Jackie Mendoza

INTERVIEW: Jackie Mendoza Gives Us a Look Into Her Universe on “Galaxia De Emociones”

Photo by Max Alo.

Pressing play on Jackie Mendoza’s latest album, Galaxia de Emociones, is like getting on a rollercoaster while on acid. Trap beats, warped synths, melodies that could power a thousand summer anthems, and even accordions bombard you from all over. However, her unique talent prevents this experiment from failing, turning it into a potential new pop standard thanks to her sincere, unpretentious approach. With this LP, Mendoza is writing a new musical idiom for the near future.

Mendoza began playing music by singing for the Brooklyn-based dream pop bands Lunarette and Gingerlys, where she felt frustrated by the stiffness they presented. “‘You have to sing dreamier. You’re singing like you’re in Broadway,’” she remembers her bandmates telling her. In 2014, she downloaded the digital audio workstation Ableton Live and started messing with it, posting the resulting songs on Soundcloud. Her experimental instincts landed on a sound that’s all her own: quirky, playful, emotional, and full of risks with great melodic payoffs.

Galaxia De Emociones is Mendoza’s most eclectic and personal work yet. “Natural” sets the pace with its plucked strings, wavy electronics, and vaguely trap-ish beats. From there, the album explores a lot more sonic territory. “Let’s Get Maui’d” is a fun and noisy pop ditty, while “Pedacitos” fuses pop melodies with a busy rhythm. Elsewhere, “Hay Frijoles En La Casa (Stomps)” builds from heavy drums and rapping, and “3 AM” is an irresistible norteño-hyperpop fusion party anthem with a twist. Lyrically, Mendoza strands the lines between earnest, weird, emotional, and funny, bringing some of the best bilingual lyrics of 2023 so far. The result is an album full of ambitious and eclectic compositions full of textures and melodies that listeners will fall in love with.

Mendoza says her writing approach is not very contrived. In her own words: “I start playing, then I keep adding sounds until it sounds right for me. It’s mostly done through intuition. I never think, ‘I’ll write an indie rock song,’ or, ‘I’ll write an electro-pop song.’ I don’t hear a lot of music that mixes styles as much. I mean, it’s usually like country pop or whatever. I’m such a big fan of so much music that I love; it’s fun for me to mix all these sounds.”

While Galaxia De Emociones is her first full-length album, she didn’t originally plan on making a grand statement. Instead, she aimed to make an EP, but she kept writing and recording songs until there was enough for an album. “When I came up with the title, it opened the doors to something bigger,” she says. “I needed to use those emotions and make songs that relate the story behind each emotion that I was feeling at the time.”

She wrote and recorded the album beginning in 2019 and was finished by 2021. In the meantime, the pandemic started, and the U.S. political situation went into overdrive. On a personal level, she went through a breakup and moved back from New York to San Diego. All these experiences informed the album.

“I start playing, then I keep adding sounds until it sounds right for me. It’s mostly done through intuition. I never think, ‘I’ll write an indie rock song,’ or, ‘I’ll write an electro-pop song.’”

Although the world around her changed drastically, her creative process didn’t. Like her previous Love Hz EP and other loosies, she recorded at home. She then would take the recordings to her most trusted collaborator, Rusty Santos, who is a key component of Mendoza’s creativity. He’s also a producer and engineer for Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Weyes Blood, and Black Dice, among many others. Before forming this union, Mendoza would record songs without much of a filter, and Santos helped her fully flesh out her ideas. “He has helped me so much,” she says. “He loves experimenting, but he’s also great at guiding me to finish the songs. It’s important to have that voice in the project.” They also wrote songs together, like “Pedacitos” and Let’s Get Maui’d.” “It’s like a two-person project now,” she declares.

Considering the circumstances, it would be fair to assume that working on the album would be difficult. According to Mendoza, some tracks like “Mousetrap” were hard to get down, yet others like “Let’s Get Maui’d” were written quickly. Some of the lyrics came off the top of her head, while others required her to sit down and ponder them. She mentions that lyrics are always the hardest part of her compositions, with language being especially challenging, translating lyrics back and forth until they sound right. Some examples include “Pedacitos” and “3 AM,” originally written in English before she discovered they worked better in Spanish. 

As for her future plans, she looks forward to taking her live band on the road. She’s heading on a U.S. tour and hopes to take it to Mexico and other places soon. Having said this, Galaxia de Emociones is already a winner, a bold and beautiful statement that feels both personal and universal. In it, we can gaze at Mendoza’s universe only to get a reflection of our own sentiments within this joyful celebration of sound.

Check out Galaxia de Emociones below.