The Brooklyn-based songwriter and producer draws on influences ranging from Shakira to Animal Collective.
Self-described “ukulele electro pop” songwriter and producer Jackie Mendoza spent the first six years of her life in Tijuana, Mexico, before moving to San Diego with her family. Even though she’s been living in Brooklyn for the past seven years, she still considers San Diego a crucial part of her musical identity.
“Growing up there inspires what I make now,” Mendoza says. “Sonically—the Latin influence, the ocean sounds, [and] the nature aspect in my music are [all] influenced by San Diego.”
Most recently, those ocean sounds appeared on “Seahorse,” the first single from her debut EP, LuvHz. Mendoza’s vocals drift and glide alongside luminous synth lines. She delivers her lyrics in an easy, swaying tone that drags with slight melancholy: “You’re the light / burning in the dark / I’m lost at sea,” she sings. The music video—featuring Mendoza strolling along an overcast beach—further highlights the song’s psychedelic, aquatic vibes.
The Latin influence comes through on “Mucho Más,” the second single from LuvHz, which is trippier and darker than much of Mendoza’s music. Her Spanish-language vocals are low and moody, brushing up against shifting synths, anxious percussive blips, and haunting back-up vocals. The song also calls to mind Juana Molina’s glitchy, angular “Wed 21,” which makes sense given that Mendoza was listening to the Argentinian singer-songwriter during the time she recorded the EP.
We recently spoke to Mendoza about her experience recording and producing LuvHz, working with Rusty Santos, and being inspired by Julieta Venegas and Panda Bear. Read the interview below, and catch her at Park Church Co-Op on April 26, with support from New Optimism and Pecas. LuvHz is out April 26 on Luminelle Recordings.
AdHoc: You’ve lived in California, New York, and Mexico. Where do you consider home?
Jackie Mendoza: I consider [Brooklyn] my home. I’ve been here for the past seven years.
Where is it that you grew up?
I lived in Tijuana, Mexico until I was six years old, and then my family and I moved to San Diego.
Do you find that where you live influences either the music you’re listening to or the music you make?
My music is mostly inspired by living in San Diego. Growing up there inspires what I make now. Sonically—the Latin influence, the ocean sounds, [and] the nature aspect in my music are [all] influenced by San Diego.
Were you making music when you lived there?
I’ve written songs [since I was 14], but I started producing here. [New York] pushes me to do different things and blend a lot of genres that I hear.
What are some of those genres?
Techno, but also indie pop, indie rock, dream pop, lots of more experimental electronic music. But also the Latin pop I grew up listening to with my family. It’s like a big mix of all these things.
Who are some of those Latin influences?
I grew up listening to Julieta Venegas, Shakira.
You were at SXSW this year. Had you been before?
It was my second year. I feel like I got more out of it this year. I went to more shows, and I had more shows. I met people from my label and got to connect with some artists, too.
I went with my girlfriend, and she also plays music, so we were basically jumping from my shows, to her shows, to my shows, to her shows.
What is her act?
When did you two first meet?
Have you ever collaborated?
Yeah. I helped her produce a song recently.
You have an EP in the works. How’d you get connected to Rusty [Santos], who’s producing it with you?
My manager’s friends with Noah [Lennox] from Panda Bear, and Rusty works with him and Animal Collective. So for a while, I was looking for a producer to work with, and that was the best fit, because when I first started making music, I was influenced by Animal Collective and Panda Bear. And also Rusty has been working with Latin artists. He got what I was trying to do from the start.
Did you record the EP here? What was that process like?
No. [Rusty] lives in LA, so I flew to LA. My sister was living there at the time, so I stayed with her. We were in the studio for four days, and I basically just took a bunch of demos, and we reworked some of them and made some new songs, but we finished everything in those four days. I think in that period of time I [got] a better sense of the sound and overall vibe of [the EP].
How would you describe that vibe?
It’s urban and a little psychedelic. Urban and pop-y. Dark but also bright.
Who are some recent inspirations?
Do you think they’ve trickled into the EP at all?
Yeah, I think so.
Well, Juana Molina—she’s an Argentinian singer-songwriter and [her music is] kinda psych-rock-y, but electronic, but Latin-pop-y also. Her lyrics are very abstract, and she layers a lot of vocals, so that made its way into my sound during that time.
Just how playful the music is. Also, there’s a lot of transitions in each song, and all the songs are pretty short. I love doing that with my music. It’s very fast-paced, but really short.
What makes a really good live set for you?
Definitely the sound. That’s a big thing for me: If [the sound is] loud and boom-y, I’ll be happy and comfortable. It allows me to move around and engage with the audience more.
Do you have favorite venues here?
I like playing at Baby’s All Right—and Elsewhere too. They have a really good sound system. [That’s] pretty important.
What’s next for you? Do you see yourself touring more? Working on an album?
Yeah, I’m already working on my album, which I’m hoping to record and finish in the Summer. In May I’m doing an East Coast tour with Diane Coffee, and then in July I’m doing a West Coast tour. That’s going to be my first headlining tour.