MARINERO – San Francisco/Guadalajara.
Marinero is the handle of San Francisco native, Jess Sylvester, whose lovesick songs have endearing touches of Latin America and soft flourishes of emotion. Despite playing in punk bands throughout his youth, he leans more Caetano Veloso than Black Flag. It was a 2010 visit to Mexico that forever changed his songwriting trajectory. MySpace yielded musical connections during a three-month trip to Guadalajara while his tour guide, Carlos Pesina, transitioned to being his bandmate (as heard on sample-based release, Francisco Y Madero). The group’s now been together for almost a decade has been his most notable to date. His more recent solo work as Marinero, however, offers insight into his singular talent and breadth as a songwriter.
His upcoming effort, Trópico de Cáncer— out in 2019 via Needle to the Groove– is inspired by flowing heartache south of the border. Following a breakup, Sylvester booked a trip to Guadalajara a month in advance, which fueled an obsessive stretch of writing. Once there, he collaborated with psych rock troupe, Dorotheo (close friends and former collaborators) to bring his songwriting vision to life. Those sessions, recorded in May and June of 2018, are the first Marinero songs on record with a live band.
When asked about his previous works, says Jesse: “With Chican@, it was me telling a narrative about my family’s history in the Bay Area, and some of the changes happening there. High Tone was still about me, but it was [about] my youth, me looking at things growing up,” he says. “Trópico de Cáncer was my first honest cry for what was going on with me. [When] I went out there, I knew exactly what I wanted. I think the group really made it flow so quickly. They were ego-less about it and were able to help me do my thing.”
The album taps into Sylvester’s Chicano roots with glowing inspiration from groups like Los Freddys and Malo, respectively. He’s obviously taken by Brazil’s colorfully textured Tropicália movement. He calls Trópico “a West Coaster’s interpretation” of that classic ‘60s sound. “Flor de Jamaica” was first glimpse of the project was a pairing of bossa-nova rhythms and yearning vocals.
In addition to his solo work as Marinero, Sylvester is still currently involved with Francisco Y Madero and Crisis Man, a project that hearkens back to his aforementioned punk and hardcore roots. His projects in Francisco Y Madero inspired his Cholo-Fi mixtape series, which is an unexpectedly killer collection of chopped and screwed oldies.
While he notes that the project wasn’t easy to record, he now views Trópico de Cáncer as a natural creative step forward. “I feel like I’ve healed as a result of going through that whole process and making the record,” he shares. “It feels like it was all meant to be in a way.”