On Turn Into, her immensely appealing 2016 debut recorded under the name Jay Som, 22-year-old Oakland musician Melina Duterte established herself as a multi-hyphenate wunderkind — a singer, songwriter, and producer of sneakily sophisticated indie-pop songs. (Oh, and she plays all of the instruments on her records, too.) After posting Turn Into on Bandcamp, Duterte parlayed the popularity of the record into a received tour with Mitski and a record deal with Polyvinyl, which will release the latest Jay Som LP, Everybody Works, on Friday.
Essentially a bigger and bolder reboot of Turn Into‘s ecumenical, genre-hopping approach, Everybody Works finds Duterte exploring a variety of styles — from catchy dance-pop to guitar-heavy indie-rock to spacey ambient soundscapes — and somehow integrating them into a cohesive whole. The result plays like a mixtape of comfort music from the past 30 years.
“There’s just a combination of the genres that I sort of fell in love with growing up,” Duterte said during a recent interview. “I just went back to music that really resonated with me.”
Citing acts as diverse as Steely Dan, Death Cab For Cutie, Prince, and Earth, Wind & Fire as inspirations, Duterte admits that she took a break from keeping up with new music while making Everybody Works. Not that Duterte set out to slavishly recreate her CD collection. Part of the joy of Everybody Works is reveling in how Duterte synthesizes seemingly incongruously sounds in fun, novel ways.
Everybody Works is much lusher and more varied than your first record. I’m assuming it took you longer to make than Turn Into.
This was actually the fastest that I’ve ever done anything. I mean, I’ve only really made one record, [and] I didn’t even know that I was making a record, so that was just that. That was a culmination of two years of music. I was right out of high school and I was settling into adulthood.
And Everybody Works… I think this time last year I was doing the demos, and a couple months after I started actually working on the record. And I did that in three weeks. I wrote a lot of the songs, like half of the songs, on the spot and then I recorded them and I mixed them all. I think I was stressed. I don’t know how I did it. But it was fun. I had a lot of coffee, that’s why.
What were you stressed out about?
It was the first time that I’ve ever had a deadline for music. I think that it also made me work harder, and that was what was stressing me out. But at the same time it felt really good. So it was, like, a very positive stress.