Interview with singer Jacque Mendez
By John B. Moore
Thanks to a bottle of brown booze, Hey, Chels’ fate was sealed one day about three years ago. The band name came a little while later.
“Ricky [Schmidt, bass] and I had an idea a while back to start a project together,” says Jacque Mendez. “We wrote a song just for fun and to see what we could create back in 2016. That song is now ‘I Know You Are, But What Am I?’ off of our first, self-titled EP. We wrote it and recorded it in a day over a bottle of whiskey. The lyrics were silly and changed later. However, we were pretty happy with the sound we created, so we decided to turn it into something.”
Shortly after, they asked Kevin White to join on guitar, and, after writing for a bit as a three-piece, they brought in Steph Presz on drums.
Hey, Chels is following up their debut EP with an LP later this year. The music is there; they are just sorting out the specifics.
“When we decided to commit to this project, we agreed to record an EP, tour it up the West Coast, and then see how we felt about moving forward,” Mendez says. “After that tour, which was just about a year ago, I knew that I wanted to keep Hey, Chels going. We spent the rest of the year playing festivals here and there, but mostly on writing for a full-length. By November, we had written and recorded our very first LP. This new record is certainly an indication that Hey, Chels is more than a fun project.”
Schmidt is a member of Western Settings, and the rest of the band have other commitments as well, but over the past couple of years, the group has worked out a schedule that’s flexible enough for all.
“We pretty much have a system down by now,” Mendez says. “Ricky and I will write and record the songs as demos at home and then send them to Steph and Kevin. Kevin has also recorded some of his ideas for songs and shared them with us in the same way. From there, everyone works out what they want to bring to the song, and we re-track the songs as they progress.”
And band practices? They just have to schedule those way in advance.
Finally, back to the origins of the name, Hey, Chels. There’s this unwritten rule that’s it’s not cool to ask about a band’s moniker, but…
“I actually really enjoy telling this story,” says Mendez. “Before the band had officially formed, Ricky and I had been brainstorming band names. We weren’t liking any of the other’s ideas, until this one night we were out with some friends in Oakland.
“I was having a conversation with a friend at a bar, and the song ‘Hey Jealousy’ by The Gin Blossoms began to play. I told this person how, when I was younger, I used to think the lyrics were ‘Hey Chelsea.’ For some reason, I liked the sound of it as soon as I said it, and I ran straight over to Ricky to tell him the idea.”
The two also happen to have a good friend named Chelsea, whom they refer to as Chels.
“She is the Chels of Hey, Chels. Being one of the friendliest and loveliest bartenders in San Diego, ‘hey, Chels!’ is a phrase she hears quite often.”
Two songs off Hey Chels’ full-length album are available on a flexi included in New Noise Magazine Issue #51 (stream them now below). The issue features Four Year Strong on the cover (and a second flexi in the same issue).