Home Read Albums Of The Week: Chief Cleopatra | Luna

Albums Of The Week: Chief Cleopatra | Luna

The Austinite's third EP is deep in the groove, rich in soul & dose with psychedelics.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Raised in Corsicana, Texas on a steady diet of gospel, it didn’t take long for Jalesa Jessie, aka Chief Cleopatra, to veer off the beaten path thanks to a serendipitous viewing of Smashing PumpkinsBullet with Butterfly Wings video at the impressionable age of eight. From that point on there was no looking back for the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter as she built a foundation of soul, funk, pop and hip-hop influences ranging from fellow gospel devotee Aretha Franklin to galactic partygoers Parliament-Funkadelic to the grimy rap of Wu-Tang Clan.

Initially drawn to piano, which activated her ability to play by ear, Jessie found a more natural home with the drumline of marching band. That passion for all things percussive led to Jessie’s mom gifting her a drumset when she was 13 and encouraging her to brush up on legends like Sheila E. and John Bonham. Before long Jessie was playing in everything from the church band to her school friends’ various musical endeavors.

Lured out to Austin in 2012 by the promise of better musical opportunities, Jessie connected with Leonard Martinez through mutual friends, and the two soon began collaborating. They dabbled in a number of projects and bands together over the next few years, and in February 2019, they released their first EP together, Lesa x Lenny Vol.1, under Jessie’s new moniker, Chief Cleopatra.

She released her critically acclaimed eponymous EP in2020, alongside music videos for Gangstas in Love and Belushi. In Spring of 2021, Chief Cleopatra released the first single and video Friends from her forthcoming EP Luna, garnering praise for the jaunty synth-led indie pop sound, which prompted comparison to Santigold.

Cleopatra’s new sonic direction echoes fellow pop experimenters Blood Orange and Thundercat, with the playful instrumentation framing the sultry, soulful, and subtly-powerful style she showcased on her 2020 Chief Cleopatra EP. Luna finds Cleo delving deeper into those psychedelic soul roots and more experimental instrumentation, with featured production by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Walker Lukens and performances by Curtis Roush and Jack O’Brien (The Bright Light Social Hour).

Cleopatra’s latest single Fortuity is a timeless love song. “I love this song because anyone can imagine this chance encounter with someone who takes your breath away,” she explains. “The song has a magic to it that the listener can believe in. I automatically thought of a ’50s doo-wop feel on the bass while writing this song, so I’m happy that vibe intensified on the final version. Probably my favorite song off the EP.”