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Eastern religion and indie rock aren’t a common pairing. But when it came to the name of her band, Wait. Think. Fast., Jacqueline Santillan turned to Buddhism, specifically Hermann Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” a book she was given in her mid-20s. (Santillan’s age now is, as she says, “old enough to know, young enough to believe.”) The Argentine-born singer-songwriter was particularly drawn to a well-known excerpt that reads,“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”
“That line spoke to me. It’s kind of a way of life, a call to simplicity and to being self-aware,” explains Santillan, who isn’t a practicing Buddhist. “I thought, these ideas aren’t the sole providence of the yoga crowd. Indie rockers can be affected, as well.”
It is only one of many characteristics that sets Wait. Think. Fast. apart from your average alternative group. Formed in 2007, the Los Angeles trio — which now consists of drummer Thomas King and Santillan’s husband, Matthew Beighley, on guitar and vocals — put out its first EP, “Vuelve al Mar” (Origami Records), in 2008 to critical acclaim, and earlier this month digitally released its debut album, “Luces del Sur” (AT Records), with the physical release planned for Sept. 7. Both the well-established East Side indie rock and growing Latino hipster scenes have embraced the band’s distinctive sound, which fuses dynamic pop songs with lyrics in Spanish and English.
Early musical influences have played a major role in how Santillan creates her unique sound. When she was four years old, her parents moved their family (Santillan has a younger sister) from Mendoza, Argentina, to Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley. She couldn’t speak a word of English when she arrived, but with school starting that fall, her parents became proactive. “They sat me down in front of the television and said, ‘Listen to how they talk.’ ” By December, she was completely fluent and was playing piano in school plays.
Music was always important. “My parents listened to a lot of Spanish pop, and in Argentina, everybody worships English [language] rock like The Beatles and also Creedence Clearwater Revival, so I had classic rock influences,” Santillan says.
So it only made sense that Santillan, who majored in piano performance and music composition at California State University Long Beach, wound up forming a band. And though Beighley and King are self-taught musicians who are not fluent in Spanish, together, their chemistry is undeniable. “They’re both really interested in knowing what I’m singing about, so I translate lyrics for them,” she says.
Their seamless melding has paid off. They are a featured artist on iTunes Latino; they’re ranked ninth on the college radio music charts; Los Angeles-based radio stations KROQ and KCRW have been playing various songs from the new album, and the track “Look Alive” was chosen for episodes of “Gossip Girl” and “One Tree Hill.”
Now that the album is complete, Santillan can focus on preparing for their West Coast tour this fall. As with most girls, wardrobe decisions are definitely on her mind.
In particular, Santillan has become known for her gloves: “I love the way they look with a vintage dress,” she says. “[But] I had to retire them for a little bit because I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, there’s the girl with those gloves all the time!’ ”