Jesi DiPalo Grew up with Music in Her Life and Becomes Vegan in Middle School
I’ve always been into music as far back as I can remember. If you ask any of the kids who grew up in my neighborhood, they might remember our house having mid-day dance parties, set with strobe lights and all when I was preschool age. Around that time, my parents got me a mini drum set. My neighborhood friends and I used my front yard as a “stage” and would pretend we were a rock band, just miming what we saw on TV. As we got older, my father bought my older brother a guitar from the local pawn shop. He caught on quickly but needed someone to play with. He’d teach me the parts on bass and make me hold down the rhythm while he practiced shredding solos on his white flying-V guitar with red lighting bolts.
In middle school, I was excited to join the school’s band, and when it came to picking what instrument I wanted to play, I was told that the upright bass wasn’t available at my school and that it would be too expensive and heavy to carry around all day. They suggested, since I was a little girl, that I play the lightest instrument to carry: the flute. So I learned to read the treble cleft and was playing flute in the orchestra and the marching band. I also joined the holiday choir at my local church that year.
It was around this age that I started wanting to become vegan, but I didn’t know what that meant. I had seen the movie Babe, which literally changed my life. I saw farm animals as friends and didn’t want to have to hurt or kill anything for sustenance. I would tell my family that I didn’t want to eat animals, and because I had an uncle who also ate that way, my family was already used to it and supportive of my food choices.
Jesi DiPalo’s Musical Influences Expand in High School and College
At 13, I took some bass guitar lessons from a local music store and learned to read tablature so I could review the songs that I wanted to learn on my own. Soon I was learning songs I liked and not just the death metal my brother made me practice with him. When I got into high school, I became fascinated with electronic dance music. And so my parents bought me a Numark Beginner DJ turntable package for the holidays that year. I quickly swapped out the mixer, amp and speakers for upgraded versions from my brother, who was really into speakers and sound systems. I began scouring local vinyl stores in search of the best party music and teaching myself how to mix, scratch and build a playlist that flowed together well. When I went to college in Miami, Florida, for radio and television broadcasting, I found a love for local farmers markets and produce. I was lucky to have one just outside my apartment and would stock up every week to make my friends veggie meals.
Miami was also where I got my first taste of nightlife, and after watching one of the DJs train wreck (a term DJs use to explain something that’s not mixed well), I knew I that could do better. I talked my way into a DJ residency at a local bar where I would work from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. some nights after a full day of school and working as a waitress, honing my skills and testing out my mixes and playlists on live audiences. One night, a local came in and asked how I got to be a DJ and shared that he also did it at home. I encouraged him to come back and bring his records. He told some of his friends, and they also came. I was happy to be networking with other DJs and sharing some of the stage time with others who were inspired to do so. Around that time, another local DJ and I had come up with a promotion at a lounge his friend owned where DJs could come and use our equipment to get their foot in the door. It was called “Open Turntables Night.” It became a great place for newer DJs just getting into it to network with more-accomplished DJs about the ins and outs of the business. When I finished college, I planned on moving to Los Angeles, California. My turntables wouldn’t fit into my car, so I gave them to a friend and left that life behind.
Jesi DiPalo Begins Auditioning for Bands and Meets Charley Hinchcliffe, with the Partners Recording Music and Touring
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2007, I decided to also leave behind the fear of what others will think and just try to live, from then on, whatever I had dreamed of. I always loved to sing. So with my new address came a new confidence to be a singer. I started auditioning for bands and going to karaoke and open-mic nights as much as I could. It was one of the local open-mic nights in San Diego, California, that I met Charley, my now-fiancé of 10 years and my music partner. We quickly got to writing and found that we had shared the same passion for music, food and life. Our goals were the same, so over the next decade, we found ourselves traveling around the country, spreading our music and love for raw vegan food, but it didn’t happen overnight.
When we first met in 2008, we were both eating the standard American Diet, commonly called SAD, until I developed some health problems such as asthma and recurrent colds and infections. I went vegan for a few months and felt better than ever. We moved to New York City, New York, for a few months and I went back to the SAD because I was afraid of the pressure from my friends and family, even though they were largely supportive and already used to my eating habits. We noticed that we would get mucus problems and lethargy after we ate heavy, complex meals, which would negatively affect our vocals and performances.
