- Colleen Durkin
- 'Spanish tends to make things a little softer and a little more bubblegum,' says frontwoman Hernandez.
Detroit-based vocalist Jessica Hernandez and her band The Deltas got their first big break as musical guests on a November 2014 episode of Late Show with David Letterman, just months before the show ended production. With musical muscle and assured swagger that recalls early Pretenders, the group's performance of "Sorry I Stole Your Man" visibly impressed the typically unflappable Letterman.
Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas' debut album Secret Evil had been released a few months earlier, but it would be another two years before word came of a follow-up album. Which is not to say the group was studio-shy: The long-awaited result of their efforts is not one but two albums, Telephone and Teléfono, both due for release June 23.
As the titles suggest, Hernandez's latest release comes in both English- and Spanish-language versions. But the differences between the albums extend far beyond language. Although they're mostly built upon the same basic tracks, many of the songs' arrangements are radically different.
"Spanish tends to make things a little softer and a little more bubblegum," Hernandez says. "So sometimes there were some weird creative calls I had to make to get the same edge that the song might have in English. I might have made the Spanish one a little bit grittier and dirtier, just to evoke that same emotion."
As with the arrangements, the Spanish lyrics are not mere translations of Hernandez's English versions. "I rewrote the Spanish songs with Milo Froideval, a friend of mine in Mexico City," she explains. The process began with Hernandez sending the Latin Grammy-winner her English lyrics. "Then we sat down and I explained what each song was about," says the artist. The duo then wrote new Spanish lyrics from scratch to fit each song's theme, feeling or message.
Making Telephone and Teléfono was more than a linguistic exercise for Hernandez and her band. "There isn't a lot of rock music in the Latin music scene that comes from females," Hernandez says, adding that a lot of Latin rock musicians also tend to be more folk-based. "I really wanted to bring those heavier elements into the Latin album."
Most of the group's U.S. tour dates will emphasize Telephone's English-language lyrics and arrangements, but audiences will get to hear some of the Teléfono versions. "This is going to be kind of a learning experience for us," Hernandez concedes. "I'm sure we'll probably do a couple in Spanish every night."
Singing en Español also means Hernandez can get away with using a lyric and title phrase like "No me jodas mas," which translates fairly straightforwardly to "Don't fuck with me any more." Hernandez says that "in English, that sounds very crass. But in Spanish, it's just a normal thing that you would throw around. It doesn't have the same meaning and evoke the same emotions when it's translated."