I first had the pleasure of meeting Jekssaira last summer when bands were just beginning to play live shows again. They are a power trio in the best sense of the term—with Jekssaira “Jessie” Rodriguez on guitar, Kenny Barojas on bass, and Kevin Martinez on drums—and I was honored to share a stage with them last July at The Parkside Lounge (see FTA’s coverage). My first impression of Jekssaira (the band) was how skilled each of them are musically, how hard they rock, how tight they are as a group, but a closer listen of their newest full-length release, Becoming Well Again, reveals how much of Jekssaira (the front woman/songwriter) poured her heart and soul into the songs. The album is both painful and uplifting. Rodriguez (described on her Bandcamp page as a “loud gay musician from Queens, NY”) has suffered some serious heartbreak and now rises from those ashes like the resilient phoenix, and she’s ready to share the whole gut-wrenching journey with her listeners.
Jekssaira (photo by Kate Hoos)
“Your Doppelganger” is the first of the seven songs on Becoming Well Again, and the album’s softest song musically. Rodriguez’s guitar sound at first has an acoustic feel, while her lyrics capture the haunting and lonely sensation of “seeing” your lost lover everywhere. “Today I saw someone who looked just like you / And my heart began to sink so deep.” At the song’s closing, though, the guitar begins to strengthen into quicker, chunkier strums, introducing the heavier rock sound of the rest of the album. In “Gaslighter,” the third track, glimmers of hope and self-worth begin to break through in the lyrics, while the distorted, in-your-face guitar sounds show the songwriter’s strength beginning to grow. “I’m starting to realize I’m not the only one who messed up here,” Rodriguez’s clear voice cuts through the roar of her guitar. “I’m stronger than you think.”
Jekssaira performing in 2021 (photo by Kate Hoos)
Other fave tracks of mine included “Ain’t Feelin Too Fine,” where the rhythm section really shines with Barojas’s fantastic octave-jumping bass riff and Martinez exploding on the cymbals. But perhaps the standout song of Becoming Well Again is the penultimate song, “Diary (Entrada 73),” with Jekssaira showing off her strong skills as a bilingual lyricist. At this point in the album, too, our frontwoman has definitely gained strength and is healing herself, and you can hear her hope start to break through. “Sigo sintiendo lo mismo / Chinga la paciencia / Voy hacer lo que yo quiera” (Translation for non-Spanish speakers: “I still feel the same / fuck the patience / I’m going to do what I want.”) She lets out the most infectious squeal of joy after that line! Jekssaira’s triumph over hopelessness comes full circle in the final track, “I’ll Be Okay (The Last Song).” It’s not a grandiose victory, and she knows she’ll have to keep working, but the wisdom of that realization is so relatable. “I’ll be okay / I’ll be alright / It’s about damn time I start taking care of my life.”
In her statement about Becoming Well Again on Bandcamp, Jekssaira writes: “This album is about going from negative thinking to positive thinking…I’ve learned to love again and for the first time, love myself. I hope this album will help others as it did to me.” If you’re looking to heal yourself and rock out hard in the process, Becoming Well Again, is the perfect cure! The album was recorded by Eamon McMullen of The Pigeon Pack, and featuring very cool album art by Val Martinez (building off of a photo by our Editor in Chief, Kate Hoos). Also check out Rodriguez’ other band, The Loneliers, a very fun twee pop-punk project featuring some great harmonies where Jessie sings with her sister, Debbie Rodriguez.
Becoming Well Again was self released and is available on all major streaming platforms.