March 9, 2015
Detroit has certainly suffered hardships over the last couple of decades, but you wouldn’t know it from the music scene. Throughout its recent difficulties, the city has continued its tradition of producing great music. Perhaps these economic troubles are a contributor to its exemplary art; a necessary, secret evil. Detroit’s Jessica Hernandez and The Deltas are one such band that have molded pain and suffering into a great album titled Secret Evil. You see what I did there?
The album, released last year, has brought them national attention and will bring them to Charlotte’s Amos Southend with J. Roddy Walston and The Business and Moon Taxi later this month. Jessica has taken her love of a great many genres of music, added a touch of personal pain and loss and created her own style; a wide range of high energy rock and roll mixed with everything from latin grooves and salsa to vintage surf music. Their live shows create a high-spirited, effervescent atmosphere that will have you bouncing along to some rather dark stories. She does an admirable job of blending the dark with the light and the result is a pure celebration of life despite all of its hardships.
She and the band made their network television debut on The Late Show with David Letterman late last year. Afterwards, an impressed Letterman exclaimed “Wow, that’s tremendous! That’s it. No more calls. We have a winner right here!”
We had the pleasure of chatting with Jessica during a break in her tour. We discussed the new album, her creative process, a dream producer and how her parents tricked her brother into going to a Jimmy Buffett show, among other topics.
CLTure: Before we start, just a personal note. I saw you up in Asheville with St. Paul and the Broken Bones at the Orange Peel last October.
Jessica Hernandez: Oh, nice.
CLTure: To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about you at the time, but I’m so glad I got there early because it was really a pleasure.
JH: Oh, thank you so much.
CLTure: Absolutely. So, your lyrics, they really seem to come from some dark, personal places, but the music reflects much more of an upbeat, jubilant tone. Is that a conscious decision as a part of the cathartic process for you, the songs coming from two different perspectives?
JH: Yeah, definitely. I mean It started as kind of a happy accident when I was first starting to write for the record, and then I think I kind of caught myself along the way and totally embraced it. Now I feel like it’s.. like my stamp, you know what I mean? I think, like with anyone else, there are a lot of painful things that happen throughout life and for me, like you said it’s a very cathartic thing and to be able to pair it with something that’s super happy and can make people dance. It’s just so much fun. To play a song at a show, like “Dead Brains” for example, a song about one of my best friends passing away, and to make it into this fun thing and see people dancing to it is probably the coolest thing I could have done to move on from that experience.
CLTure: Coming from Detroit, I won’t ask you about the influence Detroit has had on your music. I’m sure you’ve been asked that a lot of times.
JH: Yeah. (laughs)
CLTure: But, what do you think it is about that city, considering that so many different types of music come out of there. What do you think it is about that city that creates an environment for such a broad range of music?
JH: Honestly, I think it’s just kind of how desolate it is. I mean there are just not very many people. I think when you live somewhere, especially somewhere with winters like in Detroit, that’s just the way it is. I’m sure it’s the same in places like Milwaukee or Madison. Detroit is this big city that doesn’t have much happening, especially throughout the winters, I mean it’s pretty brutal. Typically you just end up becoming a hermit and it’s not like there’s a savvy city there to pull you out of your shell. You just end up having so much time to focus on yourself, to get in your brain and write and figure out what kind of musician you want to be and what kind of songs you want to write. I feel like when you’re in a city that has a lot happening there are a lot of distractions and you end up not digging that deep into whatever it is you’re trying to do.
CLTure: So, I’ve heard a lot about your family. Your father was a fan of Iggy and The Stooges and Alice Cooper. Your mother liked The Smiths and Joy Division and you heard Cuban music and Salsa from your grandparents. How much of a debt do you owe family for shaping your wide range of tastes in music?
