After a few bumps in the road, including a major label deal gone south, Jessica Hernandez seems to be in the right place. The Detroit-grown musician is in the midst of a large national tour now. And she and her band, the Deltas, are enjoying a deal with the upstart New York City-based independent label Instant Records, which plans to release the group's sophomore LP next year. We chatted with Hernandez over the phone last week, as she was touring on the West Coast, in anticipation of her homecoming show at the Mo Pop fest.
Metro Times: I really liked the "Deceptacon" cover that you did a couple months ago. What made you decide to do that song?
Jessica Hernandez: I grew up listening to Le Tigre. I really, really loved them growing up. And in high school I remember seeing them at Saint Andrews when I was 15, and being like, "Fuck, I really want to do that one day." That's the main reason. When I wanted to incorporate a cover for a festival that we were doing, that's the first song that popped into my head as something really fun. It ended up going so well with the crowd that we kept playing it, and then I decided to throw it on the 7-inch that we just put out.
MT: I know with your first record there was kind of this whole ordeal with the label and who was going to release it. Are things more stable on that front?
Hernandez: Oh yeah. That was a couple years ago that all that happened. Things were in the unknown territory of, "What's going to happen to the record? Are they not going to give it back?" Things just got settled in with Instant, and our team got settled in. And now it's just this really cool group of people that I got to pick to work with now. It's definitely real different than the route we were taking before, but it's been working out so good.
MT: Have you been thinking about a next record, or is it mainly just touring right now?
Hernandez: Yes, actually. We're taking the fall and the winter off. With the exception of the handful of festivals we're doing, we're pretty much going to be home writing and recording through the fall and the winter. And hopefully it'll be ready to get put out in the spring. But things always take longer than you think, so we'll see.
MT: It's hard to classify you under any one genre; there are so many different influences that I feel like you've absorbed. Where does that comes from for you as an artist, and is there any genre that you still want to branch out into that you haven't yet?
Hernandez: It comes from listening to a lot of different stuff. I've never been into just one kind of music, and I've always been all over the place with what I listen to. And in my subconscious through writing, even just the weirdest things — like I'll be really into metal at some point and somehow that'll work its way into a weird breakdown of a soul song. It's me trying to fit everything that I really admire in everything I write. I think that this next record is going to have a lot more Latin influence percussively, just because I feel like that's the one thing that I listen to a lot. There's hints of it in the last album, but I think it's going to be a lot more Latin punk than it ever has before, so I think those two styles are working their way into the new stuff a lot.
MT: You're playing a handful of festivals in addition to these club dates, so you're going to get a lot of people who are maybe curious or are checking you out for the first time. What kind of impression do you want to make on these people?
Hernandez: It's all about, for me, just putting on a really good live show, and I think that not enough bands care about that. Today, we meet so many studio bands. Their album is incredible and then they don't care as much about connecting with an audience and making it worth someone to pay money to see you, and for me that's such a big thing, just giving a really high energy performance and making people feel like it was worth it for them to come out and see you and pay money. And hanging out with the crowds after and interacting and having a drink together, that's kind of what we're all about.
MT: What is the key, then, to take your band beyond a studio band? What's the extra ingredient that you need to make a great live show?
Hernandez: I think the main thing is just practicing. And then it's all about energy. I don't even know how to explain it. Like not caring about how many people are in the crowd, if it's Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza or you're playing for five people in a dive bar, to just be really consistent with your show and give the same type of performance every night and you get practice doing that kind of show and it just becomes second nature.
Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas play the Mo Pop Festival on Sunday, July 26 at West Riverfront Park; 1801 W. Jefferson Ave., Detroit; mopop festival.com; single-day tickets are $69.