” all the tech stuff. That felt like community care, to be honest, because, you know, we’re Chicanos, we’re both from the same lineage in LA. And when it came time to start recording the album, I said “Carlos why don’t you produce it?” He’s like “What, I’ve never done this before!” I said I don’t care, you know what you’re doing.  

It was so funny at the time, I had just moved from Virginia to California and he just moved from California to Virginia. So I felt like Virginia was calling me back again to go record. Virginia and I have this thing you know!

You signed to Partisan Records. Was that before you had recorded ‘Gemelo’? 

We had recorded about 80%, and we were actually getting rejected a lot.  And it was so funny because Tim Putnam (co-founder of Partisan Records) called us within an hour of having being sent the music and I was “This man doesn’t even speak Spanish!” We met over Zoom online. Tim heard insecurities that I had about the record that I hadn’t even told my managers yet. So for him to hear that. I was like, “oh, you’re just a great listener, and it doesn’t matter what language it is like you just love music”.

I am genuinely so grateful whenever people want to talk to me, you know.  It’s so funny to me that I ended up on this rock and roll label. Because I think that is a part of my spirit 1,000%, it’s a lot of the music that I grew up with, but I also still love pop. And I’m also Latina. 

And you’re coming to the UK and Europe, I know you’re playing The Great Escape. Is that the first time you played in the UK?

I’ve got a lot of shows, The Great Escape, London Calling, Bristol at the Louisiana Manchester at The Castle. And yes the first time playing overseas. It’s brilliant. I got to visit London for the first time last year but I’ve never got to play there yet. For ‘Cha Cha Palace’ I was set up to but then the pandemic hit. But it’s okay, I think this is the record. I really have been working hard on making this as good as I can possibly make it, and it’s such a gift to have a support system like Partisan. They truly look after me and I’m so very grateful.

‘Gemelo’ will be released on June 7th.

Words: Julia Mason
Photography: Shervin Lainez

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