Photography Felipe Nogueira

loyal lobos is the former choirgirl making haunting folk-pop

The Colombian singer-songwriter talks heartbreak, Hollywood, why she won't let anti-immigrant sentiment keep her down.

by Ariana Marsh
24 October 2018, 6:14pm

Photography Felipe Nogueira

Where Andrea Silva grew up on the outskirts of Bogotá, Colombia, singing meant getting to miss school. Choir students got to perform at various religious events that often occurred during class hours, so when the school’s music teacher heard Andrea’s voice and asked her to be a soloist she was more than keen. “I would always perform ‘Ave Maria’ — my grandma would go to every funeral and first communion just to hear me, even if she didn’t really know the family involved,” Andrea tells i-D with a laugh. “That’s how I started singing — I just wanted to skip class anytime I could.”

Fast-forward 10 or so years and Andrea’s tendency to bail on school hadn’t changed. Except this time she was skipping class at her Los Angeles music college to write and record her debut EP. She was still acclimating to Hollywood after her lonely overseas move, was reeling from heartbreak, and was financially strapped to the point where she was putting her apartment on Airbnb and living off the few extra bucks it brings in. On top of that, Donald Trump was campaigning for president and although she didn’t know it yet, his vitriolic anti-immigrant speech and championing of harsh immigration policies would prove to affect her, a Latina immigrant, in the most frustrating of ways. “I was pretty depressed,” Andrea admits of the time. “The songs I was writing were a snapshot of that period.”

That was two nearly two years ago and only now is Andrea, known professionally as Loyal Lobos, choosing to release some of the songs in the form of an EP. “I want to put it out because it’s dear to my heart and was the beginning of a lot of great musical experiences I had,” she explains. Called The Fall, the project is five songs of folk-tinged heartache at its most blissfully beautiful. Today, i-D is premiering the track “Wrong,” which features vocals that sound like a lackadaisical sun-drenched day and serve as a brilliant contrast to the melancholy lyrics they express.

Below, i-D talks to Loyal Lobos about her haunting EP, and what it’s like for a Latina immigrant to create, live, and just be in America under the Trump presidency.

After singing in your school’s choir you quit pursuing music once you got to high school. Why did you then decide to major in it?
I was originally going to study law, actually, but music was something that would allow me to move out of the country. I had a lot of problems with slut-shaming and bullying in high school — I grew up in a very close minded society and culture and really wanted to get out. I knew music was the only thing my parents would let me study outside of the country because I could get an equal education for pretty much any other career in Colombia.

What did your college experience end up being like? You left everything you knew to move to LA — was it what you’d hoped for?
Ugh — I hated it. I went to Musicians Institute and skipped every class that I could. I had this system where I mathematically calculated how many times I had to go to class and exactly which grades I had to get in order to not fail. Mostly I stayed at home demoing or went to shows.

You were writing the EP during that emotionally and financially volatile time. How were you able to put it together?
The EP is my first project and it’s very dear to my heart. It was recorded very organically and is pretty stripped down and straightforward. I wrote it when I was depressed; I had recently moved to a new country where I barely knew anyone, I had been in love and was heartbroken, and I was in an environment that was toxic. I think Hollywood had gotten to me. At the time, I was crashing on friends’ couches because I was in a situation where I couldn’t go to family for money and I couldn’t work because of my visa. I wrote from all of that. The EP is a lot of heartbreak but it’s also me coming out of that period and appreciating the sadness and not trying to fight it as much.

It has a pretty folky vibe — is that the genre you’ve always been attracted to?
My intention is not to be a folk artist. When I got to college I actually first did the synth-pop thing but it didn’t feel right to me. Around the same time I began writing the EP I started hanging out with a group of people and what they were doing was very folky, so that influenced me a bit. I was mostly fixated on the idea of playing on my guitar and singing a song and being real. Right now I’m working on new stuff that has a lot of electronic and pop and percussive elements.

The American folk scene is largely composed of white male artists. Did you ever feel like there wasn’t space for you?
The folk scene here is a certain group of people and there isn’t really any room — it’s just very American and very white, you know? I don’t really feel part of the scene but I’m okay with it because I don’t feel myself belonging to one genre anyways. I’ve received a lot of support from South American people who really appreciate folk music and that’s what’s really exciting to me.

Trump was campaigning for president around the time you were writing the EP. You said his stance on immigrants and immigration didn’t really affect you then — how has that changed?
Back then, Trump and his hateful speech was just this big buzz. But now it’s really affecting me. I’ve been in a lot of very white environments where people say they hate Trump but then at the same time make comments about me or have an attitude towards me that’s clearly not inclusive. People who say they stand against certain beliefs but don’t really show it on a daily basis — witnessing that double standard has been infuriating for me. And just the sweeping anti-immigrant sentiment overall is very disappointing, of course. What’s specifically frustrating, though, are the limitations that the government has implemented to purposefully cripple immigration processes. They make the whole thing a bullying process and you either go through it or you lose.

From the moment I moved here I’ve dealt with a lot of dumb shit, like I could only open a phone line with one specific company because they won’t ask for a social security number. Not having a social security number is a constant reminder that you’re not a real person — an existing citizen — in the system. I got one, but now I haven’t been able to leave the country since February and it’s going to be another six months until I can. I’m very homesick. And even though I’m legally allowed to be here, I’m currently unable to work. You can’t work, you can’t go home, and if you ask for welfare or health benefits you get deported. It's sad. The government is just a bully.

Have you ever considered moving to Europe to pursue your career because of America’s immigration policies?
Back home, I got kicked out of my home when I was little because the guerrillas took over the area I lived in. Every country has its own issues. No matter where you live, there will always be limitations and obstacles, but to me, that doesn't mean the solution is to leave. I have people here I love and I'm not going to throw away the family I've built here because I disagree with politics.

Do you have any other releases outside of music?
I love Whole Foods. I love grocery shopping. I love cooking. I knit during the winter. I like writing. I love thrift shopping but like, real thrift shopping. Usually my entire outfit is less than $10. But mostly, I work on music. I’m working on an album right now and it just takes all of my time.

Loyal Lobos