The Raw Feminine Divinity of Low Leaf
Originally published on STATUS Magazine, July 2018.
With her feet firmly planted on the ground, Filipina-American musician LOW LEAF is branching out and up to new heights.
Blessing us with ethereal sounds is Angelica Lopez, commonly known as the harp-bearing artist Low Leaf. Gravitating towards music at an early age, she began planting her artistry’s seeds with classical piano while writing songs on guitar. It wasn’t until 2011 that she entered the music scene with her fusion of electronic, folk, traditional—whichever else your own ears can pick up—that introduced her green being. “For some people, they’re drawn to the more singer-songwriter stuff and other people like the beats. It’s just a reflection of whoever says it,” she explains about the fluidity of her music.
In a cosmic shift triggered by the likes of Björk and Aphex Twin, Low Leaf made the genre leap and integrated the use of musical machinery. Taking cues from the tunes in her head, she taught herself the techniques of these contemporary producing devices to add another dimension to her virtuosity. “The person who made up ‘folktronica’, that’s what probably resonated with them the most out of my music; that was at the forefront. Whatever someone takes from music is a reflection of their grade of evolution—what they’re drawn to.”
Before anything else, can you talk about the inspiration behind your name?
Well it has taken on different forms as I’ve grown, so from what I understand of it now, the ‘Leaf’ is a universal symbol of nature and ‘Low’ is like keeping it on the low, kind of humility and the reverence towards creation and the creator. If I could sum it up, it’s like the interconnectedness we have to all of creation.
You have a very strong connection to nature, and that plays a very big part in your artistry. What made you want to integrate this into your music?
I just think about the first awakening experience I had in 2012 where I was just meditating and making music everyday, no matter how weird it was and I just wasn’t judging it. In that meditation process, I was going outside to meditate all the time, and I think towards the end of summer I just got so frustrated because I wasn’t having this breakthrough that I was seeking so I was just like, “F*ck it.” Inside, I surrendered, and in that moment of true surrender, I was able to perceive this tree. It was talking to me, and it was just this telepathic communication, and I realized and experienced how I was really just the same as the tree, just vibing in a different way. From there, I soon came to understand that I was of nature as well. I think we have a lot to learn a lot from mother nature, and right now she’s really wounded because of how we’ve been treating the resources and each other. Yeah, we’re all one species—it’s just all connected. People have just forgotten and think they’re separate because of the way society has conditioned us to perceive ourselves and our place in the universe.
Your sound has been labelled in the past as “folktronica.” Do you think that term accurately describes the type of music you make? How would you describe it?
No. What I realize is that every project feels like a different space and realm, you know? And for the next project I’m putting out called PRiMiTiVA, I made up a genre for it called ‘ancient electronica’. The best way I can describe [my sound] is just like, everchanging experimental. Every project is different, and I feel like my sound is no genre. I don’t really think about it like that, but I guess it helps people kind of understand.
You incorporate classical instruments like the harp into electronic music, which isn’t very common. What was the thought process in doing that?
The harp originally wasn’t even a classical instrument, it has roots in Africa and Egypt. I don’t really perceive my instruments to be attached to a certain type of music. The way I see it, each instrument is just like another hand in how I can express something. So like the harp makes me express in a certain way, the beats make me express a certain way. It’s all me.
It’s an extension of you.
Yeah, all of it. Because no matter what the instrument is, it’s like, the energy you put into it. You are also an instrument, so like two people can play the same harp but what someone receives from it… it’s what you put into it. It’s kind of like all these new producers that get a computer and just start making beats. Even though you can have the same gear as a more well-known producer or something, it’s more about the soul that you put into it.
You played the Sideshow stage during Fête de la Musique Philippines. How was your experience?
That was my first time playing Fête and it was dope. I had so much fun, man. It’s interesting because I usually get a little bit nervous before a show, but I didn’t at all. I was ready to just give. A lot of people came out, and I felt a lot of amazing things in the room.
At your shows, do you think there’s a distinct difference between a Western audience and a Filipino audience?
Yeah, like Filipino audiences listen. Even if they’re talking, they’re listening, and they’re listening with their hearts. I think as a people they’re very gifted creatively in so many ways. There are so many amazing musicians and artists, and so many creative minds that the world doesn’t know about yet. Maybe because the mainstream media market is saturated with a lot of bullsh*t right now, but everything will fall into place at the right time. I feel like the audience out here is really present, they ride the wave with you. I still feel like, when I play out here, the ancestors are present and the plants are listening. Everything feels so potent, it’s really cool. It’s my favorite place to play.
You’ll be releasing your album PRiMiTiVA in August 2018. Talk to us a bit about it.
Yeah, I decided to push it back to August because Mars is about to go in retrograde, or it did already. I usually keep up with that but I haven’t had the best internet.
PRiMiTiVA is the sound of the raw feminine divine. The divine, raw, feminine spirit. The tracks that I put on there feels like my rawest collection. There are only five tracks on it, but I picked the songs that I felt were strongest; something short and sweet. It’s a project that means a lot to me because I moved through a lot of heavy energies, experiences, and frequencies in 2017, and these songs are like the sounds of me walking through the fire that we have to walk through. When people go through the dark night of the soul, you do shadow work. You look inside and see all the impurities that are there, and you look at all the things you haven’t been addressing. It’s not easy, and a lot of people don’t do the work until it’s too late (although it’s never really too late). Those songs are just really powerful. To me, it sounds like ancient electronica because the feeling sends me to Southeast Asia. I can’t explain it.
You just mentioned it brings you to Southeast Asia. How do you think your Filipino roots impact your music?
I guess there’s just always this feeling where I want to remember something that was ripped from me. It’s so hard to find the true history of our people, and just knowing that back in the day we were the Pearl of the Orient... When I come here, I feel how those wounds are still present in a big way. It gives me this sense of responsibility and duty. Even though I connect with all indigenous cultures, I feel empathetic to people as a whole. When I come to the Philippines specifically, it affects me deeper, and I don’t know why. It’s just the ancestral wounds that we all are carrying. I want to use my gifts to wake people up to their power.
How would you describe your music writing process both lyrically and compositionally?
It’s different every time. Every day is a new song, every day you’re gonna feel different and enter that space in a different way. If I could see the overarching process of it all, it’s really just going with the flow and entering that space however feels right in that moment. So sometimes it’s getting up, making tea, and sitting outside. Other days I don’t even touch my instruments until 7 PM. Sometimes I have to do yoga first, sometimes I have to cry, go through shit. Life itself is the process. It can happen at any time, you just have to stay present.
What kind of experience do you want your audience to have when listening to your new album?
I want them to feel like the inner sun. I want them to feel a little fiery and empowered, mostly. I want them to feel new things. That’s really important to me. When I think about what I look for in music, I’m always drawn to things that take me to places outside of my normalcy. In that way, I don’t really care if my stuff is challenging to digest. I look at it like a diet. A lot of people might be unconsciously addicted to sugar and carbs, so their palette doesn’t crave things like kale, greens, or smoothies, but it’s good for you. As people are waking up to what they want to experience from music, I find that those kinds of people who are hungry for more and something deeper—they resonate with my music. Some people want sugar and some people want high-fructose corn syrup, I don’t know. Honey versus high-fructose corn syrup… that’s how I’d describe it.
Written by Sophie Caraan
Photographed by Erwin Canlas
Hair and Makeup by Apple Faraon