(Image taken from artist's Bandcamp page)
SubPop artist Jess Sylvester, front person of his band Marinero, was kind enough to lend me some of his time this week for a short but sweet interview. After being fortunate enough to have a sneak peek of his new album, Hella Love, I feel like I learned so much about the passion and influence behind it. Heavily inspired by the Tropicalia art movement and his family’s story, Marinero is as intimate as it is danceable. Read out chat about some of the influences behind the album, and miss it's debut tomorrow May 21st! It easily ranks as one of my favorite releases of 2021 so far!
What made San Francisco such a conducive environment for you and your art?
I felt really comfortable in Outer Richmond which is where I lived. It’s a neighborhood that’s close to the ocean as well as Golden Gate Park. It’s beautiful and really mellow. I had a really great home studio there and because the area is more residential and has less distractions, I lived in a place that helped me focus more. But as far as the music scene goes, SF feels really small and supportive to me, which is a great environment to nurture and develop a project. Which is what I did.
You seem to gather most of your songwriting inspiration from your surroundings, how do you think your music will evolve with your move to LA?
I’ve already started working a little on new material for a new album. I already know that I wanna orchestrate more with big band or symphonic arrangements and I’ve been playing with an amazing group of musicians down here. I have to keep some secrets, but I’m excited about where I think it’ll go.
How are you feeling about your move to LA? Excited? Nervous? What were some of the motivations behind that decision?
It feels refreshing honestly. I’ve been talking about moving to LA for quite some time and it’s cool to finally be here. I’ve been wanting to move down because there are so many talented musicians and bands that inspire me. I feel like my music has a home here.
Your stage name, Marinero [Spanish for “Sailor”] is honestly kinda brilliant! What’s it like to be the child of a 21st century sailor?
Thanks! It confuses people all the time because they’ll think it’s my actual name, which I don’t mind, but I’m glad you like it. I’m just fortunate to have a father in my life that is loving. He’s such a smart guy and hardworking man. He’s just a regular dad though. It’s not like he’s Popeye or Gilligan or anything.
Your music draws quite a lot of influence from 1960’s Latin America, and Tropicàlia specifically. Could you tell us about that movement and why you find it so inspiring?
Yes the Tropicalia art, music, film movement is all very inspiring. I love Os Mutantes, Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, and many others. But I mainly just love their songs, production, and cool string and horn arrangements on their albums. They definitely were influences on Hella Love, but I also pull from a lot of other influences that aren’t just specifically from Brazil.
How has the gentrification of The Mission District affected you and your family?
Well, my mom’s side of the family grew up there and lived there. Basically nobody can afford to live there now which is kinda sad.
Tell us a bit about the other members of your band, is it a steady set of people or do you tend to rotate between friends and other locals?
The group has changed over the years. I’ve worked with friends from Mexico as well as the Bay Area. Now I’ve been working with a really great group of musicians since I moved to LA. Honestly, for me it’s sort of a dream scenario where I’m working with people who I really admire and have been wanting to work with.
What have you learned from time spent in Mexico? Has that affected the way you view yourself as a Chicanx-American?
Yes it has. Spending time in Mexico has helped me feel more secure about my identity as a chicano or pocho. I’m lucky to be able to live in both worlds, here and there, and to have both perspectives. My family and friends from Mexico have no problem reminding me through humor and love that I’m gringo, but I own that now. I’m less insecure about wanting to be accepted by them and more comfortable in my pocho ways.
Who are some other SanFran locals we should be listening to?
What are 5 songs you can stop listening to?
Lately it’s been:
Delegation - “Oh Honey”
Eddie Chacon - “Above Below”
Los Retros - “It’s Got to Be You”
El Michels Affair - “Last Blast”
F.R. David - “Words”