11 Questions With Jax Mendez Of San Diego’s Hey, Chels
San Diego’s Hey, Chels will release their debut full-length ‘Everything Goes’ digitally for FREE on May 1st. The LP will also be released on vinyl later this year via Brainworm Records.
The band says, “Our reasoning is that we don’t feel right asking for money right now with the current state of everything. If you feel like helping the band out, share us with a friend, add us to a playlist, share us on your socials, we would very much appreciate it.”
How did you first get into music, who or what turned you on to rock n roll?
I (Jax) grew up with it. My dad has played in bands since he was a teenager so I was around live music all the time. Most of what he played when I was growing up was either rock en espanol or classic rock covers, so I grew up listening to Spanish rock bands like Mana and Enanitos Verdes, and also bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, and that list could go on. As I got into my preteen/teen years, my brothers turned me onto punk rock. They also began playing music themselves and are truly the reason that I play music today. They gave me that push and the courage to actually do it.
Who was your first rock concert, do you have vivid recollection of it and have your parents always approved?
My first show was Rise Against at Chain Reaction. I was 14 years old so this was around 2003, and they were my favorite band at the time. My brothers and cousins took me. My parents approved but were of course worried about me going to a punk show. I remember meeting Tim, their singer, after the show in the parking lot. He was so sweet and he signed my ticket. I still have that ticket.
What was the first music bought with your own money and how did you acquire your first instrument? What is your most prized music collectible?
That’s tough to remember. I know that most of my punk albums were burned copies because my brothers already owned so many. The first music I bought on my own, because they certainly did NOT own it, was probably Dashboard Confessional when I was about 13. My first instrument was a Yamaha keyboard and it was gifted to me by my parents and brothers for xmas one year. My most prized music collectible would have to be the Wurlitzer electric piano that I now play on. She’s an oldie and she’s tough to travel with, but it’s what makes Hey, Chels what it is.
Do you read reviews of music, film and food and if so how often do they influence what you buy, watch or where you eat?
Music, not so much at first because I like to go in listening without being influenced by what others have to say about it. Once I’ve heard it myself I’m open to those opinions. Film, on the other hand, I almost ALWAYS check Rotten Tomatoes before watching. I love watching movies but I’m also extremely selective as to what I’ll watch, especially if I’m going to the movie theater. My family and I are really big on movies and TV shows so we’re also constantly recommending stuff to each other. As far as food, I might glance at some reviews but if someone I know recommends it, chances are I’ll try it.
What have you been listening to lately and reading?
I’m sort of all over the map when it comes to music. I’ve been listening to a lot of older classics from the 60s Shangri-Las, to 70s Fleetwood Mac, to 80s New Order. It always depends on the day and the mood. Current music I’ve been enjoying would be Mannequin Pussy, Bleached, White Reaper, Katie Ellen. I just finished reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami and it was beautiful. Currently I’m reading Jane Austin’s Emma because I’m a lit nerd and I like to go back to the classics I never read in high school. I have some F. Scott Fitzgerald on deck.
How did you become a singer and who are your main influences?
As I mentioned earlier, my brothers were the ones who sort of pushed me into singing and playing. My brother Adrian started a band (New Way On) and he really wanted female backups/harmonies on their recordings. I recorded vocals for a few of their earlier tracks but he eventually wanted me to join the band. So he had me learn the songs on the keyboard and we worked my vocals into more of the songs. One of my earliest singing influences, as I began actually singing myself, was Nina Diaz of the band Girl in a Coma. I fell in love with their music and her voice. Here was someone like me, a Mexican-American/Latina who grew up listening to Selena. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see someone who represents some of the same things you do, doing something you love and doing it so well.
What have you been doing to pass time during Quarantine?
We began by just recording some living room sessions of our music and uploading those to YouTube to share. We then started working on music videos to promote our LP Everything Goes that’s premiering May 1st. Currently, we’re tracking a new song that will be featured on a 7” 4-way split, which will be released through Brainworm Records later this summer. All of that has kept us fairly busy. Aside from that, I’ve been reading and watching Mad Men.
What album epitomizes your style of music over all others.
I honestly can’t really think of an answer for this. Our music is like others in some ways, but collectively it’s quite different from anything we personally listen to or have played in the past. I’ll let the listeners decide!
Does it bother you to hear artists express their opinions on subjects outside of music, such as, politics and do you like their art any less if you disagree with them?
Absolutely not. I see that happening a lot more lately and I think it’s great. Some of the lyrics off of our previous EP reflect on social-political issues. You sort of have to go into that knowing that some might appreciate it while others might not. Usually when I hear that in music, I tend to side with the artist so it’s rare that I disagree.
What do you like best about and hate most about social media?
I hate that I waste so much time on it, for one. But that’s obviously more my fault than social media’s. I also don’t like how it has negatively affected the way people communicate. I work with high school students and I see how different social life is for them than it was for me at their age. We had forms of social media then like MySpace, but we didn’t have it literally in the palm of our hands 24/7. I think it does a lot of psychological harm to young people, especially girls.
I like social media for purposes of sharing content like any form of art, being able to communicate with those you might not otherwise like childhood friends or people in different parts of the world, and being able to support other artists around you. It can be a beautiful space for things that are uplifting or insightful. It’s also great for sharing pictures of your dog because who doesn’t love that?
What advice do you have for people in isolation during this time?
I’m fortunate enough to not be in isolation during this time, so that’s hard to say. I imagine that it can be extremely difficult, enough to offset some unwanted anxiety or depression for some. I think it would be important to set some goals. Make a list of things you need to get done and some things you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time for. Reading and writing can also be great for times like this. I’ve been keeping a journal during this time just to have some sort of outlet for myself. Whatever you’re feeling, just write it down. And don’t be afraid to reach out to others during this time. Whether it’s texting or video chat, it’s also important to maintain those connections.