Rick DeJesus – vocals
Keith Wallen – guitar
Derek Johnston – bass
Trevor Stafford – drums
Home School Valedictorian, the sophomore CD from Las Vegas quartet Adelitas Way, earns an “A” for execution, even managing to top the band’s forcefully compelling 2009 self-titled debut and its chart-topping single “Invincible.” On Home School Valedictorian, Philly-born singer/songwriter Rick DeJesus pens lyrics that are full of relatable pain and pathos in songs like memorably intense rockers “Sick,” and “The Collapse,” rife with heavy, edgy, melodic musicality, creating modern hard rock at once both eloquent and primal.
The last two years have been nothing short of amazing for Adelita's Way—playing at the 2010 Jets/Patriots game, touring arenas with bands including Theory Of A Deadman and Shinedown, their song ‘Scream” in Saw 3D , not to mention “Invincible” becoming the official theme song for WWE Superstars and used on the ‘CSI: Miami” finale. Yet while DeJesus’ gratitude, positivity and charisma is palpable, he often comments lyrically on the darker side of humanity. “The title Home School Valedictorian reflects the fact you meet a lot of people who are ungrateful for the things they’ve been given in life,” the singer notes. “When I think of a ‘Home School Valedictorian,’ I think of someone who’s spoiled and very into themselves, they think they’re the only reason that the world’s going around. I think that’s the opposite of what our band is; we’re very humble guys, we’re very easy-going, we’re very outgoing. The fact that I get to wake up and play for fans and play music, I’m beyond fortunate. But I’ve met a lot of people who don’t see it that way.”
While AllMusic said Adelita's Way “sizzles with rage, sex, and regret … the band kicks up enough noise to satisfy even the most dogmatic hard rock junkie,” Home School Valedictorian manages to be all that and more. Produced by “Invincible” co-writer Dave Bassett (Shinedown, Josh Groban, Halestorm) and engineered by Tadpole (Disturbed, Finger Eleven), the 11-song CD was recorded in late 2010 at Malibu’s Chateau Relaxo studio, and showcases the band’s lyrical and musical growth. Both DeJesus’ early life in a rough Philly neighborhood rife with drugs and violence, as well as more recent events, inform AW’s songs. “The number one reason I wrote ‘Sick’ is because I’m a blue collar guy, I come from a working family, I’ve worked my entire life,” he relates. “Sometimes when your hard work is not recognized or you get fed up with everything, with not having any money, it comes to a point where you’re like, ‘I’m sick of this.’ ‘Sick” is an anthem for all the people who are sick of not getting to live the dream that they wanted to live, because I felt that way at one point in my life, despite all my hard work. But fortunately it ultimately paid off for me, but I’ll never forget where I came from, or the hope I have for hard-working, good people.” Like their songs, even the band name came via an emotional real-life experience—from an extreme encounter/adventure at an infamous Tijuana bar/brothel called Adelita Bar in their early days of band-dom.
Another powerfully personal stand-out on Home School Valedictorian is the tune “Alive.” DeJesus notes, “I didn’t want to make a record that was full of negative moments in my life. ‘Alive’ is about the positive moments. It’s about being in love and feeling great, having that feeling where everything feels right, you feel so invigorated. You’re enjoying life, you’re cruising with your windows down, driving to San Diego, getting ready to go to the beach, what’s not to like? If somebody’s having a bad day, I feel like they can pop that song in and it can turn their day around.” The song “I Want to Be,” co-written with Tyler Connolly from Theory of a Deadman, is about today’s so-called ‘rock stars,” who are no more than tabloid celebretards. “They don’t have talent, they don’t write songs, they have nothing that they’re offering the world except, “Oh, look at me, watch my show,’” observes DeJesus. “So the song is saying, ‘I want to be the one who's getting lucky and not having to do anything; you're famous for nothing.’”
While Adelita's Way was a stellar introduction to the band, Home School Valedictorian defines and hones the lineup’s sound. “This CD is a massive step up. We didn’t say, ‘Oh, we did great on our first record, let’s redo it.’ We set the bar so high on this record, we really tried to outdo ourselves,” DeJesus explains. “Sure, we love bands like Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin, but I don’t want to sound like anyone else. I want people to hear us on the radio and say, ‘That’s Adelita's Way.’”
Indeed, both on tour and off—and on record—it’s clear Adelita's Way are a tightknit bunch. While most bands can’t wait for the luxury of big tour buses and new homes, Adelita's Way are just the opposite. They tour in a van, and are getting a band house together in Vegas. As DeJesus explains: “I tend to be a reasonable, practical person, and the number one thing I want to do is make sure the band can live. There was a point where I feel we could have gotten into a bus, but financially, I wanted to make sure we’re always smart with our money. We don’t tour the country just to tell people ‘I’m in a fancy bus.’ We pull our van and trailer we drag with all our gear up to the venues and bust out the barbecue and the lawn chairs and hang out and just enjoy ourselves.” That camaraderie is clear in the grooves of Home School Valedictorian: “We love each other, that’s what I think makes this record so special. This was more of a band album than our debut, very much a total collaborative effort.”
In keeping with their all-for-one-and-one-for-all outlook, Adelita's Way won’t leave a gig until every waiting AW fan has met the band or gotten autographs. “I mean, we’ve played at festivals for 75,000 people, our first single (“Invincible”) broke Top 5 at active rock, and it’s all because of the people who listen to us,” says DeJesus. “We will never forget that.”