“He thinks my head is in the clouds…and he is right”
Erica Garcia first came to the United States from Argentina in 2000 for a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Artist. Not a bad introduction to the Northern part of the Americas. She spent that first visit touring California with just an acoustic guitar and a plastic glow in the dark brain she would place on a chair beside her for company. Erica is an accomplished actress and solo artist abroad, while here she holds down percussion in a 10- piece band, Fool’s Gold. Here’s a little insight on living amongst the clouds, storytelling through music, and being the only woman in the midst of 9 men.
Exclusive Photos for Tom Tom by Angel Ceballos
By Arianna Basco
Full name: Erica Garcia
Age: When I was 13, I wanted to be 14- that’s the last thing I remember…
Hometown: Buenos Aires
Where do you live now: I’m doing 4 months in L.A. and 4 months in Buenos Aires.
Bands you are drumming in currently: I’m drumming on my own record now.
Bands you were drumming for in the past:
Fool’s Gold for 2 years. That was my highlight as a percussionist.
What you do for a living:
A full time musician and actress. I’m kind of a famous musician in the Latin world with Grammy nominations, MTV and stuff- so I live off my royalties, even if that was 10 years ago. I warn you: it was horrible rock in Español. I´m better now. I love my new music and the record I´m making.
Tom Tom Magazine: Reason that you started playing percussion?
Erica Garcia: While at a party in Echo Park, Fool´s Gold was playing their second show. The stage is the only place in life where I feel normal and safe, so I jumped on stage with them and picked up a conga. Then they invited me to play for the next show, and the next, and the next.
Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite percussion set-up? Why?
Erica Garcia: I’m not a real percussionist, I’m a multi-instrumentalist. My friends asked me to play percussion, so I pretty much play whatever they put it in front of me- but I don’t necessarily know the name of the things I’m playing. I definitely don’t like those things that make rain sounds, or the curtain chimes, or however you call it.
TTM: What do you do to get better at percussion?
EG: Practice. Listen to your recordings of rehearsal and see what you are playing. Design a landscape of percussion for a song, and practice again and again. You have to be also in excellent physical condition, it requires precise moves.
TTM: What do you think the role of a percussionist is?
EG: You make people dance. You have to know what story you are telling. It is good to prepare different parts, otherwise you can be the most annoying instrument in the band. There’s nothing worse than a bad percussionist, it can ruin everything, even a great band.
TTM: Do you play any other instruments? If so … how does that effect your percussion playing?
EG: My instrument is the guitar. I played bass for another band (alaska! with Imaad Wassif). I also play keys. I have a bunch of synths, and a little violin. The more music you have in your life, the more everything will be affected.
TTM: What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about percussion?
EG: Having fun and grooving without being sloppy or over-playing. I don’t care for those percussionists that study a lot. I don’t get them. They might be able to play complicated things, but I don’t care much for complication. You have to connect with your soul, and silence your brain.
TTM: Most notable show you ever played?
EG: A lot, but as a percussionist with Fool’s Gold, seeing John Frusciante and Michel Gondry at several of our shows, dancing, staring at me while playing, and telling me how good my drumming is. It made me think, “Well, if I made them dance, then I can call myself a percussionist”. Cause I don’t really think I am.
TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female percussionist?
EG: Yes, of course. It is a classic scenario… the segment of time that goes on from the time you say “Hi,” up until you start playing- you are considered an asshole just for being a cute girl. Then you start playing and their jaws are on the floor.
TTM: Who are your favorite drummers/percussionists?
EG: Jimi Hey. He is a multi-instrumentalist also. He played weird percussion with Indian Jewelry. He’s one of my favorite musicians.
Mama wolf, Cindy Blackman.
I also like the girl that plays with Julian Casablancas. She’s cool. She comes to Fool’s Gold shows.
TTM: If you could change one thing about percussion what would it be?
EG: I don’t like all the Latin imagery or the super African designs.
If I could change the visuals I would be very happy.
I’d create a leotard with sensors that make noise as I dance.
I would do percussion with lights.
Please don’t get me started…
I have a lot of ideas that are, as of now, impossible.
TTM: Best piece of advice you got as a percussionist?
EG: Listen and don’t overplay.
TTM: What would you recommend to a new percussionist starting off?
EG: 1-People don’t want to hear your percussion. People want to hear the band. Hit the brakes babe, otherwise they will kick you out.
2- The fact that you study complicated patterns doesn’t mean they are nice and you have to use them.
TTM: What are some of your other hobbies / interests?
EG: Acting, clothing design, and I’m a geek: anything that you can do with computers I do it or try to learn. I also like playing with my dog Polly Jean.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers/percussionists right now?
EG: Autolux’s drummer, Carla Azar.
Julian Casablancas’ drummer.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?
EG: Rainbow Arabia, Dirty Projectors, MGMT, Voices Voices, Entrance, Swahili Blonde, Beach House, Gasslamp Killer, We Have Band, Best Coast.
I would also love to play industrial percussion with Tearist.
TTM: How is it holding down the femininity in the midst of 9 men?
EG: I feel very comfortable playing with men. It feels normal. I like playing with girls, too. I don’t want to sound like a sexist, but I think musician girls are a nice fauna. We are similar to men in several aspects, so the friction is almost zero compared to “regular” women interacting with men. I hope those girls don’t get mad at this observation…
TTM: Love the story of how you became a part of Fool’s Gold. Was it challenging to make the transition between percussion and your own multi-instrument interests and also the transition to America?
EG: Percussion is so attractive and organic to me. It’s just more f*cking fun than anything. I also don´t have the responsibility of singing or being the face of the band, and that is so amazing. It taught me to be humble and play arrangements that someone else wrote.
The transition to America was smooth. I feel really good here. I have incredibly good friends. You have lots of lovely people, great places and awesome music.
I also wanted to explore how it was to release my own music (I did it with Mountain Party in 06).
Now I know both sides. Big labels vs. independent labels. But, I must say the 2 sides of the coin have the same face. All the things that I complained about in mainstream music, are pretty much the same on the independent side.
The most important thing is to be happy with your music and organize your own movement- with or without a label backing it. Back then, in Argentina, I wasn´t happy with my music and the whole thing. I needed to see things from another perspective and find new influences. It was a big change in my life. Then I moved to L.A.
TTM: How do you view the American audience vs the South American audience?
EG: I find American people open and fun. You can show them whatever you do and they are receptive and respectful.
In Argentina they are warm and affectionate. They love more ¨traditional” rock. So if you don´t sound like rock, you don’t exist… But I have a disclaimer: I haven´t played there in 7 years so maybe I´m totally wrong and they like weird shit too. I hope so, cause I´m bringing 7 years of yabadabadub that I will mix with Spanish and I don´t know what the result will be.