Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas just finished a tour with Birmingham’s St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and now the Detroit natives will make their way to the Magic City for a headlining show of their own. The set, part of a new series presented by Reg’s Coffee House, will take place on the 22nd Street Stage at Iron City on Dec. 3.
Hernandez spoke to Weld about her Detroit background and influences and shared tales from life on the road with Paul Janeway and his crew.
Weld: Your Facebook lists your influences as Gogol Bordello and Tom Waits — do you think that’s an accurate representation of your sound?
Jessica Hernandez: No, I don’t. I think that people that listen to Gogol Bordello and Tom Waits can see that it’s an influence of mine, but I don’t think it necessarily describes our sound at all.
Weld: It’s such an unusual combination of influences. How did those artists impact you?
JH: I think a lot of it comes from the theatrics of it, from Eugene Hutz and Tom Waits. Kind of like that whole gypsy, punk, throwback kind of thing — I think both of those men as frontpeople have this theatric quality to them and theatrics within their music, as well. And I feel like that is kind of the thing that captivates me about both of them. And I’m drawn to the gypsy style — having Latin roots, a lot of that comes through Latin music, too.
Weld: You just finished a handful of dates with our own St. Paul and the Broken Bones. What was the experience like?
JH: Oh, it was amazing. It was awesome. It was cool for us because we’ve never really done a support tour like that, so we kind of went in not knowing what to expect, but it ended up being great. The St. Paul guys are the nicest guys ever and were super welcoming to us. Paul was really cool. We’d talk every night about singing and what we both do to take care of our voices and all of that kind of fun stuff. They’re doing really well right now. It was really cool to meet their fans and get in front of their audience. It was fun. It was really cool.
Weld: You both have amazing voices — what is it that you do to take care of it?
JH: A lot of things. We both have very different ways of taking care of our voices. Resting your voice. Not talking too much when you’re not singing after the show. Drinking a lot of water. Keeping your vocal cords hydrated. Warming up. Warming down. Personally, I try to stay away from a lot of dairies and any caffeine when I’m on tour. Dairy makes too much mucus and caffeine dries out your voice, and I try to stay away from liquor before I play. There’s a lot of little things I do to try to make sure my voice doesn’t get tired when I’m playing every night for a month.
Weld: Do you have any incriminating stories from the road about those guys you can share with their hometown?
JH: [Laughs] The St. Paul guys? I don’t know. They’re such good guys. I wish I could say they did something terrible or hilarious, but they’re the nicest, sweetest guys.
Weld: Have you guys spent a lot of time in the South? Is this your first trip to Birmingham?
JH: We’ve been to Birmingham a couple of times, but it was kind of just when I was getting started. I had a different lineup of guys with me at the time. We played The Nick, which was quite the experience. Hopefully this show will be a little bit different than that.
It was hard, when you’re playing without any type of buzz or press and the album wasn’t out. It was more tours that I was just booking on my own. And we happened to pass through and play at The Nick — it was definitely fun, but it was an experience.
Weld: Oh, it’s a treasure. You’ll be going on before midnight this time.
JH: [Laughs] Awesome. Yeah, I’m excited about that.
Weld: What was the Letterman experience like? How did that happen? How did Dave treat you?
JH: Oh, he treated us so well. He was so sweet and it was funny, at the end, he wouldn’t let go of my hand. So there’s this awkward moment watching it where we’re just holding hands for an awkward length of time. He was great, everyone was great. It was a surreal moment for me because it wasn’t something that had been planned for a long time. We got a call maybe three days before we played. My manager called and said, “Hey do you want to do Letterman on Monday?”
And I like, “Umm…okay, yeah we can do that.” [Laughs]
It was really cool. Our publicist had been trying to work on it and it just kind of happened last minute.
Weld: It seems like a lot of the new music coming out of Detroit these days is hip-hop. What is that scene like now and how did your surroundings inspire you?
JH: I feel like the music scene is all over the place right now — hip-hop is obviously a big thing. The electronic scene is huge in Detroit. There’s so much garage rock that came from Detroit, too. You’ve got MC5 and the Stooges and Alice Cooper and all these artists that came from here — The White Stripes — all of these bands that have this soul influence, but are trying to do the rock thing, and I feel like that’s deeply rooted in the music scene in Detroit and there’s still a lot of that going on. And I think that has a huge influence on our band — the combination of all of that stuff, which could be a reason our music is so undefinable as far as genre goes. It’s coming from a lot of different influences.
Weld: I looked and looked because it seems obvious — you’re Jack White bait. It seems like he would have snatched you up and worked with you already. Have I missed it? Have you spoken to him about it?
JH: He hasn’t. I have a weird thing with Jack White. I feel like I used to really look up to him and admire him, but the more I work and the more that I do, I feel like, I don’t know, he’s a lot about image these days and not so much about the soul of it. I hate to say anything bad about him because I used to look up to him a lot. I feel like I have a weird relationship with him as an artist.
Weld: He picked up his roots and planted them in Nashville — how married are you to Detroit? Do you plan on staying there for a while?
JH: I think I will always call Detroit home. My boyfriend lives in California, so I spend a lot of time out there with him when we have downtime from touring. But I still like to be here the majority of the time if I can. I feel like at any time in my life, I’ll always have a house here. Or a place to stay. My band is in Detroit. It’s hard to uproot and leave when you have families and friends and you all come from the same place. So we’re pretty deeply rooted in the city.
Weld: Who are the top five American rock bands of all time?
JH: This may take me a minute. I’ll have to do the MC5. Gotta have Detroit represented. The Stooges. The Beach Boys. Fugazi. I’m gonna say Pavement.
Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas come to the 22nd Street Stage at Iron City on Dec. 3. Advance tickets are $10, while tickets will be $12 on the day of the show. The show will begin at 8 p.m.