Technically, Secret Evil isn’t the first album by Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas — but it is the first by the sassy, genre-blending band that will be released to the public as a complete work.
According to singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and Detroit native Hernandez, she and the Deltas recorded a full-length collection called Cutting the Talon Off a Dead Owl a few years ago. They ended up “sitting on it,” says Hernandez, although a few of those songs appeared on the 2013 EP Demons.
Up next is Secret Evil, due Aug. 19 on Instant Records. Hernandez and the Deltas — guitarist Michael Krygier, bassist Steve Lehane, keyboardist Taylor Pierson, trombonist John Raleeh and drummer Stephen Stetson — recorded the album at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, with producer Milo Froideval. Hernandez talks about her initial impression of Froideval and other notable music-related firsts.
* First album she owned: “It was probably Cosmic Thing by The B-52’s. It came out when I was 2, but my mom had the cassette and I loved it. We would listen to that and R.E.M.’s ‘Shiny Happy People’ all the time on the way to and from school.”
* First concert she attended: “This one is kind of funny. My parents weren’t Parrotheads but decided they wanted to take me and my brother to see Jimmy Buffett at Pine Knob, which is a big outdoor amphitheater outside of Detroit. My brother and I were probably 4 and 6 and were still obviously pretty naïve, so when my parents handed us our tickets and told us we were going to a huge ‘all-you-can-eat buffet,’ we got pretty excited. They said it was Jimmy’s Buffet, and we were imagining a really big old country buffet. We were pretty disappointed when we got there and saw a bunch of saggy boobs and old guys in short shorts wearing parrot heads and Tommy Bahama shirts. I since have learned to love Jimmy despite the traumatic experience at age 6.”
* Her first instrument: “My first was piano. I didn’t start getting into playing until I was a junior in high school. It was the peak of my hippie days, so I learned, like, two Bob Marley songs, then got sick of it. I ended up leaving that year for military school and didn’t get back into playing again until college, when I bought my first guitar. It was a beautiful Martin acoustic that I spent my student-loan money on. I wrote all of my first songs on that guitar. It was stolen a couple years ago on my birthday out of my car.”
* First words that come to mind when asked to describe Detroit in 2014: “Changing, hopeful, home.”
* On the road, do you and the Deltas have a first-come, first-served policy on who controls the radio in the van or who gets first crack at the hotel shower? “Whoever is driving is always in charge of music, unless the driver wants his/her copilot to help them out. Sometimes, though, if it’s post-show and everyone is in party mode, the sober driver will let the rest of the bunch blast some R. Kelly.
“As far as showers go, it’s actually pretty easy. We all seem to be on different schedules in the morning, so a couple of the guys get up regularly at 7 and shower, then go have coffee. I usually get up somewhere in the middle; then there are the late sleepers who either don’t shower or wait until we’re walking out the door to shower. Somehow it works out, but when it doesn’t, I definitely use the girl excuse and say I need to shower first since I take longer to get ready. The guys usually don’t argue with me on that one (laughs).”
* Was Secret Evil meant all along to be your first album, or was it originally meant to be another EP? “I had actually recorded a full length a few years ago called Cutting the Talon Off a Dead Owl. I loved it, but I felt like it wasn’t totally ‘me,’ so I ended up sitting on it and just releasing a few songs on an EP. Since then I’ve switched a couple labels and been dealing with the business side of music, which isn’t the most fun, and it sort of delayed the whole process for me. I wanted to do it right, though, with the right team in place before I really went for it. I really love the songs that are on the record, and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t just throw them out there half-assed.”
* Her first impression of Secret Evil producer Milo Froideval: “Crazy f—ing Russian! Except he’s not Russian — he’s from Argentina and currently lives in Mexico City. We hit it off immediately and had a really similar outlook on how the album should feel and how we wanted to achieve that. We are both pretty intense, outspoken personalities, so it was cool being super-open in the studio and being able to tell each other when things sucked without anyone getting hurt feelings.
“Milo, along with some other Mexico City friends who played on the album, brought a ton of mescal into the studio. One night we had been working vocals all day, and Milo wanted to have a party night. In my mescal brownout, I wanted to hop in and start tracking vocals at, like, 2 a.m. The whole time Milo and the boys were encouraging me, and I thought I was killing it in there. Little did I know they were all sitting there laughing at how ridiculous I sounded slurring my words and making no sense at all. The next morning I wanted to listen to the takes, and Milo just put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘They sound like [crap] — let’s move on.’ That’s when I knew we had a great friendship (laughs).”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas on tour (schedule subject to change:)
* Aug. 15: Botanical Roots Concert Series — Fort Wayne, Ind.
* Aug. 20: Magic Stick (record release show) — Detroit
* Aug. 22: Live on King Street — Madison, Wis.
* Aug. 23: The House Café — Dekalb, Ill.
* Aug. 24: Slowdown — Omaha, Neb.
* Aug. 26: Larimer Lounge — Denver
* Aug. 27: Urban Lounge — Salt Lake City
* Aug. 28: The Crux — Boise, Idaho
* Aug. 29: Mississippi Studios — Portland, Ore.
* Sept. 1: Bumbershoot festival — Seattle
* Sept. 3: Torch Club — Sacramento
* Sept. 4: Cargo — Reno, Nev.
* Sept. 5: House of Blues — San Diego
* Sept. 6: Pub Rock Live — Scottsdale, Ariz.
* Sept. 7: Constellation Room — Santa Ana, Calif.
* Sept. 13: Riot Fest — Chicago