Because it’s earth day, allow us to introduce the earth-friendliest Filipina musician we’ve ever met: Angelica Lopez, aka Low Leaf. She is a full-blooded Filipina, born in Hollywood and raised in the Valley, who first made ripples in the local music scene by way of 2012’s Spoken Herb festival. Two years later, at the recently concluded Malasimbo Arts and Music Festival, the ripples turned to waves.
Low Leaf, with her harp and a band of sessionists in tow, offers a different kind of musical experience; one that is hardly offered in the various circles of OPM. Genres escape us at the moment, but perhaps international music rag Spin can help: It recently premiered Low Leaf’s newest single, “Set Me Free,” calling her sound “folktronica.” As in folk + electronica.
We call her the earth-friendliest because she loves…trees. She christened herself Low Leaf, in fact, because of trees. We spoke with the 26-year-old before she left for her Australia + New Zealand tour.
Low Leaf, most everyone from the scene can’t stop talking about you. Give us the lowdown.
My name is Angelica Lopez, I’m 26, I’m full-blooded Filipino but I was born in Hollywood. In 2011, I started performing in LA as Low Leaf. I have 4 albums and another one coming up this month!
Why the name Low Leaf?
At that time, when I made it up, it was very simple. I was 18 and it was just the visual: a leaf on the lowest branch of the tree. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense, because my last name is Lopez. [And the word low,] it’s like ‘keep it low, keep it humble.’ The leaf is a symbol for nature.
As I’ve evolved, it’s taken on a whole new shape. A tree must grow and become the fullest tree it can become, to become it’s full form and I really resonate with that. I’m one with that. When I identify myself with nature, it allows me to evolve freely.
When did this whole affinity for nature happen?
I’ve always kind of been in my own world and always, always felt detached from what my friends were doing. I’m a creative loner and because of that, I kind of just stay in my head and write, talk to the trees. I don’t know, I’ve always just had an affinity for trees.
So, um, it wasn’t like a drug trip or anything related to pharmaceutical?
No, no. When I was little, and I’d get sick, I remember at school they’d ask me if I wanna lay down and rest and I’d be like, ‘no I wanna go lay under a tree.’ And they’d let me lie down and I’d sleep there until my mom picks me up. I guess, I just love trees man, I don’t know.
What about them?
They are very penetrating creatures. They have so much wisdom. They have so many qualities that we can learn from and embody. They just give—shade, air, their antenna. And they’re beautiful. Plus, the collect light.
Okay, how about music?
I started classical piano when I was 5 years old. When I was in 3rd grade, my mom asked me if I wanted to learn the harp. I said no but of course she convinced me. When she took me to the store where the harps were, I was like “YES!”
What drew you in?
The vibration when I play it. I immediately wanted to get closer to that sound. I stopped playing when my teacher retired and then revisited the harp after college because I wanted to incorporate it with my beats; I started making beats when I was 18.
Your sound is very different from what we know, or are used to. Who are your influences?
Growing up, I was a big fan of Lauryn Hill, Aaliyah. I listened to jazz, a lot of hip-hop, RNB, bossa nova. I listened to a lot of Beatles, because of my dad. He’d play those albums every single road trip. I think that really influenced me with my guitar-writing stuff. Those were the first songs I learned on the guitar, but I dunno. It’s all swimming in my consciousness. What I like about music is, when it’s done right. It’s timeless.
We must say your music is very unique here. Is this kind of music popular in LA? Are there a lot like you there?
No, I was going through a lot in the last two years because I didn’t fit in, in a lot of scenes. I was like, ‘what am I doing here?’ It wasn’t until I played a show with my friend Mark de Clive-Lowe that my music made sense. He is from Australia, based also in LA and he mixes jazz with electronic elements.
Ah, so that’s where you’re able to identify, the electronic music scene.
Yes. I was being doubtful but he was like, just be you. And I was like, Imma take that and roll with it.’
The past few weeks after Malasimbo, the scene has been talking about you. Seems like they’ve discovered something new and exciting!
Malasimbo was unreal. Two days before Malasimbo, I didn’t have a band. I’ve met all these amazing, talented musicians and we had to come up with something and we did it. I don’t have representation here but most of gigs were coursed through my friend Nikki Cabardo. He’s with Sino Sikat but it seems like he’s the keyboard of the entire city!
You’re going back to LA and then you’ll start touring, for folks who want to experience your music, where in the interwebs can they find you? I have a website and a Band Camp account, where people can download all four of my albums. The first two albums have a name-your-price system. You can download for free or you can donate however much you want. My 3rd and 4th records, “Alchemizing Dawn” and “Unearthly” are also downloadable and available on 10-inch vinyl. I’m releasing my fifth record, AkashaAalay this month. It’s my offering to the Philippines, actually. It’s downloadable and comes in cassette form, too. It’s the first time I’ll be working with an indie label. It’s new for me but I’m just saying yes to everything.
Photo by Stephanie Kaitlin Torres, Satori Photography, courtesy of Low Leaf