A Day in The Life With Desert Woman

Sitting in a 50’s style diner, Desert Woman, a four-piece indie band from La Mirada, told The Collective XIII about their journey so far since forming on August 17, 2012. The band is composed of brothers, DJ & Derrick Cortez, who play the drums and bass, their cousin Kelsie Grissom, who plays rhythm guitar and does lead vocals, and her longtime boyfriend Greg Poblete, who plays lead guitar. This past year they released their first EP called entitled “Glue,” and the Collective XIII, was able to have an exclusive interview with them.

Collective: How did your band form?

Derrick: When we were like 11 and 12 we used to all jam together us three [points to DJ, himself, and Kelsie] and then we stopped. In high school Kelsie started dating Greg.

Kelsie: He used to make music [points to Greg] and then we would send audio clips back to each other. He sent a full song and I was like I could do that too. Then them [DJ and Derrick] being part of it just helped us wrap it all together because it’s hard to make music by yourself sometimes and get the whole idea out there when other people aren’t playing with you.

Derrick: They have ideas for songs but they wouldn’t be able to hear it all together without all the instruments being played at the same time cause they can hear like this will be the drum part or this will be the guitar part, but collectively we just work together.

Collective: How did you end up with the name Desert Woman?

Kelsie: I was in a comparative world literature class where we read about folklore and mythology and we had to write our own. So I wrote mine about the desert woman and it was just something that stuck.

Collective: Did you all set out to play a certain instrument?

Kelsie: DJ was always the master of his domain on the drums.

Derrick: I played bass for church.

Kelsie: It’s just easier for me to play rhythm and sing at the same time.

Derrick: Greg does all the [guitar] solos.

Collective: How do you describe your sound?

Derrick: People say we are indie beach rock. The newspaper said we were “buzzed out garage rock.” The most common [word used] is beachy.

Collective: Who influences your music?

DJ: For me, I feel like what I bring to the table are bands like Blink 182, Green Day, and Tigers Jaw.

Derrick: When I write music my biggest influences are Title Fight and Red Eyes. Those are very different bands but I like the different aspects of them.

Kelsie: I was just telling him this [points to Greg]. My biggest influences unconsciously are women and it’s very cool. Britney [Spears] first and in middle school it was Hayley of Paramore. Right now it’s a lot of St. Vincent and Prince.


Collective: What’s your guys’ songwriting process like?

DJ: There are common themes between us that we all like, but we do have our own things that we are more interested in. I feel a lot of times we come together which will show. The stuff that Derrick and I will write will be a little more aggressive because we grew up going to hard core shows.

Kelsie: When I started it was easier to write love songs so I have been trying to grow out of that somehow. St. Vincent never writes love songs so I have been trying to challenge myself in that way.

Greg: Hellogoodbye does a lot of cheesy love songs, which really influenced me, but now I feel like I am really influenced by hip hop even though I don’t show it in this band.

Collective: Do you have a favorite show?

Derrick: The last show we did was one of the top. It was special in general because some of my best friends put out one of their CDs that night. I was happy for them and it was a really good turn out. It wasn’t my show, but I felt I hosted since it was my house.

DJ: I think that one was tight because every show we play is super small and it just like a lot of local bands and something about that is really cool to me. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how when you’re at a local show it’s kind of just your world and thinking about kinds in other states are doing the same thing.

Collective: What’s the ultimate goal for your band?

DJ: I think it would be tight if we went on like a little tour.

Derrick: Yeah, I definitely would like to tour once.

Kelsie: Maybe like a coast tour.

Derrick: Kelsie and I were talking about [how] we should just take off next fall semester and try to tour. I think that would be cool for me to set aside time while I still can to do music, even if it doesn’t go anywhere so I could say I did it and it was fun.  Even just for the experience of playing in different places and meeting new people.

Collective: You said that your backyard concerts are like a small world. How do you think that has affected you?

DJ: I think it gives us a lot of margin for error. There are bands that are really polished and are good at having it together and I feel like that just not us and I’m totally fine with that. So when we play we will go to fast or our guitars will get out of tune.

Derrick: We will be super down on ourselves and like we did really badly tonight and then they say that it was good.

Kelsie: It’s so cool because everyone that will watch us they are so into and are very supportive.

Collective: Have any of you faced writers block and how do you get over that?

DJ: I have one song for Desert Woman that I wrote and it took me a year to write. I think when you are in a certain season of life writing is easier for you to write, but then when you leave that season it is hard for you to go back.

Derrick: I have a lot of different choruses that are cool. I will kind of lose that feeling and never finish that song. I don’t really get over it.

Greg: For me I just write random lines that I think are cool and I put them in my phone but I never really like make a full song out of it, so it just kind of goes unfinished.

Collective: How did you record the EP?

Derrick: This guy that goes to my church his name is David he has a studio set up in his apartment and he offered to record us for free. Recording the EP took a week and a half and then editing took a month.

Collective: Final thoughts?

DJ: I am eating this garlic bread that came with our chicken tenders and French fries; I am not really into it but it’s here so I am eating it.

Derrick: I have been needing to pee since we got here.

Greg: I think it’s really funny how you guys ordered one more chicken tender.

Kelsie: This has been cool. It’s been a fun day. 


Interview: Charles Sailor

Edited by: Emily Kimura and Kelsea Cadena

Photos: Ariel Cortez

Band Members: DJ Cortez, Derrick Cortez, Kelsie Grissom, Greg Poblete