On our first tour in 2009, from New York to Florida to California, we focused on open mics and farmers markets and recorded our first album, RAW (this must’ve been a foreshadowing), in different studios throughout the United States. We wanted to produce an album of what people would hear at the farmers’ markets: our raw, stripped-down, acoustic, unplugged act. We used our stage time to give away promotional materials such as our homemade CDs and T-shirts. We started noticing the way organic plant-based raw foods made us feel after we ate them. We tried to strive for the optimal feeling and sought out organic, vegetarian and vegan foods, using HappyCow as our guide throughout the United States throughout the first tour.
Jesi DiPalo and Charley Hinchcliffe Play World-Famous Clubs, with the Couple Experiencing Suboptimal Health on the Standard American Diet
We moved back to San Diego in 2010 after a brief stint in Hawai’i, where we first fell in love with rambutans. We were writing music and spending all day street performing at farmers markets, singing songs for whoever would listen. We made some pocket change and would get produce donated by the farmers. We also made connections with local music lovers, who would hire us to perform at their local art walks, fairs and community events. By 2011, we were performing at world-famous Los Angeles venues such as The Viper Room, Whisky A Go Go, The Roxy and others with our live band. We did a few tours back in New York, Nevada and Colorado. Because we were traveling a lot, we weren’t thinking about our health as much.
Eventually falling back into the SAD cycle of recurrent colds, antibiotics and anti-fungal became too much, and Charley had always had high blood pressure since he was in his early 20s. I had to do something for my health after I had found out that I had a uterine tumor in 2012. At first, we didn’t know whether it was something to worry about or whether it was a benign fibroid. So after asking my doctor if there was anything I could do to help myself heal on my own naturally, he laughed and said he “didn’t believe in that.” I thought we should be working together for my health, not just removing things we didn’t understand. I didn’t want to and had no money or insurance to even treat the tumor medically with surgery. So I went on an exhaustive search for other people who had done the same with their health. Every time I searched, raw food kept coming up. Charley’s mom bought us a blender, and we were on our way to a new way of eating. I tried everything from hydrotherapy to regressive therapy. I was trying to eat as clean as I could at the time and found 30 Bananas a Day, an entire online community where thousands of people were eating the same way. At the time, they were strictly following The 80/10/10 Diet. I had always loved fruit, so when I found out that fruit was the bulk of my calories, I knew I had found a lifestyle that was perfect for me.
Jesi DiPalo and Charley Hinchcliffe Embrace a Low-Fat Raw Vegan Diet
Following a macronutrient target of at least 80 percent carbohydrates and no more than 10 percent protein and 10 percent fat, this helped regulate my blood-sugar levels to a place where my candida and fungal issues went away. I was getting loads of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water in my diet, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t get sick every few weeks. Tracking what I ate for the first few weeks using the website Cronometer.com, I finally understood, using the formula in The 80/10/10 Diet, how many calories I needed a day. I also learned how many calories a specific food has and how many of those calories are from carbs, protein and fat. I learned so much about food, dieting and health for the very first time in my life. Charley was challenged by a documentary filmmaker when I got involved with helping make the movie 100 Days In The Raw (Charley and Jesi’s “Lead the Way” is featured) to which we provided some of our music as part of the soundtrack.
I was already eight months in strictly following 80/10/10 (some documentary participants were following other kinds of raw diets such as high-fat gourmet and not monitoring their macronutrient content or calories), so I coached Charley on what I had learned. The film’s producer, Tracy, urged me to get another checkup after being on the diet awhile, and this is shown in the movie. I had sought out a female vegan gynecologist who also has a background researching nutrition and had access to a sonogram in the office. We found out that the fibroid had significantly shrunk the eight months I was following the diet. When I went back for another checkup three months later, the fibroid had dissipated. The doctor said to keep doing what I was doing, so I went another ten months on fully raw 80/10/10 because I felt so amazing.