JH: Oh, like all of it. (laughs) Yeah, I mean, it was so cool. My parents are very young. When I was growing up they were in their 20’s and 30’s. When I was 8 my mother was 28 which was so cool because she was, like my age (now) and still so involved with music, and my dad was too. They were still going to shows and bringing me to shows. I mean when I was really little they took me to see the Rolling Stones, Kiss and Aerosmith. They were constantly exposing me to these bands because they were like, “who knows if they’ll still be alive when you’re an adult!” (laughs) So they were just constantly trying to get me to have those experiences that they had when they were growing up and trying to get me to understand all the different types of music that they were in love with. That’s part of what made me fall in love with music, just them exposing it to me at a really young age. Even funny things, like the first concert I ever went to was Jimmy Buffett. My parents were like, “yeah this will be fun, it will be really cool, the kids can like, hang out.” He was playing at one of those outdoor amphitheaters and they just always made it fun. On the way there my brother read the ticket. He was really little and he was like, “ We’re going to Jimmy’s buffet?” And my parents just told him, “yeah we’re going to Jimmy’s buffet. It’s going to be amazing. You’re going to eat so much food.” And then we got there and, you know, it was just a bunch of old people with parrot heads on, and he was just like, “where are we?”
CLTure: Most of the songs on Secret Evil were written, at least lyrically, before you joined up with The Deltas. You and the band are already working on the next record. How has the writing process differed now that you are working with a band?
JH: Yeah, I actually wrote all these songs musically too. I wrote a lot of these songs before I even had a band, to be honest. It was when I was still in the beginning stages of forming a band that would be able to tour with me. The more things grew the more people I brought into the mix, and it was cool. It’s nice having my friends with me, like now that the guys have been with me for a couple of years we’ve kind of gotten into a rhythm of playing together, so they’re actually going to be writing with me on the second record. I’m excited to see the transition and how it grows with a full band writing together as opposed to the singer/songwriter approach. I think it’s gonna be fun.
CLTure: You’ve mentioned before you’re a fan of Tom Waits and a dream of yours would be for him to produce you, is that right?
CLTure: What do you think he could bring to your music that interests you?
JH: I think his wife actually produces with him and it would be cool to kind of like have them as a team. But I think just the nuances of the music are what I love. Like for him to take a song that I like and to add, I guess all the carnival aspects of his music that I really love, is great. To be able to incorporate that into my style of writing, I’d just be curious to see what it would end up sounding like. I also like the tones he uses in his songs, especially in his last one “Bad as Me” he uses really big tones that are clean and up front but at the same time, it still has a lot of dirt and grit to it. I really like that combination, making it accessible to a listener but still keeping the integrity of the sound quality and the nuances that he wants to have.
CLTure: Well, I hope it happens. I’d be interested to hear what that sounds like too. That sounds really great. Your first European tour, with Social Distortion, is quickly approaching. How has your record been received there?
JH: Have no idea. The only thing that I can tell from social media is somehow we’re growing a fan base over there, and I don’t know how. It’s fascinating, our record hasn’t been released there yet. So it’s going to be really exciting to have our record come out. We have a European EP that’s coming out shortly and then we’ll take Secret Evil with us when we go on tour with Social Distortion and kind of start pushing that. It’s going to be cool to see what our fans are like, and the music scene, and how we’re received for opening for a band like Social Distortion.
CLTure: I’ve seen them quite a few times. I think that will be a nice mix, the two of you together. That would be a show I would love to see.
JH: Yeah, I think it will be fun.
CLTure: I know you don’t really have a lot of time when you go to new cities but Is there a city over there you’re really excited about playing for or getting to see?
JH: Yeah, I’m really excited to play in Italy actually. It’s just somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. And the cool thing about the European tour for us is, when we play in the United States we only have like two or three days off within a month, but in Europe, the way that Social Distortion has their tour booked, it’s three shows and then a day off for the entire time. It’s so many more days off than we’re used to and it’s a new place for us. So I think we’ll get a lot of time for some sight seeing and to check out a lot of stuff while we have the days off, plus everything is so close.
CLTure: Yeah, you’ll get to play tourist a little bit.
JH: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas – Demons (Official Video)