Y La Bamba

Y La Bamba has been many things, but at the heart of it is singer-songwriter Luz Elena Mendoza’s inquisitive sense of self. Their fifth record, Mujeres, carries on the Portland-based band’s affinity for spiritual contemplation, but goes a step further in telling a story with a full emotional spectrum. Coming off Ojos Del Sol, one of NPR’s Top 50 Albums of 2016, Mujeres exhibits the scope of Mendoza’s artistic voice like never before. “Soy como soy,” Mendoza says, and that declaration is the bold— even political— statement that positions Mujeres to be Y La Bamba’s most unbridled offering yet.
The record exists in the post-2016 landscape of a national identity crisis, and Mendoza explores what it means to be a Mexican American woman by leading us through places we are afraid to go. Mujeres ventures in to the discomfort of the stories we tell ourselves. Those of our past, our futures. We all have these stories somewhere inside of us, but with Y La Bamba, Mendoza forges new narratives from old stories of heritage and family, tracing history while forging modern chicana feminism.
“Music is an extension of everything I have inside. It’s how I emote,” Mendoza says. The raw honesty of Mujeres is in fact the raw honesty of Mendoza. Armed with the emotionality of traditional música mexicana and the storytelling of American folk, Y La Bamba’s artistry is not just their musical ability but Mendoza’s search for unadulterated truth. It is in an ancestral, spiritual journey in which Mendoza comes to terms with the influence and limitations of her upbringing. Mendoza’s experience of childhood summers in the San Joaquin Valley listening to mariachi, of being raised strict Catholic by immigrant parents, of being a woman having to prove herself to the boys, paints strokes of both melancholy and healing on the tracks. “From the way that my family struggles, to the way they shoot the shit… it’s so different from whiteness,” Mendoza says. “It’s a different dimension.”

Tres Leches

Warren Dunes

Brothers Jared and Dominic Cortese spent their youth running through the shifting sands of Warren Dunes State Park in Southwest Michigan. In Warren Dunes, their band with Julia Massey, they chart new realms of musical fantasy with contagious joy. Post-modern beach music from the Pacific Northwest, Welcome to Warren Dunes weaves threads of indie pop, art-rock, psych, and Tropicalia into a complex yet easy going whole. This is a record of nuance and bubbling ornament, where bold swaths of melodic primary color burst into neon-flecked clouds of sonic glitter as Massey’s arresting, crystalline voice soars overhead.
Though Warren Dunes is a relatively new endeavor, its members’ lives have been steeped in music. Mom and Dad Cortese were the head of music at their church, touring the states’ conferences and retreats. “Music was just something I thought people did. Though, to be honest, my earliest memory of feeling like music was what I wanted to do for a living was watching the Saved by The Bell episode where the cast starts a band” laughs guitarist Jared. Julia began piano lessons after she figured out how to play “Go Tell It On The Mountain” by ear as an eight-year old.
A prolific creative, Julia wrote and recorded her first solo record, Brains in Bubbles, as a college student in Colorado. At twenty-one she relocated to Brooklyn, NY and released her second LP Moons and Stars Convene. The following year she toured the southern United States in veggie-oil powered RV and filmed a documentary called The Break Free Project along the way. From 23 to 25 Julia lived in a National Forest in Colorado and wrote the record OUT. Following that release she headed west, and into the thriving art scene in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.
Julia placed a Craigslist ad for a bassist. The ad was answered by Andy Kingham, who also played in a band called The Jesus Rehab – featuring Jared and Dominic Cortese. A few weeks later and Dominic was the official drummer for the newly minted Julia Massey and the Five Finger Discount. A few months after that, and Julia started dating the lead singer of The Jesus Rehab, Jared Cortese. They were married in 2012.

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