It makes sense that we are to stick to the foods that are biologically designed for humans and take little energy or time to digest, freeing up our bodies to focus our energy on other things. Beyond the diet, the prescription for getting enough sunlight (Vitamin D), exercise, music and love, every day striving for optimal health gave us a purpose. All the problems we had before were disappearing, and our energy levels skyrocketed.
We went on another U.S. tour in 2013 for our second album, called Circus, about which we wanted to raise awareness for animals. We noticed raw food restaurants in the country at the time we far and few between. And so, we made our stops in places that had a raw community and then we would set up meetups that included raw vegan potlucks and performances on days there were farmers markets nearby. We always had box of fruit like dates, bananas, mangoes in our trunk from large wholesale produce market distribution centers along the way. When we ran low, we would stop at any supermarket and get grapes, oranges, watermelons and whatever was ripe and ready to eat and went to all-you-can-eat-salad bars and buffets for greens along the way, using lemon for dressing or sometimes would make dressings with our blender in the hotel rooms.
Jesi DiPalo and Charley Hinchcliffe Experience Cooked Plant-Based Foods But Aim for Low-Fat Raw Vegan As Much As Possible
We were on that tour for a month, and we had went almost the entire tour solely eating raw foods. Only once did we have to resort to eating baked potatoes when the buffet we went to was the only place in town in the middle of nowhere that was open had ran out of lettuce, and we didn’t have any backup fruit in the car. We understood before going on tour that there might be some times that we can’t always eat optimal 100 percent of the time, but we did our best with what we had at the time. We tried our best to be as prepared as possible but sometimes, even with the best efforts of planning, you just have to eat something. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it because that can negatively affect your digestion. I know people who traveled and were still raw for many years. I probably could’ve just not eaten anything that night and not broke my year-and-a-half all-raw streak, but I didn’t want to be under my caloric requirements because we were scheduled to perform in the morning. The next day, we were back to raw, striving for the optimal foods in our diet, and we went the rest of the tour with no other shortages of raw foods.
When we got home, Charley became the primary full-time caregiver for his grandmother’s end-of-life care after she was diagnosed with ALS at age 90. She always encouraged us and wanted us to continue to perform and write music. We had scored a residency performing at a local raw vegan restaurant in Los Angeles for its “community dinner parties.” We released another album called With Love that featured Johnny Echols, a guitarist for the 1960s band LOVE and a former fruitarian.
When Charley’s grandmother passed away, in 2014, of complications of ALS, we were stressed and exhausted, and planning our meals became last on our list of priorities. We dabbled for a while with a Raw Till 4 Diet. No matter what we ate, we always had loads of fruit, kept it plant-based and strived for high carb and low fat while still aiming to keep our macros 80/10/10.
Jesi DiPalo and Charley Hinchcliffe Expand Career Beyond Charley & Jesi to Pop Vision, a High-Energy Cover Band
I had decided to channel some of my energy back into playing the bass guitar again after many years. After spending lots of time practicing, I got the courage to answer an add on Craigslist for a substitute bassist for a Las Vegas casino cover band. I ended up getting the gig and playing with the band. The agents of that band heard our Charley & Jesi CD and thought we could have our own Vegas cover band, too. So we assembled a group of our musician friends, made a setlist, learned about 60 songs, got some promotional pictures and videos together, and took whatever gigs that were offered to us.
Our first gig was a weeklong gig at a casino with one day off in the middle, with five-hour-long shows a night. We had one free buffet ticket per band member a day for meals. We had brought a box of bananas with us in our hotel room and our blender. Every morning, we would eat a 10-banana smoothie and then, for lunch, we would go to the buffet and load up on fruit and salad. After the show, we would all meet at a Denny’s nearby and talk about our night. (Denny’s has lots of vegan, high-carb, oil-free food, and there’s always salad). During these long runs, we noticed how much energy performing our high-energy dance music took out of us and how we had to load up on carbs and calories or else we could crash too early. We needed as much stamina as we could get.
