Home Isn’t Just Where You’re From

LA-native Angelica Garcia talks finding her tribe in Richmond, Virginia.

At first I was drawn to all the things that made it different. The change in seasons, the culture of covered dishes and kindly neighbors. I grew accustomed to driving through 20 minutes of backroads to the nearest grocery store; though the drive looked much different, one would spend a similar amount of time navigating through neighborhood traffic in LA. I was enamored with Virginia and the South because life became the complete opposite of what it was when I was growing up. 

Time has since passed and I don’t live in the rural community I used to. I’ve been on the East Coast for almost ten years now. Little by little, my family has spread out, so now I’m on my own living in Richmond, Virginia. Through that passage of time, I can’t help but think of the idea of “home” more often. What is a true home? Is it the place we’ve landed or the place we’re from? I’ve reached a conclusion recently: I think home is the tribe that accepts you.

It was about five years ago when I moved to Richmond, Virginia with some classmates. I rented a room in a house 20 minutes from town not knowing where it started or ended. Coming from rural Virginia, I was so excited to be a part of city life again. I went exploring and with a sort of innocent confidence, I scoped out different concerts and bars knowing that somewhere in the mix I’d find musicians to connect with. It didn’t take long for me to find an open mic. When I got onstage to sing, I didn’t realize I was about to spark the beginnings of some of my favorite and most integral relationships outside of my blood family. 

Several weekly open mic performances, a month long tour, and endless night time hangs later, I was grateful to be welcomed into a community filled with other writers and music lovers. This is why it was difficult for me to understand why I felt like something was missing. It wasn’t until one performance where I understood immediately: I looked out into the crowd and no one looked like me. There wasn’t a Latinx person in sight. Though I was happy the crowd was filled, I couldn’t help but feel lonely and disconnected from my identity as a Latina. My oppositeness stood out and now that I was living on my own, I couldn’t even go home and take a deep breath at my parents’ house. This was strange and something I never had to think about growing up because my culture was always around me. Suddenly my last name glared back at me in a way that made me feel vulnerable — in a way that made me miss home in LA. I learned that if I wanted to connect to my roots, it was something I had to actively do now. Something I had to take wherever I could get it. 

My favorite place to go in the mornings was Kuba Kuba, a Cuban American diner a few blocks from my apartment. There I could sit at the counter and drink cafe con leche while the salsa music came out of the corners of the bright yellow room. When I closed my eyes I smelled the flavors of my childhood and heard cumbia music coming from the prep kitchen. The sights, smells and reminders of my childhood made the diner a sacred space to me. Next thing I knew, I was there three times a week sitting at the counter talking to the servers about art, food, and music. Finally, I showed up enough that when I asked if they were hiring, I was able to start working the following week. 

The best thing about finding one tribe is that it often leads to another. Behind Kuba’s well known bar, I served folks who later became friends and even bandmates. After shifts I’d walk with my coworkers a few blocks to other restaurants or bars where old friendships meant there were no last calls. I’ve done several weekends now where I finish a shift, change near the ice machine of the restaurant and hurry over to sing at a gig before going home to prep for work in the morning. Five years into living in Richmond, I’m proud to say I’m in four bands of completely different genres: Piranha Rama, a psychedelic a surf rock band; Mikrowaves, a Pan-american Afro/Caribbean rock & roll band; ChuckWhat, a rock & roll duo; and finally my own project under my name Angelica Garcia. Finally I live in the camaraderie of a motley crew that is from all over and everywhere just like myself. It’s this blend of friendship that eventually fostered the creation my second album.

Like a giant collage, my new record was constructed using fragments of different perspectives and meshing them to be a cohesive body of work. In addition to the recordings done at my apartment and family home, it took a total of six studios, two restaurants, a combination of musicians from three different bands. I used new and old textures played by new and old friends throughout this process of trying to document and invent my own style. The record is a great juxtaposition since the music is a retelling of my memories of Chicanx life in Los Angeles, but the musical interpreters of these retellings are members of my tribe in Richmond. This sharing of spaces and stories went on for two and a half years before the album was completed.

After the rush of having finished my greatest project, I now stand on the other side almost surprised by the way I feel. Of course I miss my family — sometimes I wish I could go back — but returning permanently to LA doesn’t quite make sense now. Whenever I feel down, I’m comforted by reminding myself that I now have many families. I would not have been able to make this record without the help of them all. I may be a native Angeleno, but home is much bigger than where one is from. I’m grateful to sit at many tables. I’m grateful to be a part of an incredible tribe. I forever honor the people and places that raised me, but look forward to the  journey of expanding my home.

(Photo Credit: Caitlyn Krone)

With Mexican and Salvadoran roots in the San Gabriel Valley, East of Los Angeles, Angelica Garcia has spent the last few years creating a new, second family for herself within the welcoming community of Richmond, VA. The bond is christened with the announcement of Garcia’s signing to Spacebomb Records (Bedouine, Matthew E. White), and the release of her first two singles for the preeminent Richmond label: “It Don’t Hinder Me,” an anthem celebrating her roots that blends Wall of Sound pop and Southern rock, and “Karma The Knife,” a Reaggeaton-meets-dancehall earworm.

Like Lorde, Billie Eilish, and Rosalía, Angelica isn’t afraid to tear pages out of her diary and express emotions that might be difficult and oftentimes daunting to share. Garcia — who has recently toured with and supported acts like Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers, Natalie Prass, and Violent Femmes — sings about and pulls inspiration from her experience growing up in the predominantly immigrant Latinx communities of Southern California. The two new singles produced by Eddie Pendergast (a long time co-writer of Matthew E. White) showcase Garcia in her creative element, and herald the arrival of a bold and buoyant new voice in music.

(Photo Credit: Caitlyn Krone)