WRUR 88.5 Different Radio

Buscabulla On 'Regresa,' A Debut Album About Returning To A Devastated Home

What happens when you go back to a place you thought was your home, only to find it profoundly different? That's the subject explored in Puerto Rican indie pop duo Buscabulla's debut album, Regresa, out on May 8.

Buscabulla is made up of husband and wife Luis Alfredo Del Valle and Raquel Berrios, two Puerto Rico-born musicians who were based in New York until 2017. When their birthplace was devastated by Hurricanes Maria and Irma that year, they decided to leave New York and go back to where they were born. It was an emotional journey, one that inspired the songs of Regresa and which they chronicled for an upcoming mini-documentary.

"There is something meaningful to being back here," Del Valle says. "There is something meaningful to coming back to the place that sort of made you.

NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke to Luis Alfredo Del Valle and Raquel Berrios about making the decision to move back to Puerto Rico, how the island has changed and capturing their conflicting notions of home on their debut album. Listen to the radio version in the audio link above and read on for highlights of the interview.


Interview Highlights

On the internal call to return home to Puerto Rico

Raquel Berrios: Coming back to Puerto Rico was sort of something that was always in the back of my mind. And the funny thing is that when I met Luis, it was sort of something that he kind of dreamt about as well. I always sort of felt incomplete in New York, even though we had a beautiful community and we were thriving with our careers and with our music. Puerto Rico has something — and you probably know it if you know a Puerto Rican — there's something about this island that really calls you. And our daughter was born in 2014 and that only made the feeling stronger.

YouTube

Luis Alfredo Del Valle: You know, home is a complicated concept. I think in your head, a lot of what you conceive of as home is maybe tied to your upbringing and your childhood and all this stuff. And I think, having enough distance from anywhere for enough time, you come back and it will have changed. I mean, a lot of the people that we knew and loved and our friends have moved out. Even close family doesn't live here anymore. A lot of our own close family has moved out. And to me it does feel, in that way, different.

I think that perhaps being away from Puerto Rico for a while, you can fall into this naiveté of idealizing your home. I think that coming back was, in a way, one of those curious reality checks where we felt the complexity; we felt the isolation; we felt detachment from the concept that we were that we had in our mind before going there. I think one thing that we learned was that it is complex to be anywhere, to call any place a home. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is going to be 110% happiness all the time, it is sort of within you. But there is something meaningful to coming back to the place that sort of made you.

On the impact of the move on the band's sound

Berrios: I would say that it's maybe broadened and evolved. I like how when we first got here, we just wanted to try really, really different things. I think that maybe it was a reflection that we were out of our comfort zone and that we were really trying to kind of fit in. And then as time passed by, just coming home maybe has made us a little bit more wanting to be more bold, or trying to make a stronger statement. Before, we used to kind of drown my voice more in reverb, and now I wanted my voice to be a little bit more — I think I wanted to show more of my emotion maybe than I ever had before.

On the double meaning of the band's name, which translates to "troublemaker" in English

Del Valle: Buscabulla was a project that essentially, I think just came out of Raquel's mind. It's a Puerto Rican slang word. I think it's appropriate in an interesting way because it has a double meaning. Bulla in Spanish can be like a ruckus, like a good time — or it can be a fight. So you could be looking for either trouble or reconciliation; or you could be looking for two opposite things.

YouTube

On the song "NTE," which stands for "No te equivoques" or "Make no mistake"

Berrios: "No te equivoques" is definitely something we use a lot here in Puerto Rico. "NTE" was another kind of angsty song, kind of related to once we kind of started getting bigger and people started to get to know the band. We live in a time, I really feel when being an artist is really hard. I think social media has made it hard. A lot of the narrative of who you are is not so much controlled by you anymore. And so "NTE" is about not getting us wrong. It's also like defiance — of coming back to Puerto Rico, even though it's clearly something that a lot of people would tell us to not do. And so "NTE" is more like a defiant sort of song about like, "You can't really tell me what to do. You can't really tell me who I am."

NPR's Sophia Alvarez Boyd and Hadeel Al-Shalchi produced and edited the audio of this interview. Cyrena Touros and editorial intern Jon Lewis adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

What happens when you go back to a place you thought was your home only to find it profoundly different? That's the subject explored in Puerto Rican indie pop duo Buscabulla's debut album. It's called "Regresa."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO SABEMOS")

RAQUEL BERRIOS: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, and so husband and wife Luis Alfredo Del Valle and Raquel Berrios decided to leave New York and go back to where they were born. It was an emotional journey, which they also chronicled for an upcoming mini documentary. Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle join me now from their home in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Welcome.

