Although Oakland-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte – better known by her musical moniker, Jay Som – is merely 22, her young musical career could already easily qualify as a success… Last year Polyvinyl Records re-released a collection of her early DIY recordings, titled Turn Into, which led to touring with the likes of Mitski, Japanese Breakfast, and Peter Bjorn & John, and last month Polyvinyl released her first proper full-length, Everybody Works, an equally DIY effort, which was birthed in three weeks in Duterte’s bedroom studio last fall. The album has already received ecstatic praise from the likes of Pitchfork (who gave the album an 8.6) and seen her on the road with The Drums (in addition to a SXSW stop). The album is a charmingly strange amalgam of “indie pop,” boasting aggressive dreampop, alongside sultry ‘90s jams, and 4AD-ish college rock. Jay Som is currently on a run of double-headlining dates with equally-‘90s-indulging alt rockers The Courtneys (who tend to ring of the link between Sonic Youth and Bratmobile), which will find the two at our very own Boot & Saddle this Friday, March 31st. I recently got a chance to chat with Duterte, who tells me what she’s all about.
Izzy Cihak: First off, how was SXSW this year? What were the highlights for you? Were there any bands that you got to check out that left a special impression on you?
Melina Duterte: It was a great first experience, very overwhelming though. I definitely prefer regular touring over that because there’s more time to decompress and have actual time to/with yourself. My favorite part was meeting most artists and bands I’ve been listening to for a while now. Saw (fully or passing by) Ian Sweet, Vagabon, Half Waif, Girlpool, Chastity Belt, Palm, Stef Chura, Alex Napping, Pwr Bttm, Hoops, Her’s, Never Young, Lil Yachty, Real Estate, and more.
Izzy: I realize this is a pretty big question but, considering that your musical career is still relatively new, what have been some of your own personal highlights so far?
Melina: Everything has been consistently shocking to me and it’s still riding strong so it’s hard to find my favorite parts. But, touring and meeting other musicians and people that come out to shows is always so refreshing.
Izzy: Have you noticed any patterns in the kinds of people who most like, or “best get,” your sounds?
Melina: They’re also really into Carly Rae Jepsen.
Izzy: Is there anything you think is especially important for fans or potential fans to know about your process of making music?
Melina: I never want to impose any facts that might change the way someone listens to my music so I don’t think the process is super important to talk about.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the most significant influences behind Everybody Works, both musical and otherwise?
Melina: Definitely the music I grew up and fell in love with. Lots of R&B, funk, ‘90s and early aughts pop music. Also coffee, because I am ridiculously addicted.
Izzy: You’re playing a lot of shows over the next few months. Are there any shows you’re especially excited to play or cities you’re just especially excited to visit or re-visit?
Melina: It’s kind of the middle of the tour but I absolutely loved playing Chicago, Minneapolis, and Toronto. I am pretty excited for the next string of east coast dates. (Of course, Philly)
Izzy: And are you excited for all the shows you’re double-headlining with The Courtneys? Were you previously a fan of theirs? I definitely dig them as well.
Melina: Yes, absolutely – they are so sweet, talented, and intelligent. I heard a couple of their songs beforehand through word of mouth from friends so I was super pumped to be on this bill.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live experience when you play here at Boot & Saddle?
Melina: Quiet and loud!
Izzy: Finally, how do you hope and plan to spend the second half of 2017, after all these dates wrap? Or is it just looking like it’s going to be more touring?
Melina: I want to start working on the new record and practice, practice, practice. I’m constantly thinking about writing and recording music and it’s a little hard being on the road and coordinating that. More touring for this rest of this year but I’m super stoked.