Buscabulla Takes Depression Funk Into the Future With Debut Album, Regresa

Photo by Quique Cabanillas
Buscabulla, the tropi-pop duo made up of Luis Alfredo del Valle and Raquel Berrios, is no stranger to riding out a storm. After meeting and falling in love — romantically and creatively — while hanging out in New York City's underground music scene in the mid-2000s, the pair, nursing a new record deal and a young child, decided to head back to their native Puerto Rico just as the island was reeling from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Maria.

Released last year just as coronavirus numbers were surging and the future of live music seemed in peril, Regresa, the duo's debut album, is a meditation on the fallout Del Valle and Berrios witnessed in the storm's aftermath, as well as the island's long-percolating issues. The tenacity of Buscabulla's growing fan base and support from peers  — both in the underground scene and by chart-toppers like Bad Bunny — enabled them to take 2020's obstacles in stride.

Looking on the bright side, Berrios says she's happy with the way everything worked out.

"People got to really live with the record for a while, and a year and a half later, they get to see it live," she points out.

With a bit of extra time to metabolize the duo's latest work, NPR tapped Regresa as one of the "Best Albums of 2020," and the record peaked at number 15 on Billboard's Latin Pop Albums chart.

As the year draws to a close, the band is embarking on a U.S. tour, with plans for more extensive dates in the summer of 2022 — a roll-out strategy that other acts seem to be adopting post-pandemic, and one that works well for the pair as young, multitasking parents. Fans who missed Buscabulla's buzzed-about set at III Points in October will get a chance to catch the duo live again on Wednesday, November 24, at the Ground.

Del Valle also has an optimistic outlook on the less-than-ideal timing of the album.

"We've had to do a lot of thinking on our feet along the way, but we've learned a bunch of new skills," he says.

Along with shooting and editing a music video on their own, countless livestreams, and their individual production projects — including Del Valle's recent production credit on Rick Moon's latest single, "Faulty Design" — and a collaboration with rising reggaeton star Jhay Cortez, the pair have also undertaken a new art form: remixing.

"Remixing uses a whole different part of your brain," notes Del Valle, "but it's super fun."

Immediately following the release of a remix album for Regresa in December 2020, Buscabulla released remixes for Kali Uchis' track "La Luz," Washed Out's "Too Late" from last year's Purple Noon, and Poolside's "High Season."

All this seems to raise the question: Where would Buscabulla be today if the pandemic hadn't stifled the duo's momentum?

Rewind to the mid-aughts, when the members of Buscabulla were still duking it out with long winters in Brooklyn. The duo's project blossomed when Berrios showed her future bandmate and husband some demos on her computer.
"They were awesome," Del Valle says, still with audible awe. "She had this guerrilla way of producing, where she would hook up two turntables through Serato and into GarageBand and also her microphone. It was an insane setup, but it really worked."

With Berrios's zealous experimental process and Del Valle's more technical approach, they fleshed out big ideas into byte-size arrangements, and the project began to take shape. This bouncing back and forth of ideas has remained the crux of Buscabulla over the years — albeit with slightly more updated equipment and a more finely tuned skill set.

"We try to keep things fresh. Sometimes we round up our production equipment into the car and drive it up somewhere with a scenic view and produce from there," Del Valle explains. "We use different methods, but the DNA stays the same: It comes from Raquel's mind, and I interpret it into a material thing."

Still, creating with someone you're romantically involved with isn't always easy.

"It's not without its challenges and frustrations," Del Valle says. "We work and make music together, raise our daughter together, and we're a couple."

By now, Buscabulla has learned how to juggle these different aspects of their relationship.

Berrios was seven months pregnant with their daughter when they recorded their self-titled EP, produced by R&B savant Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, who is now their labelmate on Domino Records.

"I would pick her up from my friends' house after playing a show, and I would be so tired that I'd go to bed with my stage makeup still on, and Charlie would wake up with glitter all over her face," Berrios remembers. "That was our wild little life."

After releasing the EP to rave reviews and touring with a young child in tow, the pair followed it with the equally beloved EP II, which saw Buscabulla collaborate with acousto-electric pop act Helado Negro, later supporting him on tour. After playing a sold-out show at the Echoplex in Los Angeles, with the owner of Ribbon (a Domino Records imprint) in attendance, they were immediately persuaded to join the label.

The record deal gave them the impetus and cash to finally head home to Puerto Rico, build a home studio, and get to work. The fruit of their labor contemplates the stark reality the couple was confronted with after returning to the island and communicates a profoundly relatable sense of grief.

"In Regresa, I'm speaking about Puerto Rico, but I think in a way I'm also talking about what our generation lived in comparison with generations before us," Berrios explains. "Puerto Rico has been in an economic crisis for more than a decade now and went through Maria, and we've seen things crumble. The record is sad, but it's also supposed to be hopeful. It's 'depression funk,' as coined by our friend Reuben from Unknown Mortal Orchestra."

To now be a part of the Domino family still all seems surreal to the pair.

"It was wild. For a long time, I had really admired Blood Orange, and Juana Molina was one of my favorite artists," Berrios says. "Signing to Domino always seemed like this far away thing that we could achieve, but yet here we are."

Of the kind of live show the band's Miami fans can expect from them, Del Valle says Buscabulla's performance style is more energetic than ever.

"It's an emotional experience," he says. "On the records, there's a balance of energy, but for our live shows, we want to bring the songs to life and take things to 11."

Buscabulla. With Rick Moon. 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 24, at the Ground, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 786-357-6456; Tickets cost $15 to $20 via