Nathan James & Ben Hernandez first teamed up as a roots blues duo featuring James on vocals, guitar, tincane, etc., and Hernandez on vocals, harp, jug, washboard, and more. The duo took first place at the 2007 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. Their album Hollerin’ won Best Blues Album at the 2008 San Diego Music Awards. Hernandez relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, putting collaboration with James mostly on hold.
“I had gotten in touch with the guitarist for Mavis Staples, Rick Holmstrom, who I had met on the road,” Hernandez told the Reader. The two worked on a record that Hernandez says has an “Alabama Shakes kind of juiced-up rock and roll.”
Hernandez says the record “…mixes traditional [gospel] singing style with the sounds of cicadas singing in the trees.” By 2017, Hernandez had returned to San Diego and used the recording, which mixes synth tracks and organic roots music, to assemble a new band, Malachi Henry & the Lights. The initial lineup included Marty Dodson, Troy Sandow, Scot Smart, Kevin Spencer, and Shea Thompson.