Jessica Hernandez & The Deltashttp://jessicahernandez.net
Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas have arrived at last with their long awaited Instant Records debut, SECRET EVIL. The album sees the Detroit-‐based band serving up a brilliantly polyglot sonic stew – equal parts rockabilly and surf pop, cabaret jazz and funky reggae, Latin psych and Gypsy punk – all cooked up on the hot Motor City pavement and seasoned by that distinctly Detroit combination of blasted R&B, showband theatrics, and limitless rock ‘n’ soul energy. Songs like “Caught Up” and the syncopated “No Place Left To Hide” showcase Hernandez’s unstoppable vocals and breath of musical ambition, braiding contemporary pop thrills with an original and unmistakable creative persona all her own. Dizzying in its range and ambition, SECRET EVIL is fresh, focused, and surprising, a remarkable debut album from an indescribably compelling new band.
“We get called a lot of different things from a lot of different people,” Hernandez says. “It’s a combination of stuff that’s really fun and dark and makes you feel a whole range of emotions.”
Born and raised in Detroit, Hernandez headed off to Chicago’s Columbia College at 17 but dropped out two years later in order to devote her ample energy to music. She moved to Kansas City, where, despite having only rudimentary skills, she bought and then taught herself guitar and piano.
“I picked it up really easily,” she says. “I found that I knew how things should sound, how to form a chord just by listening to the instrument. Every day I would learn a couple of chords and write another song.”
Hernandez pushed hard, penning a ream of sensitive singer/songwriter-‐inspired tunes and educating herself in the art of lo fi recording. She eventually returned to Detroit and in 2009, united the five-‐man Deltas. Though initially just a provisional arrangement, Hernandez and the powerhouse combo promptly made their bones as a preternaturally volatile live act, capable of full force raw power, wide-‐ranging emotion, and inventive, dramatic stagecraft.
“I thought it was going to be temporary,” she says, “but it just worked so well. It felt so great having these amazing musicians play songs I’d written in a way I never could’ve done on my own. All of a sudden my sound had a darker, soulful big band vibe. It freed me up to go a lot of different ways. I didn’t need to be stuck doing just the one thing.”
Despite her long-‐standing commitment to artistic independence, Hernandez signed with Blue Note and then opted to record her debut album with a producer rather than on her own. She met with a number of top studio hands, ultimately choosing to team with GRAMMY® Award-‐winner Milo Froideval.
“Milo and I hit it off immediately,” she says, “I felt really comfortable with him, which is the best thing you can ask for when you’re trying to be creative. We have similar personalities, a similar sense of humor. Part of that I think is coming from a Latin background. He felt like family, in a sense.”
In 2012, Hernandez and her Deltas headed down to El Paso’s renowned Sonic Ranch, located on 2,300 acres of pecan orchards bordering the Rio Grande and Mexico. Froideval indeed proved the ideal collaborator, from enlisting some of Mexico City’s finest mariachi horns to helping Hernandez articulate her myriad musical ideas even after the sessions had wrapped.
“We would hang out, have a couple of beers, and try things,” she says. “Experimenting with different tones to make it a little more unique. It was really open.”
Alas, the Blue Note deal broke down and the recordings were soon locked in limbo. Set free at last in 2013 by Blue Note President Don Was, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas promptly joined forces with Instant Records, the independent label founded by legendary producer, songwriter and record executive Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, The Go-‐Gos, Dum Dum Girls). Hernandez culled a few choice cuts from the Sonic Ranch sessions, recorded a couple of new tracks live to tape, and released
2013’s acclaimed DEMONS. The EP earned national acclaim, with PopMatters hailing it as “an accomplished document that proves the band deserves all the hype they’ve been garnering.” “(Hernandez is) painting a very big picture,” declared The Huffington Post, “and her memorable voice is only one of the textured colors on a multidimensional palette.”
SECRET EVIL reveals all the many hues in Hernandez’s 120-‐count box of crayons. Despite its vintage, the album is in fact so contemporary one would be forgiven for assuming it was recorded two years from now. Songs like “Over” and the rollicking “Sorry I Stole Your Man” crank like Wanda Jackson fronting The Seeds in an Acapulco dive bar, The Deltas busting out their wicked blend of girl group melodies, driving arrangements, and infectious energy. A self-‐described storyteller at heart, Hernandez chronicles her personal trials and triumphs throughout SECRET EVIL, all in the hope of touching a truly universal chord. Tender tracks like “Cry Cry Cry” and the album-‐closing “Lovers First” stand out as snapshots of experiences, intimacies, and moments that matter.
“My favorite songs ended up being the ballads,” Hernandez says. “I feel like I can almost hear myself starting to cry. Maybe that’s something only I will know, because at the time we recorded the vocal performances, the situations I’m singing about were still so relevant, still so present in my life. It’s amazing to be able to have a point like that in your life captured, even if there were things that you probably wouldn’t want to remember.”
Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas are now primed and raring to bring their ineffably cool Midwestern rock ‘n’ soul to an overheated venue near you. Having waited patiently to unleash SECRET EVIL, Hernandez is now fully prepared to call the highway her home, at least for the foreseeable future.
“The album is finally being released and I could not be more excited,” she says. “Now it’s time to get back in my van with my boys and show everyone why this record means so much to me.”
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