BY: JIM VILLANUEVA
Rick DeJesus, frontman and founding member of Las Vegas hard rock unit Adelitas Way, is not about to let a rancorous relationship with a now former major record label get in the way of making the type of music he wants to make and releasing said music when and how he wants. “You know I don’t even think our third record [2011’s Stuck] belonged on Virgin [Records]. They are very, very anti-rock and roll right now,” DeJesus said right at the outset of our recent conversation about his band’s brand new five-song EP, Deserve This, released on the Vegas Syn label. “The whole time we were making the third album they were telling us rock is dead and that we needed to make a different kind of record; there was a lot of back and forth, a lot of discomfort, a lot of arguments, a lot of disagreeing and you could tell by how the album cycle went they didn’t fully invest in the record. There was a point where I had a one-year old baby and I couldn’t feed her because they wouldn’t let me put music out and they wouldn’t let me tour. So I vowed to myself that’s never gonna happen again and we’re gonna put music out when we want. The move to do our own thing was an easy one.”
In addition to self-releasing Deserve This – earlier than the originally announced release date, Adelitas Way is already working on its fourth full-length studio album which the band hopes to complete and release with the help of fans via a Pledge Music campaign. At press time the group was 95 percent towards its goal; in other words, well on its way towards being able to bring their brand of Sin City rock and roll straight to followers without any corporate suits or gatekeepers in the way. For more information on how to pledge, visit pledgemusic.com/projects/adelitasway.
Before I get around [“I Get Around” being the title of one of the five songs on the Deserve This EP]; you see how I did that (laughs)?
(Laughs) I like that!
So before we start talking about your new EP, Deserve This, which comes out March 17, by the way…
We released it a week earlier because we wanted to, so it’s out today!
You know we’re doing this record on our own; it’s our first on our own. We did three major label records on Virgin Records and one of the things we didn’t like, when we look back at our career, was just the whole process of releasing an album. They try to make it way more difficult than it is and we wanted to show fans that while record labels are pushing releases back and not releasing albums; not only are we releasing our album but we’re doing it a week early because we want to; we felt like it. We felt like it was a good reward for the fans who supported us since day one and we’re gonna continue to put music out as we please.
Cool. That’s a subject I was gonna touch on a little bit later but we kicked it off with that, so I got my answer. So, before we get deeper into the record, I wanted to begin by asking what made you want to form the band; how you made your way to forming Adelitas way.
Of course. You know, I never knew that the music business was what it was. It started out for me lying in an apartment on my back looking up at the ceiling just singing and writing lyrics. The love [of music] came from the first song I ever wrote called “Brother,” about my brother; he’s addicted to heroin. It hurt, so I wrote a song about it. I used to sit in my room playing video games listening to Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine and so many great bands. The fact that I’ve shared stages with bands like Incubus and Guns N’ Roses and Deftones; it blows my mind because I remember at one time I was just lying in an apartment singing the words and the melodies that came to me, but I think emotions is what got me. You know, I was singing the blues.
Very quickly: you formed in Las Vegas, released your self-titled debut album in 2009, your second record, Home School Valedictorian, in 2011 and your third, Stuck, just last year. Is there a Sin City music scene, and if so, what’s it like?
Yeah! Oh yeah! The Vegas scene is beautiful. We sell out every show we play there. When we come to Vegas it’s a big deal. We have a great fan base in Las Vegas and I know there’s a lot of competition with a lot of shows coming through, a lot of performances every night, a lot of nightclubs and stuff, but I’m proud of the rock station KOMP 92.3 in Vegas; it’s very supportive and I’m proud of the rock fans in Vegas and they’re very supportive. As long as they keep the city on the map, that’s important to me. Vegas has to be a great place for music because that’s where we’re from; I want it to be stronger than ever.
Earlier I mentioned to you that I produced the nationally syndicated show Rockline for five years, from ’92 to ’97 and KOMP was a longtime affiliate. One of the coolest shows I did was when Rockline was the first national show to broadcast from the studio at the very top of the Stratosphere Hotel. We had the Scorpions on that night.
Wow! I love that! I love hearing that!
We had a great time that night. So, give fans more 411 on the Pledge Music campaign.
