FORMER ELEFANT FRONTMAN DIEGO GARCIA REUNITES WITH THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS AND DISCOVERS A WHOLE NEW SOUND
“You know what’s beautiful? It’s waking up and grabbing my daughter and lying with her in bed with my wife next to me. There’s nothing better than that.” Diego Garcia is looking out over the power-lunch arena of the Four Seasons restaurant. His beautiful, flame-tressed wife, Laura, sits at a table 20 feet away, and he keeps looking back, as if worried she might disappear. She doesn’t. The palpable sincerity in Garcia’s words and body language was present during his performance at Joe’s Pub two nights earlier. Gone is the put-on angst of his post-punk days, when he was the front man of the early-aught rock band Elefant. He’s a solo artist now.
It isn’t hard imagining Diego Garcia as a target for female attention. Words like tall, dark and handsome have been used for decades to describe men like him. It’s harder to believe the truth, namely that he was a “late bloomer” from Florida who was still a virgin when he graduated from high school. He discovered music about the same time the girls discovered him, and since then the two have fueled the narrative momentum of Garcia’s life, mirroring each other in both success and failure, security and fear.
Diego met Laura Poretzky, the love of his life, in Providence, R.I., in 1997, when he was at Brown and she at RISD. “It was immediate — we both knew,” he recalls. “I had no experience with women before Laura.” After college they moved to New York City, Laura’s hometown. “The transition from the protected college experience to the real world was difficult. I needed to find my own identity in this city, and I had this huge drive to make it in music.”
It was an exciting time on the NYC music scene. Garcia and his first band, Circus, played divey LES joints like Mercury Lounge, Arlene’s Grocery, and Nightingale’s. “We were cool. We couldn’t really play instruments but we were super cool,” he says, laughing. Then the city exploded with the release of The Strokes’ EP in 1999, and Garcia knew he’d have to step his game up to keep pace. “The Strokes took Lou Reed and made him poppy. You have these kids who look like they’re in a cartoon singing stuff that was great.”
Not wanting to fall wayside to peer bands like Interpol and The Rapture, Garcia disbanded Circus and frantically threw a new band together. Elefant was never a tight group of friends. They were a reaction to the times and as a result, the experience was like going to bed with a stranger — the lust of one night soon faded into the desire to escape.
Nevertheless, the band’s 2003 debut album, Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid, was a great record. “Tonight We Dance” has the synth vibes that would take off three years later with bands like M83 and MGMT. “Make Up” is the only vulnerable love song that came out of that period in music. No beer-swashing machismo, just a simple song about a boy wondering if a girl knows how much he really loves her. He wrote it about Laura.
"I was always in love with Laura. I would find myself talking to her in my dreams..."
As Elefant was gaining momentum, the relationship hit a dead end. “It was hard keeping it together,” he recalls. “We’d break up, we’d get back together,” he says. “There was never a time where we could talk on the phone as friends. It was either all or nothing with us.” Soon after Elefant wrapped their U.S. tour, Diego and Laura decided to go their separate ways.
It was around this time when Garcia began being touted as a sex symbol. New York Magazine named his as one of the city’s sexiest men. He was single, and while women would always be around, so would his constant longing for Laura.
In 2006, with an indie hit under his belt, Garcia traveled to California to record The Black Magic Show (2006), their second major-label LP. Expectations were high, but the inspiration wasn’t there. “By the time we got around to making the album, the setting we were put into — big producer, the huge studio budget, the fact that I had no one, with Laura not being in my life at all — all of it resulted in a record was cold and detached,” he says matter-of-factly. “That band was injured from the start.” After the tour, Diego severed all ties with his bandmates.
Garcia spent his nights in clubs like Bungalow 8, Rose Bar and Beatrice, and days writing new songs, all of them about Laura. He found an appreciation for the Latin love ballads his Argentine parents had played for him as a child. He worked with an acoustic guitar, trying to put words to tender moments he had only imaged. “I was always in love with Laura. I would find myself talking to her in my dreams. I don’t remember what we would say but when I woke up it would feel like I’d had a conversation with her.” Four years had passed since their break-up when Garcia found out that Laura was engaged.
With a handful of songs, Garcia hooked up with future producer Jorge Elbrecht (of The Violens) and cellist Danny Bensi and started playing small shows in New York and L.A., which lead to international invitations. Following a show in Denmark, Garcia found himself naked and drunk swimming the Øresund Channel at 5 a.m. Fresh out of the water, Diego realized it was Laura’s birthday. He sent her a note wishing her well. She responded immediately: “Come see me. I’m in Rome,” she replied. “The next day I bought a flight to Rome and she was waiting for me at The Hotel de Russie,” Garcia says with a grin. “BOOM. She had left her fiancé. There in the hotel garden, we kissed. And needless to say we stayed in that hotel room…forever.”
When the couple returned to New York they got married in a small ceremony downtown. Their baby girl, Georgiana, followed soon after, along with Diego’s debut solo record, Laura, inspired both by their time apart and their storybook reunion. Soon his song “You Were Never There” was picked as a Starbuck’s Single of the Week, which provided a fantastic launching pad as a newly-minted solo artist and the exposure to millions of potential new fans.
Garcia is currently recording his second solo record, on which he’ll re-team with Elbrecht, and touring the U.S. with Italian popstar Jovanotti. “If Laura was about getting her back, the next record will be about what comes after for us, “ he says. “My end goal is to keep putting out music that is a natural extension of my experiences. That’s a good feeling. If I can do that, I think I’ll be happy.”