Record of the Week: Angélica Garcia’s “Gemelo”

In 1991, the artist Angelica took the song “Angel Baby” from Rosie and the Originals, kept the bubblegum pop melody, but swapped the instruments out for a fat synthesizer. The song was a hit, reaching number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

That singer is Angélica Garcia’s mother. Garcia has released Gemelo, our Record of the Week on WNXP. It’s an album that is similarly in love with the sounds of a synthesizer. Garcia teamed up with Chicano Batman’s Carlos Arévalo to craft a soundscape that shares parallels with West Coast hip-hop, cumbia, Selena and Garcia’s mother.

Interview with Angélica Garcia

Justin Barney: The album title is Gemelo, which translates to “twin” in English. What does that mean to you?

Angélica Garcia:  When I began to write the record I was navigating a lot of very difficult changes in my life. In that time I felt like my body was surviving. I was navigating life with the help of my intuition, and sometimes that intuition just spoke so loudly and so clearly that it felt as though it were another person. It felt like a twin.

The record is about how we have ourselves in the flesh but we have our spirit self. Some people call it intuition. Our intuitive self guiding us beyond the intelligence of our body.

I remember, I heard someone say, “Anxiety screams and intuition whispers.”

I was meditating so much so that when it when it did speak, it was pretty profound.

JB: What helped you hear it?

AG: Protecting silence. I love to journal. A lot of my songs come out of the journal, and so I think I watch, like looking at my pen and seeing written word. Some of the things that I wrote down, I was like, ‘Damn, this is like hella profound!” I feel like I didn’t even write this. I feel like it just dropped out of the — like, some ancestor or something wanted me to observe this. 

JB: What’s one of those instances or lines that made it onto the album?

AG:  I think of a song like “El Que.” There was one night I woke up in the middle of the night, just sat up in bed, and I just heard something, and it was like, “Don’t give away your power. No one can take your power from you. They only get it when you give it away and you’ve been giving away your power.” And “El Que” came out of that.

JB: Y Grito” is a very intense song. The production on that just bumps. And the production really shines on this album. How did you create the like the the identity of the music on this album?

AG: The soundscape was definitely a collaboration between me and Carlos Arévalo from Chicano Batman. Carlos is a wizard at synthesis. The music of Chicano Batman, you know, it’s like hella synthesizers and, like, vibey, and kind of psychedelic. That married with like my like, I don’t know, freaking elvin weirdness or whatever.

When we were working on “El Que,” for example, we just put my Ableton session on his computer and I was like, “I want it to sound like we’re standing in the middle of a hurricane. Like we’re in the eye of the storm, and everything is swirling around us.” And for “Y Grito” I wanted it to sound like you’re sweating and you’re panicking—I wanted it to sound like you were being pursued. So it was fun to make sounds and arrangements totally based on the emotions that we wanted it to evoke in people.

JB: Listening to your mom’s music, like “Angel Baby,” she took this song that was this 1950s pop song, and put this killer synth on it and made it something totally new. To me, there’s totally a parallel in what you do.

AG: Yeah. We both come from Chicano culture, and so those synth-y vibes are totally present in West Coast rap and in cumbia too. Even Selena did it. We both have that knowledge and that love.

JB: A lot of the songs you have, you have background vocals, but I believe those are all your own vocals?

AG: Yeah. For so many years, I was working with the loop pedal. And so I think a lot of my identity as an artist has that foundation. I would just layer and layer things until they sounded exactly how I wanted them to be. It is a delicate balance because even if you have a group of great singers, you can’t rush it. I knew that I could do that myself. And I can also explore more emotions more quickly because it’s all me.

As a singer, I do a lot of different characters and stuff too. Like a song like “Intuición,” for example, the very end, there’s, the little pop girl, like “Hay algo en mi mente omnipotente.” Then salsa tio comes in with the low voice, and then another “guy” yells over the top. Good luck explaining that to a group of people. It’s all my voice.