The Pledge is amazing. We’re doing all kinds of amazing things with the Pledge. We just released the EP a week early to pledgers; there are so many cool incentives for pledgers. Pledge is the way that we can not have to answer to 15 suits to make one decision, and by the time it gets to the fifteenth suit the guy don’t even know our band name. That’s who was making the calls on my career and now I’m making the calls on our career; my team is making the calls. We hired a team, we’re not just doing it totally alone, I hired people to go out there and get the word out about Adelitas Way and this new EP and this new album coming out.
How far are you along on the forthcoming full-length? Have you started?
Yeah. We started writing for it and we’re gonna go home in March, April and we’re really gonna dig in on the writing process. We’re gonna kind of combine the EP that’s out now with five or six more songs and we’re gonna release the full album. I think the model to keep fans engaged is releasing new music to excite them and we hope to follow the model we’re following. We wanna release an EP every year and then an album; an EP and then an album. Really it’s just about getting the music out to the fans.
Okay, let’s dig into the Deserve This EP, which again, is out now; it came out a week early. Why was [producer] Matt [Dougherty] (Staind, Disturbed, Megadeth) the right guy to be behind the board?
Two reasons: We felt really comfortable recording at Groovemaster [Recording Studios in Chicago] because we did our first album there; we love the room, we love the gear, we love [owner] Johnny K, we love Matt. The second thing is that the way technology is these days you can make a great sounding album and you can have it within a budget that the band doesn’t have to sell a million albums to recoup the recording budget. You used to have to do that. When records sold a million copies, you could go spend $500,000 on a producer, $300,000 on a producer and nowadays music is streamed; it’s almost like your commercial for people to come out to your shows and buy your t-shirts. No one’s really paying for music anymore; it’s going right on Spotify, right on YouTube, right on Beats Music. And [so] it was a no-brainer [recording with Dougherty] because Matt understands where the business is going, too, and we sat down and we talked and we worked it out and we recorded the EP and we’re gonna record the album for a budget that’s sustainable for us to go out and focus on getting it heard; and touring.
You mentioned music going on Spotify and YouTube, well in the case of U2, right on iTunes. How did you feel about that move?
I didn’t like it. I thought it was a trashy move. I think if there was a band to do it, it could be U2 because they’re the biggest band of all time, but I think a lot of people didn’t receive it well. U2 didn’t have to do anything like that; it was unnecessary. They could have put their album out, sold a ton of records and everyone would have shown the love and support. They didn’t have to just make the record appear on everyone’s iPhones. People almost didn’t want to listen to it because it just showed up.
The EP kicks off with the title track. So, what is it that you don’t deserve? What’s going on here?
I don’t think we deserved the treatment we got on our last record. I feel like that was supposed to be our coming out party; the third album was supposed to be our arrival into headlining big venues and the upper echelon of rock bands and I feel like it was just a bad timing thing. The label could have cared less about any rock band and we felt the wrath of that. It wasn’t Adelitas Way’s fault; it wasn’t our fault, and look, we’ll take blame for it. Maybe we didn’t write the record that everyone was looking for. I don’t know; I don’t just want to pawn it off and blame other people, but I will say that it didn’t help that during the whole process the record company was telling us that rock is dead and they’re not interested in it. So, we didn’t deserve to have our third record treated that way. We loved it and we thought it was something special; we didn’t think it was just a pile of garbage. Because there were guitars in it and drums and bass and vocals the label didn’t like it.
So correct me if I’m wrong here, and stop me if I’m going down the wrong path with this thought; you spend the opening track defending yourself…
…but on the second song you confess, “Truth is I get around”…?
Talk about the current single “I Get Around.”
When I was young I liked to go out, and I love beautiful women and I realized on a bad date that I went on where some girl asked me how many people I’d been with, well, I totally lied to her, but I realized at that moment that maybe I’d been with more people than I’d have liked to have been, especially now that I’m married with a family. I look back at what I did and I was like, ‘man, maybe I got around a bit; I wish I could swipe some of those back.’ But I feel like everyone does. Look, the earth’s got billions of people in it; obviously we’re all getting around a little bit.
Yeah, and on the song you do also say, so does she, right?
