LarkFEST headliner Diego Garcia gets personal with his music post-Elefant

In 2005, with his band Elefant’s sophomore album “The Black Magic Show” just completed, bandleader D

In 2005, with his band Elefant’s sophomore album “The Black Magic Show” just completed, bandleader Diego Garcia started writing again.

But these new songs Garcia was writing, which eventually made up his first solo release “Laura” released in March, were much different than the indie pop-rock fare he normally wrote for Elefant. These were quieter, more intimate, with touches of Latin pop and jazz. And the lyrics were far more personal than anything Garcia had written to that point.

“I ended up going through his new phase, this new chapter, around then, and I started feeling the need to go solo,” Garcia said recently from his apartment in New York City.

At one point, Garcia may have tried to show some of these songs to Elefant, but it just didn’t make sense. In June 2010, Elefant announced via its MySpace page that it was splitting up. Soon after, Garcia’s first solo single “You Were Never There” appeared on indie airwaves, including WEXT, The Exit 97.7-FM.

More on the line

“With Elefant, I would write songs on my own and then bring it to them, and they’d help arrange those songs — that’s how those records were made,” Garcia said. “In this case, I could have taken these songs through the Elefant machine, but I felt like it just didn’t make sense. The subject matter was much more intimate — there was a lot more on the line. I was just writing to deal with some real personal stuff, and it just didn’t feel natural to take these songs through the Elefant machine.


With: Mike Doughty, Motopony, Cody Beebe, We Are Jeneric, Landlines, Ben Karis-Nix (Madison Stage);

Diego Garcia, Jason Spooner, Faces on Film, Severe Severe, Alex Torres, Blotto (Washington Stage)

When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lark Street, Albany

How Much: Free

More Info: 434-3861,

“I found the arrangements needed to be a lot quieter,” Garcia continued. “They needed to serve the purpose. The purpose was to get my girl back. I didn’t feel like yelling; I felt like just sort of whispering, I guess.”

The results have caught the attention of both Elefant fans and new listeners alike. When WEXT, one of the album’s earliest supporters, was looking for musicians for the 30th annual LarkFEST, taking place Saturday, it made sense to add Garcia’s new solo band as a headliner.

“We were actually the first station in the country to play [‘You Were Never There’], on our national show The Latin Alternative, and that made a whole bunch of other stations the first to play it too,” said WEXT music director and afternoon DJ Chris Wienk. “We’re real big fans of his.”

This is the second year that WEXT has organized the music at LarkFEST, having taken over from WEQX 102.7-FM last year. Garcia and his band headline the Washington Stage at the corner of Lark Street and Washington Avenue, which will also feature Jason Spooner, Faces on Film and local artists Severe Severe, Alex Torres and Blotto. At the other end of Lark Street, on the Madison Stage, Mike Doughty leads a lineup featuring Motopony, Cody Beebe and more locals We Are Jeneric, Landlines and Ben Karis-Nix.

For Garcia, the show is a stop on a short upstate run in support of the album. So far, the new approach — featuring nylon string guitar and cello — and more adult themes in the new songs have been well-received by Elefant fans.

“Because this record is a step for me — it captured that going from a young kid to becoming a man — I think my fans kind of grew up as well,” Garcia said. “They really appreciate and embrace all that musically, and it’s really nice to see that the fans from Elefant have kind of adopted the new sound and grown up with me in a weird way.”

Right path to take

Part of that growing up for Garcia was rediscovering his Argentine roots, hence the Latin influences fused to his usual pop sensibilities.

“It was very subconscious, and then when we heard it, it became clear that this was definitely the right path to take,” Garcia said. “It was important to address my roots; it just felt right. A Diego Garcia album had to have a Latin vibe, and I think that’s what it does — it has a vibe, but the message is English, so it’s very true to sort of my background as a first-generation Latin American who was born here, grew up here, was educated here. So yeah, it felt right, it felt natural.”

In particular, Garcia took inspiration from early Julio Iglesias records as well as Leonard Cohen, Nancy Sinatra and Neil Diamond.

“I started really getting into old records that I had heard growing up, that I took for granted,” Garcia said. “I went down to Mexico; I bought a bunch of LPs from South America. . . . Early, early, early, very raw Julio Iglesias records. It’s hard to believe, but he was cool at one point.”

The album took about five years to complete, from songwriting to recording, as Garcia experimented with the best way to put the songs across. Along the way, Garcia worked with a number of friends including Dhani Harrison, son of George Harrison, on “You Were Never There.”

“He’s one of my closest friends from college, and I happened to be at his house in Brentwood, Los Angeles, to play guitar and hang out,” Garcia said. “I had this song sort of lying around for a while, and I needed words, and Dhani is very good at that; he’s a great lyricist. So he sort of helped me bring the song to life — it just happened that afternoon by the pool.”

Transitional phase

As for the album’s namesake, Garcia did end up getting another chance with Laura. But in the end, the album turned out to be about more than just winning the girl.

“It wasn’t to get my girl back; it was more to get through a transitional phase in my life — growing up, or wanting to grow up,” Garcia said. “Part of that was trying to understand why it didn’t work being with somebody, what is love, sort of. I was successful in addressing all those feelings, and four years later I grew up, and I did get a second chance with Laura, who inspired the entire album. I was just able to focus on making her my priority — that was sort of the lesson I learned, that if you want to be with somebody, and you want it to really work out, you have to put them first. It’s not about yourself, really, all the time.”

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