Tell us about your time at Norco and in Norco Music.
Before I really got involved, I was trying to start my own project (what is now Harbinger) and I really had no one… When I first came to Norco College I didn't know what to really expect from the music department, so I kind of just floated [around] and didn't get involved right away… and one day my friend was like "hey I have a friend, his name is Ricardo, and I want to introduce you to him; he’s really involved in the music program and he's a great guitarist.” So, one weekend morning, we all met up… We ran through the songs that I had written [and] he really dug the vibe, but he didn't really feel the ensemble that we put together that morning—we both didn't feel it actually, it just felt kind of forced. So we kind of shook hands there and said [to each other], “good luck with your endeavors.” Right before he left he said [to me], "I think you should get involved at Norco College in the music department. I feel like the instructors and some of the musicians there you'll find [will] be really beneficial to your growth as an artist…” I got involved that summer and met a lot of wonderful people… I knew from that point on that Norco Music was going to be such a great experience and [place for] growth for me as an artist, and ever since then it's done nothing but push me forward as an artist and given me more of a foundation than I could have ever thought [possible].
Do you have a specific memory from your time at Norco Music… one that you like to go back to and think about?
It's hard to put a finger on one memory and say that that was my favorite, because there were several different good times, you know? I've recorded my EP at Norco College; I’ve worked on several collaborations with wonderful people, including my instructor, Brady Kerr—which we have Days Before Fiction now through that… And working with artists like Judith [Quan] and Ricardo [Santiago] to make songs that were on the album; those were good moments. I remember back in the first summer that I was there, I first met Judith. She wanted to record a song and she had me write lyrics—this was "No Love Song”—and that project went so fluid and it turned out to be a wonderful song that I love; I look at it as a baby of mine… If I had to [mention one] distinct moment, that was one of my favorites.
We want to know where you are now… I know you're still very active with music, you mentioned you have Days Before Fiction, what all do you have going on for you?
In music, several different fields… Harbinger is still going strong, and we're at a point right now where we're pushing forward for new identity and growth and new sound… We have some fairs and festivals coming up, EP #2 is a go, name change, merch… I'm also a part of a new project that I'm working on with Ricardo, called Summer Days, which is a little indie pop band. We were really inspired by the artist Little Joy [that] was some super band… The drummer of the Strokes found two other amazing, talented musicians and made this little ensemble, created one album, then went into a permanent hiatus. So [I] don't know if they're coming back [and I] don’t know if they're going to do anything further, but just having that solid album and what they did inspired Ricky and I to create more life, too, and we wanted to do something in that vibe… We're already in the recording process.
Do you have anything else that you're doing right now aside from music? I know right now you're really big on building a photography portfolio?
Yes! Photography is definitely a passion right now. I've been doing photography since middle school; I was a part of the yearbook team… Always had that wannabe photographer drive but never had enough financial support to push that forward… but finally I was able to—last year—have enough money to pay for a real camera, and it just seemed like out of the blue the past two or three months that that took off. I got one, two gigs, and other people are coming to me now for photography things and I'm getting more involved in media. A big outlet for me now is my church because it's kind of the best of both worlds. I do worship all week long, I'm in charge of helping plan music events, I'm always feeling that front man vibe as a worship leader—to communicate with a congregation or a crowd. So it's given me experience on the musical side as well as the media side because I’m a photographer there for their events… and that's definitely a passion to be able to do those things. Now I can say that I'm at a point in my life where I'm starting to do the things that I love, which makes it a little easier to wake up in the morning in general because I feel that no one should have to do things… You shouldn't have to do [something] because then it loses its value. Now I can do [this] and I'm happy to do so.
Do you have any goals that you've set for yourself? Anything musical, in photography, education… Do you have anything that's set that you want to accomplish?
Education not so much… I'm at a time where I'm going to start stepping back from that and actually start applying things so that I can actually reach my goals… Music, I've got several different goals: Harbinger just wants to get out there more, we want to make a set identity… we want to really find our niche in creating music. For Days Before Fiction, to always be in the studio once in a while… For photography, I would say just establish myself a little more as a professional… and then I'd say for church, just to push for greater leadership and growth, raising up more musicians and giving encouragement to those who have a lack of it because [at the] end of high school/college age is when you see people's dreams die. For example, when I first came into the music department at Norco, I sat next to this girl… and she was really quiet and she looked upset and we started talking and she pretty much just said that there's no point to continue [a] pointless dream in music… and it was just heartbreaking, you know? It reinitiated that point that I did not want to be there; I did not want to ever reach that point [where] there was no hope, there was no one there giving me hope to continue a worthless or dead dream, so I try my best to encourage others for their dream because you honestly never know what's going to happen until you actually try… and even still, even if you push for it some things might not happen right away. It’s the ones that are patient, passionate, and driven that will make it in some minor way, some epic way at times. I just want to be a driving person, that's a goal for me personally.