Yeah! Yep. The girl I went on that date with I found out that she also, after asking me the question and being weird about me getting around; she got around as well, so it was kind of weird for her to ask me that.
Was that song around for a while, or is that a new song?
The way I write songs is that I write songs all the time. I could write one tomorrow, I could write one today; I’m always writing. I have a catalog of songs that I write from my feelings. I love to write songs. “I Get Around,” “Deserve This,” “Harbor the Fugitive;” those were all songs that I worked on and the band had worked on at some point because we loved them. It was a little after the Stuck record started getting up and running and we kind of always viewed those as, like, a different record, you know what I mean? We were like, we’ll leave these for the next one – and here it is.
Now by the time you get around to track three on the five-song EP, you’re not pulling any punches.
“Filthy Heart” is the third track. Gimme a little bit about that one.
“Filthy Heart” is influenced by someone who’s just got a black heart. A couple of different instances really, really motivated me for this song. One of them was just the thought of that kind of person. Another one was, we were on The Pretty Reckless tour and they treated us pretty poorly and I had a lot built up in me from them disrespecting me on that tour, and I was motivated to do something great, and a little bit of that bled over into “Filthy Heart” as well.
Let me quote a lyric: “I always wanted to say it; you’re such a b**ch!” You say it!
Yep. I do say it. I get it out; I get out what I have to say, you know.
Let me quote another lyric: “Hold on tight, she’s gonna take you for a ride.”
Yep, “Harbor the Fugitive.” It’s about a man-eater. It’s about a woman that comes in and gets you so emotionally caught up and then just leaves. You’re just heartbroken. In your mind you were planning a family and a life with this woman and then one day, out of nowhere, it seemed like things were going great and she just packed up and moved on. And now she’s with another man. I’m singing the song to the next guy; I’m kind of telling him, like, ‘go and have her, she’s gonna break your heart.’
Deserve This wraps with “Sometimes You’re Meant to Get Used.” What would you like to say about that song?
That song is about some conversations I had in my days of touring. Some of my friends met girls that they were so excited about and then the girl never called them back. Or sometimes it was the opposite, like sometimes girls want more from a guy and it just happens to be a one night thing. My advice to those people is, you know, sometimes it happens; sometimes you’re meant to get used, and I think you just gotta enjoy it. Enjoy the moment you had instead of thinking about the fifty moments you missed.
So speaking of getting used, your songs have been used on TV and video games, etc. Can you explain how that works, from the actual business perspective?
I wish it happened more. You know nowadays we’re in an era where rock seems to be blacklisted from all that stuff. You don’t see as many rock bands on sports things and TV shows or anything anymore. It seems to be a lot of the same bands. That was a time when our first record came out, the record company was excited about rock and roll; everyone was excited. Our publishing company was excited and they sent some songs out and they just connected really well with wrestling and CSI: Miami and some video games and we were blessed; we were blessed to be off to the races. I hope that we get the opportunity to do some of those things again.
For somebody who’s sitting at home, in the bedroom or garage, looking to get into a band, looking ahead to a career; can you give them 30 seconds of advice?
In the whole process? I mean, honestly at this point, unless you’re a pop band or like an alternative indie band, I would avoid major labels. They’re not really looking to sign any rock acts, anyway. I would say the only thing you could do – my advice to any aspiring musician – is make sure whatever you record sounds great, the quality is great, it’s the best [set] of songs you can have and that’s really all you can ask for. The rest is a lot of hard work and a lot of luck and a lot of timing and a lot of X factors.
And maybe I will add one thing to that; passion.
You gotta have passion. The songs gotta be real. It’s all about the songs and how they’re represented. And you also need to add professionalism in there. You can’t have a demo that sounds s**tilly recorded. Your demo has to sound like you’re taking it seriously for other people to take you serious. And your pictures and everything has to look like you want it. You gotta show the hard work and dedication.
Before we wrap, I have to ask you about the Home School Valedictorian album title. That’s just the one of the greatest…
It’s about a guitar player we kicked out who was home-schooled and he was a jerk off. He had the worst personality of any human being I’d met in my life. He was home-schooled, he was spoiled and he came off that way.
Very cool. Rick, I appreciate the time and it was nice to meet you.
It’s always good speaking with a vet who’s been around the business. See ya, brother!