Musician Jessie Deluxe has lived in Santa Fe for about two years, but until the last couple months, you wouldn't even have known it. I mean, this is Santa Fe, and we are wary of new faces, especially in the music scene. It's sad, though, because the Los Angeles transplant/rock-and-fucking-roll champion has been toiling in what is essentially obscurity (minus the odd solo local show here and there), but thankfully a lot of that changed with the most recent After Hours Alliance Festival. Deluxe, along with her drummer Michael Petry, set up on the smaller of the two stages in the Railyard and, with little fanfare outside of totally sticking it to this one drunk dude who thought it was a good idea to heckle, melted everyone's faces with pure rock.
"Moving here, I had all these ideas about what Santa Fe would be like, and for the first year, I was honestly really bummed," Deluxe says with a nervous laugh. "I guess you could say that I was just waiting and looking for the right people to play with."
And she's found them, both with her eponymous two-piece and as the frontwoman for newly minted quartet Fox White, featuring Danny Duran, Kent Malmquist and Frederick Jones. With both these bands plus equal parts PJ Harvey, Joan Jett, Bad Brains and Jimi Hendrix, Deluxe has actually proven incontrovertibly something that some of us have been saying for ages: There's a super-depressing rock gap in this town.
Yeah, sure, we've got country rock baby boomers who perform in restaurant corners, Tom Petty-ish soft-rockers (important note: I fucking love Tom Petty, but you wouldn't put on his music when you were, like, out in the streets kickin' ass) who dive into nonstop covers in hotel lobbies and over-complicated indie-rock nerds who turn music into a huge fucking hassle, but Deluxe's down-and-dirty Sunset Strip throwback take on slaying guitar and surprisingly technical drums (layered over vocals that can and do range from whisper quiet yet emotionally charged to intense screaming to the operatic and beyond) reminds us of one very important thing about music that seems to be forgotten, time and time again—it's supposed to be fun.
This hits me like a train each time I speak with her in the past few weeks. Having recently seen live performances from both of her bands, it's easy to tell that Deluxe has an accessible spark of self-humor at play, alongside her obviously intense work ethic. Absolutely, she pays her dues, writes songs and makes connections at a furious speed, but it almost seems like if she weren't having fun, she'd probably just walk away entirely.
Not that I believe she'd quit music outright; it's in her bones. Certainly most musicians have the "Growing up, my parents did X and that's why blah blah blah" stories, but Deluxe came up observing her mother, Kat Lester of jazz project Le Kat (also a star of 1979's Phantasm), working in recording studios as a multifaceted musician and vocalist. By age 10, she had written her first original song, titled "I'm Not Your Slave," a gripping tale of how parents just don't understand. At 13, she followed it up with the cassette release of "Listen to the Trees," a song about the rainforests recorded with a little help from her mother. By age 21, she wound up working with Alice in Chains/Jane's Addiction producer Dave Jerden, a "life-changing experience" Deluxe only slightly regrets because, as she puts it, "due to my age, I assumed the music industry would always kind of be that way."
Of course it wasn't, and to date, 34-year-old Deluxe has only released one full-length album, though she does say she could easily record a double album with all of the material she's written. But anyway, that comes next, or should. For now, we should make it our responsibility to nurture this new local. Go see both her bands on Nov. 13 at Boxcar, for fuck's sake, and download her songs for free at jessiedeluxe.com. This is a woman who does something we simply don't have around here and who also has all the trappings of a big-name rock star, sans ego.
In case you didn't know, that's rare as hell.
Jessie Deluxe and Fox White
9 pm Friday, Nov. 13. No cover.
530 S Guadalupe St.,
Santa Fe Reporter