Circling back to Harbinger, you already have an EP out… Do you want to tell us about that?
That was a project I had been working on myself for many years. Before I was an indie rock artist, I was in a metal and rock band; I just knew that wasn't for me… and [I] disbanded from that and started writing my own music. I was kind of at that little hopeless stage where there was no one I could go to… so I kind of put it on the back burner for a couple of years until I went to college [where] I met Brady Kerr and luckily I was given an opportunity to record an album under him, have him produce it, be a co-producer with him… It was at a time of love and loss—for personal reasons that I had been going through with relationships. The album is about finding what [a] person feels is their true love and going through the ups and downs and saying that that is their muse and going through the wonderful and painful times and pretty much by the end you're kind of left in a cold place, which is why I [gave] it the name “Cold Hands.” “Cold Hands” came up as reaching for a light through love, yet in the end, you're always reaching for a warmth you can never achieve in a hopeless situation.
Is there's anything else you want to add?
Just re-stating what I was talking about in regards to personal goals, for anybody listening who does care, I would just say to keep going for your passions and keep driving yourself. Three years ago I literally had no foundation as an artist and now I'm here with several different songs and new people in my life and real professional gigs that are happening. And I would have never known if I didn't keep going with it.
"I live to create art from my own ideas; it allows me to share my expression with others. It's the most I can give of myself to any other person. One of the greatest things about music is that you don't have to know who wrote it, but you can know them through their art. I want to take people on journeys with me through my music. I'll be here if they want to travel along with me."
~ Jon Esqueda
Portraits written by Harbinger • Jon Esqueda (vocals/guitar)
Small Lies written by Harbinger • Jon Esqueda (vocals/electric guitar)
Tunnel written by Devin Renee • Devin Renee (vocals/acoustic guitar) Jon Esqueda (mandolin) Michael Tucker (cajon)
What Would That Be? written by Jacob Tucker and Jon Esqueda • Jon Esqueda (vocals) Jacob Tucker (rhythm guitar) David Morales (lead guitar) Ricardo Santiago (bass) Michael Tucker (drums)
Spectre written by Ryan Hickman and Jon Esqueda • Jon Esqueda (vocals/rhythm guitar) Ryan Hickman (programming) David Morales (bass) Adam Jauregui (lead guitar/backing vocals/drums)
Out of the Darkness
Shores written by Harbinger • Jon Esqueda (vocals/acoustic guitar) Ricardo Santiago (slide guitar/bass) Michael Tucker (cajon)
No Love Song written by Judith Quan and Jon Esqueda • Judith Quán (vocals/backing vocals) Ricardo Santiago (guitar) Mona Lee (cello) Jon Esqueda (shaker)
Into the Light
Idyllwild written by Harbinger • Jon Esqueda (vocals/guitar/bass) Stephen Taylor (toms/tambourine/shaker/drums)
Seeker written by Jeremy Reed, Judith Quán, and Jon Esqueda • Jeremy Reed (vocals/guitar) Judith Quán (vocals/piano) Jon Esqueda (vocals/mandolin) Mona Lee (cello)
City Lights written by Days Before Fiction • Jon Esqueda (vocals/backing vocals) Brady Kerr (piano/programming)
Home written by Harbinger • Jon Esqueda (vocals/rhythm guitar) Abdel Dakhil (lead guitar) Ricardo Santiago (bass) Stephen Taylor (drums)
Spotlight written by Nate Rhoads and BigMan • BigMan (vocals) Jon Esqueda (vocals/backing vocals) Nate Rhoads (beat)
Our Love written by August Eichman, Mona Lee, DJ Humanoid, and Jon Esqueda • Judith Quán (vocals/backing vocals) Jon Esqueda (vocals/backing vocals/guitar) August Eichman (piano) Mona Lee (cello) DJ Humanoid (programming) Ricardo Santiago (shaker)
"'Cold Hands' is the inevitable journey of love and loss, with each song leading into another as the story unfolds. Yet, every song possesses individuality. The opening track, "Home," describes a longing for love that has yet to be revealed, with an innate drive to pursue further. "Idyllwild" is an upbeat, percussion-filled track, which invites feelings of spontaneity. On another hand, "Shores" sifts through the potential fears of trust and affection, while being accompanied by a captivating, coastal groove. In the track "Summer Light," its initial simplicity unfolds into unbridled passion, which then captivates the listener; enticing them to bask in its warmth. "Lost Cause" explores love-lost that has overtaken the hope and desire to move forward in a severed relationship, repeatedly chanting the anthem, "Get up...Get out...There's no more love in this house!" The final track, "Haunt Me," is an ambient, acoustic gem, expressing regret through its message, "I didn't fight for love...for life" as if considering them one in the same. As the experience comes to an end, it leaves the listener wanting to start from the beginning, again and again..."
- Brady Kerr