BERRIOS: Hi.

LUIS ALFREDO DEL VALLE: Hey.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hi. Raquel, you both met and started your band in New York. So tell us why you decided to go back to Puerto Rico.

BERRIOS: Coming back to Puerto Rico was sort of something that was always in the back of my mind. And funny thing is that when I met Luis, it was sort of something that he kind of dreamt about, as well. So I always sort of felt incomplete in New York, even though we had a beautiful community, and we were thriving with our careers and with our music. But I don't know - Puerto Rico has something - and you probably know it if you know a Puerto Rican. Like, there's something about this island that really kind of calls you. And our daughter was born in 2014. And that only made the feeling stronger.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Luis, you were both born in Puerto Rico but eventually, as we mentioned, moved to New York. So when you came back, did it still feel like home?

DEL VALLE: Yeah. You know, home is a complicated concept.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is.

DEL VALLE: You know, I think, in your head, a lot of what you conceive of as home is maybe tied to your upbringing and your childhood and all this stuff. And, I mean, a lot of the people that we knew and loved and our friends have moved out. And even close family doesn't live here anymore. A lot of our own close family has moved out. And, to me, it does feel, in that way, different.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You both recorded this album as you helped and watched the island heal from the hurricanes. And you can really hear the heartache in some of the songs, like "Mio." Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIO")

BERRIOS: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about the song.

BERRIOS: I mean, "Mio" is kind of feeling a bit frustrated. You know, we kind of rent our house. And we dream of one day kind of, like, buying land. And, you know, and we were starting to see a lot of wealthy people coming to the island and buying land and locals leaving. And it was a really deep sense of frustration for me, and that's definitely something that I had never really seen. And owning something can be also - you know, it doesn't have to be something physical. It can also mean about just taking ownership of this place and responsibility, but that's kind of what the song is about, really.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIO")

BERRIOS: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Luis, Buscabulla means troublemaker in English. Explain the genesis of that.

DEL VALLE: I mean, Buscabulla was a project that, essentially, I think just came out of Raquel's mind. But it's a Puerto Rican slang word. And I think it's appropriate in an interesting way because it has a double meaning. You could see - you know, bulla in Spanish can be, like, a ruckus - like a good time, or it can be a fight. You know, so you could be looking for either trouble or reconciliation or - you know what I mean? Or you could be looking for two opposite things, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Raquel, how has coming back to Puerto Rico sort of changed the sound?

BERRIOS: I would say that it's maybe broadened and evolved. I like how, when we first got here, we just wanted to try really, really different things. And I think that maybe it was a reflection of sort of that we were kind of out of our comfort zone, and that we're really trying to kind of like fit in. And then I think, as time passed by, just coming home, maybe, has made us a little bit more - wanting to be more bold. We're trying to make, like, a stronger statement. Like, before, we used to kind of drown my voice more in reverb. And now, like, I wanted my voice to be a little bit more - I think I wanted to kind of, like, show more of my emotion, maybe, that I had ever before.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BERRIOS: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Luis, you both have a mini documentary coming out also called "Regresa." And it documents the journey back to Puerto Rico. What was it about this journey that you didn't expect to learn?

DEL VALLE: I think that perhaps coming back was, in a way, one of those curious reality checks where we felt the complexity. We felt isolation. We felt detachment from the concept that we had in our mind before going there. You know, it - nothing is perfect. Nothing is going to be 110% happiness all the time. It is sort of within you, you know? But there is something meaningful to coming back to the place that sort of made you, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I've been asking musicians sort of when I interview them at this time, what is inspiring you? What is grounding you? Is there a particular song that you think we should hear that will help us at this time?

BERRIOS: I don't know. I've been super into this Jose Feliciano song called "Salud."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SALUD")

JOSE FELICIANO: (Singing in Spanish).

BERRIOS: There's something about the song - I mean, the funny thing is the song seems like it's referring to kind of his - I don't know if it's his wife or his lover. And he's just wishing her health, you know, throughout her life. And the song reminds me that it's just the most essential thing. It's - nothing else is essential at all. And I love the idea that he's sort of wishing health on someone. And I kind of just want to dedicate that song to everyone or something. It just - it's the one that really touches me right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SALUD")

FELICIANO: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle are Buscabulla. Their new album is "Regresa." Thank you both very much.

DEL VALLE: Thank you.

BERRIOS: Thank you so much. And, yeah, I hope you guys stay healthy and safe.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SALUD")

FELICIANO: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.