Vocalist/front woman Jessica Hernandez describes herself as being “all over the place.” Which means that she’s tried out a lot of different life paths, from college to leading a band. And that she comes from a varied background: she grew up “above her parents’ bakery in Detroit’s historic Mexicantown district, Hernandez was surrounded by sounds ranging from the indigenous music her grandparents brought with them from Cuba to her father’s love of classic rock and her mother’s taste from punk and New Wave from the Clash to the B-52s.” But it seems that all of those influence have informed the musician’s style: Also according to her bio, “A Hernandez song weaves through gypsy style violin and New Orleans-flavored horns, funky rhythm patterns and strikingly detailed dynamics. Her tunes boast a rich, three-dimensional, cinematic cascade, running from gentle and serene to dramatic, swirling crescendos that convey beauty in their near chaos.”
Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas are touring their way to this year’s South By Southwest festival. They make a stop at The Emerald Lounge on Wednesday, March 6 (Young Buffalo and Blessed Feathers also perform). 9 p.m., $6 advance/$8 day of show.
Mountain Xpress: On your bio, you list one of your influences as Nick Cave. What are your impressions of his new album, Push The Sky Away? If you could duet with him, what song would you chose?
Jessica Hernandez: It was pretty anticlimactic. I was pretty inspired by a lot of his old shit and the larger dramatic production he used to go for. He seemed to steer clear of that on this album so I wasn’t too excited about it. I heard through the grapevine that he’s not too fond of women so I don’t know how pumped he’d be on doing a duet with me.
It sounds like your approach to life has been to try out everything that grabs your attention — from college programs to musical genres — and see what sticks. Is that how you approach songwriting, too? Tell us a little bit about your writing process.
I guess it’s less of an approach and more of just doing what I want when I want. I’m constantly writing and when I do it’s always a different experience depending on my mood and what’s happening in my life. If you start to overthink things, you lose yourself in what you’re trying to be. I’d rather be all over the place and be me, than try and force some type of focus.
I love the name of your EP, Weird Looking Women in Too Many Clothes. Does this reflect your approach to fashion? And do you think that there’s an connection or symbiotic relationship between fashion and music — does fashion/style have a place in your live show?
The name actually came from a really creepy dream I had a few years back. I have night terrors and weird lucid dreams so I’ve always been really scared at night and wake up from awful nightmares. I decided to start keeping a dream journal next to my bed to write things down in hopes that it would somehow help or at the very least I could get some weird stories out of it. I had a dream that I was watching a group of people in a psych ward singing one of my songs staring into space all drugged up. Most of them were weird looking women in too many clothes. They ended up brutally beating each other with drum cymbals. Kind of morbid but the name still makes you smile.
As far as the fashion goes, I’m always trying to make everything fluid so I figure if it’s coming from the same place, then it will all make sense. I make a lot of my own clothes and design all the merch and all that kind of stuff. Fashion and music definitely go hand in hand in most cases. Creativity, for the most part, is not just singular focus: It spills over into every aspect of life.
Tell us about growing up in Detroit — is there any crossover between the Mexican community and the soul and r&b roots of the city?
The city is just a soulful place in general. I wouldn’t say it’s specific to any particular neighborhood. When you have a city like Detroit that is struggling and not thriving, all you’re left with is soul.
What inspired you to start up the Whole Detroit Soup meal program, and what kind of artist projects is it currently financing?
My intention with Detroit Soup was to bring artists, students, families, community leaders and anyone else around to enjoy a meal together and talk about important things happening in the city they shared. It definitely didn’t grab at people in the community the way I had hoped, but we were still able to get people talking and supporting one another. My friend Kate Daughdrill and I started Soup together, but have since passed the torch onto our good friend Amy Kaheral who has been able to push the dinners to their full potential and dedicate the time it needs to be a sustainable program. Soup has been able to fund everything from a coloring book to creating jobs for the homeless and everything in between.