We also noticed that being in a casino environment, we’re exposed to lots of people, germs and constantly inhaling second-hand smoke. And being in the desert climate is super-drying to your vocal cords. I needed to be as mucus-free and hydrated as possible, and my immune system needed to be at full strength. I also felt the pressure of having to keep up my appearance and be in the best shape as I could. We strived for the raw form of 80/10/10 as much as we could because we were getting busier as a band and started performing every weekend, at least. Being raw vegan helps us power through the shows. It’s been a literal lifesaver.
Over the years, we’ve had residencies at the top casinos, clubs, bars and lounges throughout the Southwest, including in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California, and Laughlin, Mesquite and Las Vegas, Nevada. We’ve worked the past five years from four to sometimes even up to 11 days in a row. One time we performed 17 out of 20 days, four- to five-hour-long shows a night, bringing high energy, dancing, singing and interacting with the audience during the breaks (and in between smoothies).
Fruit and Other Raw Foods Help Jesi DiPalo and Charley Hinchcliffe Power Through Long, Taxing Shows While Performing As Pop Vision
We would arrive at the casino on Thursday night with a 40-pound box of bananas, four boxes of mangos and our blender. People always assumed we were making margaritas. I would sometimes bring my blender to our greenroom, grab a cocktail glass from the bar and fill up my cup backstage with a mango and orange smoothie. It looked like a screwdriver, so I could keep up the appearance of “partying with the crowd.” Some cities such as Vegas and Los Angeles have Asian markets that sell fruit by the box, and we would stock up whenever we would get in town with oranges, kiwis and coconuts. Depending on what town we were in that week, we would sometimes make a quick stop by a raw restaurant to get oil-free raw dressings and other raw goodies to bring to the buffet with us to spice up our simple salads. We would make sure we already had enough calories and were full when showtime arrived so we wouldn’t have to resort to eating anything that wasn’t optimal. Our health and fuel became our No. 1 priority so we could have enough energy do our job as an entertainer.
We wanted to reflect the sound of the current band with more of a modern feel and more high-energy, danceable tracks. We released our new music under the cover band’s name, Pop Vision, so we can use the albums as promotional material for our live audiences.
Since we’ve started this lifestyle in 2012, we will go a year or so at a time on the 80/10/10 Diet and then, depending on what’s going on, we may eat high raw for a few weeks to months. Once we go back to cooked food, we start feeling sluggish right away, and we’re ready to quickly go back to raw food again. We see the diet as optimal and a goal to strive for, but, realistically, we don’t always attain 100 percent all the time. Taking it day by day and setting goals for yourself is an easy way to stay on track no matter what you’re trying to achieve.
Jesi DiPalo Reflects on Chasing and Living Her Dream of Playing Music
With music being our main goal, it’s been important for us to just do it every day, no matter where it was. As with anything, the more you do, the better you get. We’ve had people tell us that we’re talented and that they could never do what we do. The truth is that, with any talent, it is really just the product of years of practicing. Anyone could do it; there’s really no secret to it. I guess you just have to want it badly enough.
Whether it’s performing on social media from your bedroom, a local church, an open mic down the street, a farmers’ market, a street corner, a bar, lounge, club, casino or stadium arena, just the act of playing music is rewarding in itself as well as sharing it with others. We try to build a following however we can, but it’s more about the act of playing itself that is most important to us. Some days, it’s hard to find the time or the drive, but what you put into it is what you get out of it, and that goes for anything you want to do. It’s not always easy, and there are some days where you feel like all you hear is “no,” but that one “yes” could change your life.
So you can’t get caught up in all the hype and can’t lose sight of why you’re doing it. Also, keeping an open mind and always learning and evolving with your craft is important. If you want something badly enough, you will make it happen. It’s the same with our health. We wanted optimal health, so we set our goals and learned what it takes—diet, exercise and a drive to strive for them. It’s the same with music. We wanted to be musicians, so we set small goals such as learning our instruments and songs and going to play music in public. Then, after achieving those goals, we set new goals and never stop evolving to the next level.
I always like to remember that if it’s to be, it’s up to me.