"DVC made a significant mark on the trajectory of my music career. Straight out of
high school I wanted to break away from the DIY music/recording knowledge I taught
myself and learn the basics in an educational environment. I took memorable classes
with Tim White, Doug Michael, Mark Steidel, Guy Lento, Jon Bendich, Danny Carnahan,
Michael Aczon, and Steve Sage. The music industry program solidified my endeavor into
the music industry and I still apply so much of what I learned to my newfound career.
I am so grateful for the time I spent at DVC!" - Melina Duterte, former DVC music student
SF Chronicle, Aidin Vaziri
Lives in: Oakland
What she does: Melina Duterte, who goes by the stage name Jay Som, is a multi-instrument and producer
who recently released her first proper studio album, "Everybody Works."
Career highlights: An earlier collection of demos, released on the music sharing website Bandcamp under
the unassuming title "Untitled" (later repackaged as "Turn Into"), grabbed the attention
of tastemakers online such as Pitchfork, SPIN and NPR Music; leading to a deal with
the Polyvinyl label for "Everybody Works."
On the brink: A lot of people tend to overlook Duterte's lo-fi bedroom pop because they see her
stage name, Jay Som, on the label and make assumptions. "They skip listening to my
music because they think I'm some guy who makes hip-hop music," the Oakland singer-songwriter
says, calling from a tour stop in Atlanta. She plucked the moniker randomly from an
online baby name generator, indicative of her casual approach to her work.
Raised in a musical family in the East Bay, she got her first guitar at age 8 and
moved on to trumpet at 9, picking up other instruments over the years and honing her
recording skills along the way. "It was all self-taught," she says. "Sometimes I wonder
where I got my motivation from. It's just a natural curiosity. I was always motivated
to get better."
On Thanksgiving 2015, feeling encouraged by her friends - and maybe a little tipsy
- she uploaded nine tracks she had recorded at home onto Bandcamp. That first set
of plaintive demo recordings became "Turn Into" -- a set of "finished and unfinished
songs" -- released in 2016 on the independent label Polyvinyl, earning her a spot
on a female-fronted indie rock tour with Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. "I feel like
there's a certain amount of luck," Duterte says. "I'm at a place where I was working
hard and I was willing to spend more time getting to where I am now. I thought this
whole thing would happen in five years. It's a been shocking how easy it's been to
get certain opportunities."
Her latest release was made in three weeks with Duterte performing all the instruments
and producing all the material, pulling together her dreamy vocal melodies and harmonies
with fuzzy guitars and synthesizers. "I definitely had more of a clear and intentional
idea of what I wanted the album to sound like," she says. "I was listening to a lot
of throwback james."
Now she's on tour, performing Friday, Oct. 20, in San Francisco, and finding new fans
around the country singing the songs back to her. "It's so strange," Duterte says.
"We were in Toronto for the 'Baybee' I stopped singing the second verse and the entire
crowd started singing. It truly made me cry."
A musical home: "My brother and I grew up into a very supportive family of music and arts," Duterte
says of her parents, who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. "My
mom was always singing. My dad used to be a DJ, so there were records everywhere.
There were a lot of mix tapes around the house.""
Vaziri, Aidin. “She's generated success” SF Chronicle, Oct. 2017.