Posted by Emily on March 7th, 2017 under 6 Minutes With, Bands, Desert Tundra
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Desert Tundra is the Alt-Rock alter ego of Virginia native, now Los Angeles based, singer and guitarist Janet Jelena. Bringing together a strong sense of pop, coupled with rock and roll bravado, Desert Tundra doesn’t let the genre define her content. Setting out to confront the anomalies that go with living in the moment her songs span the range of human emotion from unrequited love to hope, anger and loneliness, in addition to issues not usually broached in the genre like body image. On the surface, her songs may seem like your standard rock anthems but at their core they mirror real life closer than they appear.
Jelena grew up in the small town of Herndon, VA, a northern suburb of Washington, DC. As a child of the 90’s she turned to rock, punk, and Riot Grrrl icons like Hole, Bikini Kill, and Le Tigre for their message and passion. From a purely guttural and emotional standpoint both Metallica and Megadeth resonated with her as a teen due to their speed and anger. Her love of music continued to grow and at the age of 15 she picked up her first guitar, a used Fender Stratocaster that her mother bought for her. Soon after that, realizing her daughter’s passion should continue to be encouraged and refined, her mother enrolled her in vocal lessons.
“I told my mom that I wanted to be a rockstar, and she told me “maybe you should start out as a pebble.” It took me years to understand what that really meant,” Jelena recalled.
After various starts and stops, Jelena settled on the path to becoming a solo performer, taking on the moniker of Desert Tundra and forming a backing band of local players. A chance encounter led her to meeting Dan Reynolds and Ben McKee of Imagine Dragons before playing a show in DC where she took this opportunity to discuss with them what it takes to be a band on the brink. She would take many things to heart from that conversation including the notion that the right producer could help make all the difference. She immediately started researching producers in the area and found Jim Ebert, who would go on to produce her first three EP’s and become not only a mentor but a kind of father figure to her. After the release of the third Desert Tundra EP, Jelena started plotting her to move to California, which at the time was against the wishes of her main supporter, her mother. But Ebert told her that that if she truly wanted to be a rockstar, then Los Angeles was be the place to be. So her mind was set, and with only a little bit of money saved in her bank account the cross country journey began.
Sleeping in her car and staying in sketchy hotels to save money, Jelena hit the ground running when she arrived in Los Angeles, quickly putting together a band of SoCal players using the site Bandmix. When her mother found out that she was living in a small one-bedroom apartment with three guys she decided to once again help her daughter pursue her calling. “This was a huge turning point for me,” Jelena says, “She told me that “if this is really what you want to do then I’ll help you.” She is my number one fan, and I will always be grateful to her for that.”
Now with a little more breathing room, a solid backing band and nothing in her way to stop her, Jelena is able to completely focus her time and creativity on Desert Tundra and plans on taking it to the next level and beyond. For the future of Desert Tundra, Jelena sees only limitless potential. “I can take Desert Tundra and go as far as I want,” she says, “This is only the beginning, and the best is yet to come.”
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