Jessica Hernandez and her backing band, The Deltas, are an interesting amalgamation… Jessica embodies the identity of a classic chanteuse, with an undeniably alluring voice and sassy swagger, embracing a conventional brand of loveliness, while also boasting a soulful intensity found in many of music history’s most profoundly revolutionary artists. Hernandez and her band have described their sound as “Dark Soul,” “Gothic Pop,” and “Big-indiefolkestraljazz&B.” While she’s drawn both fans and comparisons to quite kosher pop music, she is also quite in-touch with many of the 20th century’s most prolific transgressors. She, herself, is a first generation American, who has spent her life in the vibrant and volatile heart of the Motor City… which certainly shines through in her music. Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas’ debut LP is due out in early 2014, but the band are currently on a US tour, which includes a stop at Philthy’s own Milkboy on Saturday, September 28th. Ms. Hernandez was kind enough to recently take some time to chat with me about the beginnings of Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas.
Izzy Cihak: You’re based out of Detroit, a city with a pretty awesome musical history. Do you have any favorite Detroit acts, whether or not they’re from recent history? (For me, The Stooges and MC5 will always be tied for #1, but I’m also a big fan of Gore Gore Girls, Lightning Love, and The Von Bondies.)
Jessica Hernandez: The Stooges and MC5 are also at the top of my list. I’d throw Alice Cooper and Lil Willie John up there, too. As far as current local bands go, Mexican Knives and Child Bite are two of my favorites, as of late.
IC: I have to ask, from the perspective of someone who lives there, how would you describe the current state of Detroit?
JH: I’d say there’s definitely something brewing. Everyone there is diehard Detroit and want to see good things happening there. It’s been a slow grow, but I think that there are a lot of really great people from there and from other places around the world, that are moving to the city to try and make it a great place to live again. Whenever friends come to visit from out of town they are always surprised at how progressive the city is and how amazing the people are. It’s obviously pretty fucked up right now because of corrupt government and a fallen industry, but people are trying really hard to put it back together.
IC: Your sound has drawn some pretty interesting characterizations. Do you have any favorites, whether they be critical or courtesy of friends and family?
JH: People love to compare your sound to the only bands they are familiar with. If someone only listens to country, then I sound like the chick from Lady Antebellum. If someone only listens to pop, then I sound like Gwen Stefani, or Amy Winehouse, or whatever other female they can think of. I don’t ever get insulted though, I just think, “Ohh this person only listens to the radio.” The best is when they can hear things that I am actually inspired by. When someone says, “Hey, do you listen to a lot of ______?” and it’s an old favorite, that’s a good feeling.
IC: Do you feel like there’s a type of person who best “gets” your particular combination of sounds? Have you noticed any patterns in your fans?
JH: Actually, that’s the weirdest thing for me is that we don’t have a “type” of fan. I notice it a lot at home in Detroit, especially. The crowd ranges from 18-60 and is so all over the place. It actually scares me sometimes because I don’t know where we fit in. It’s nice though to see that many types of people at a show.
IC: What have been the highlights of 2013 for you and the band, thus far?
JH: Recording our first LP! Getting this album done has been the longest process ever. This whole year has been finishing this record and touring. It’s been amazing and really stressful and I can’t wait to get this damn record out already.
IC: What do you consider to be your most significant influences and inspirations, whether from the world of music or not?
JH: Not to sound cheesy, but life in general is the biggest influence on my music. Life can be really great, but it can also be really sad and really fucked up and I feel like my life has been one extreme or the other, never an in-between moment. That makes me really inspired to write. The instrumental parts come from the tone of the lyrics and from all the stuff I’ve listened to throughout my life, all the gypsy, Latin, reggae, soul music I’ve listened to rolled into one thing.
IC: I realize it’s a bit tacky to mention but, I have to say, you have quite a cool sense of fashion. What does that draw inspiration from?
JH: My boyfriend will insist that my biggest fashion influence is Ace Ventura. Umm, not sure that’s my number one influence, but I guess I draw inspiration from everything. Lately, I get a lot of influence from my music, creepy and weird, but still makes you smile. I also have a garbage-picking/thrifting/ hoarding problem. Combine that with two years of fashion school and I guess my fashion sense is a result of that. Finding weird shit everywhere I go, then heading home to my sewing machine to reconstruct it all and make it my own.
IC: You’re currently on a pretty extensive US tour. What can be expected of the live experience?
JH: This is only the first or second time we’re going through a lot of these towns, so everything is going to be new to them. There are some new songs, a lot of instrument changes and a lot of dynamics through the set. You’ll see some brass, accordion, organs, and maybe even some weird Ace Ventura-inspired outfits.
IC: And what about after tour wraps? What do you have in the works?
JH: Our debut LP will be out at the beginning of 2014. We also just recorded two new songs live to tape at Magnetic Studios. My plan is to release a new 45 at our next Detroit show of the live recordings to give fans some new music, while we wait for the full-length to come out. The record is a lot of music our fans have been hearing us play for a while now, just with some different elements. The 45 and the newer songs that I’ve been working on are a little creepier. Just excited to keep recording and putting out new music.