Interviewed by Kristen and Jessica
June 12, 2016
She may be known as Mrs. Hefe, but to think of her as just Aaron Abeyta's wife would be underestimating her influence in the punk rock world.
She's beautiful enough to command a stage on her own, but Jen Abeyta is actually behind the scenes, making it all happen. She's the co-owner of a hugely successful record label (Cyber Tracks), which is renowned for the tremendous support the label offers to its artists. She is a graphic designer who recently created the cover art for Unwritten Law's newest album, Acoustic, by bringing to life the vision Scott Russo had for the album. In addition, she is a dedicated wife and mother who supports her husband (Aaron Abeyta of NOFX) on the road for short trips and homeschools their son, Jaden. When given the chance to play a song with NOFX, she jumped on the stage, grabbed the guitar, and played The Decline (who doesn't have that fantasy!?). In short, Jen Abeyta, or Mrs. Hefe as she is affectionately known, is a force to be reckoned with.
Recently, the ladies of Mable Syndrome sent Jen some questions, and we are beyond impressed with the honesty and integrity of her responses. If anyone thinks she's just El Hefe's wife, you're about to wake up to one of the most powerful women in punk rock.
Mable Syndrome: You’ve mentioned that you are a life-long punk rock fan. How did you discover the music and what do you like most about it?
Jen Abeyta: My older Brother, Wil, was my main influence into punk music. I was pretty young, and we convinced our parents to buy us guitars (an electric guitar for me, and bass guitar for him). We'd jam together and try to teach ourselves punk rock songs. It was usually me learning the songs on guitar, then teaching them to him on bass. We'd jam to bands like RKL, Propaghandi, GBH, Scared Straight, and Guttermouth, just to name a few (you should see the huge RKL mural he painted on his bedroom wall, it's rad).
I've always been into many different hobbies, so back then, half my day would consist of choreographing some dance number to Paula Abdul on my parent's driveway, and the rest of my day would consist of trying to figure out guitar parts and lead solos to our favorite punk rock tracks. The first two solos I taught myself were from Ten Foot Pole's "Final Hours," and NOFX's "Nowhere." My brother later went on to SDSU to study RTVF and eventually did a radio interview with a band called Green Day, who were about to release an album called Dookie.
In regards to what I like most about it: besides my love for the actual music itself, I also love what it means (to me). Punk rock has been known to represent "not following the rules, and standing up for what you believe regardless of scrutiny
or judgement." I've always had a wide interest in many subjects that most people would consider to clash. I'm all about not following "the rules" that society creates for how/who we should be. I got made fun of by many of the "Punkers" for being into dancing and pop music, and likewise with the mild-mannered folks who assumed I was a bad kid just because I liked punk rock. It's important to stay true to yourself and to never let anybody change you. I also love fashion (which is not considered to be "punk rock") and in the fashion world, I don't follow their dumb rules either. I like to be creative, I mix it up however I feel is fun, and I wear white all year long! I'm all about not following the rules.
Mable Syndrome: In The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories, (the bestselling book by NOFX), Hefe talks about how the two of you met and fell in love. It was very sweet. What is your version of the story of how you met?
Jen Abeyta: As mentioned in the book, he did indeed write me on MySpace, that was our first communication. But, there's so much more to the story (that didn't make the book). We had a bunch of "mutual friends." My brother was doing web design for a lot of bands, so the interweb spiders connected us, somehow. During that time, I was actually doing freelance graphic design work from my apartment (for Hustler), and I knew how to create an animated GIF as my profile picture. I think I was probably the first one to do that? I hadn't seen anyone do it before. I guess my avatar stood out to him, so he wrote me. We wrote back and forth for a month or so, and after determining he wasn't some serial killer on the web, I gave him my phone number.
He was actually the sweetest, most unique guy I ever had the pleasure of getting to know, and we had the same weird sense of humor, it was strange! Eventually, I agreed to pick him up from LAX, ONLY if my brother was with me. He had a show in LA that night, so we went (I think that was actually my first NOFX show). He asked me to stay at his hotel with him, and I agreed, AS LONG as he promised he wouldn't "try anything." The next morning when I woke up, I realized he had stuck to his word. He scored MAJOR points that night.
He was earning my trust pretty fast, so I stayed with him another day and waited at his hotel while he was off doing photo shoots and soundcheck, during which, he called me and asked me to order him room service so that his food would be there when he arrived back to the hotel. At the time, I actually thought they were a struggling punk rock band that barely made any money (little did I know). I was making decent money at the time doing freelance graphic design, but I hadn't gotten paid that week yet. I cleaned out my own personal bank account to pay for his huge room service bill (he never instructed me to just sign it to the room), and I also realized I didn't have enough in my bank to order anything for myself, so I didn't eat that day (I pretended I wasn't hungry). I didn't tell him this for weeks, and when I did, he was shocked. I think he was used to girls just taking advantage of him all the time. ...That basically sums up our first 48 hours together. There's so much that isn't talked about in the book, I could go on for days.
Mable Syndrome: Was it a turn-on or a turn-off that he was in a band?
Jen Abeyta: His being in a band was my main hesitation in committing to a serious relationship with him. I was also very reluctant because he had an ex-wife and a kid, and he lived far away, so all of those factors combined deterred me from wanting to be anything more than friends. It was all a bit of a turn-off to me in the beginning. There's also trust issues that can be very challenging in this industry (I mean, what girl would trust a guy in a band), and long distance (touring) relationships are never easy. I do however LOVE watching him perform, I always have, he's so talented and entertaining. It can definitely be a turn-on to watch him play.
Mable Syndrome: Were any of Hefe’s stories in the book a surprise to you?
Jen Abeyta: Nope! We are pretty honest with each other and always have been from the get-go. After being with someone for a decade, you pretty much know everything about each other.
Mable Syndrome: You are both open about the fact that Jaden was a very happy surprise. How did becoming a parent together change your relationship?
Jen Abeyta: I'm not going to lie, having a child with Aaron, at that particular time in our lives, was tough. During my pregnancy, they were filming the first Backstage Passport, so they were gone A LOT, traveling to every different crazy country they could. I spent about 90% of my pregnancy alone. The people at Denny's got to know me very well those 8-9 months. He was always in a gnarly different time zone, so I'd wait up till 4 or 5 AM to get to talk to him. My cravings were eggs-over-medium, and pancakes. So, I'd go hang out at Denny's into the wee hours of the morning every night, gorging and staying up, waiting for his call. I think he had about a month off after Jaden was born, but then started touring again. It was tough. I wasn't "technically" a single mom, but I kinda was.
Mable Syndrome: How do you deal with parenting when Hefe is away on tour? That must be so hard!
Jen Abeyta: Jaden makes parenting very easy. I'm so lucky that I was blessed with such a good kiddo. We are extremely close (mainly due to us always being together). I instilled morals and focused on good behavior with him early on, and so much at a young age, so now it's easy.
Mable Syndrome: We know that sometimes you go on tour with Hefe and sometimes you stay home. How do you make that decision?
Jen Abeyta: It's a very tough decision. Should I miss my son? Or should I miss my husband? It's like being between a rock and a hard-place. If I do go on tour, it's for 7-10 days, at the most (sometimes it's only for a weekend). I usually only choose to go places that are worth experiencing such as Paris, Japan, Australia, etc. I can't handle being away from my son, and I have had situations where I've gotten panic attacks on tour. There was one time when I was in an airport in Australia waiting for our flight with NOFX and Megadeath. I was beyond homesick from Jaden and broke down and started crying in the airport. Everyone saw, it was so embarrassing.
Mable Syndrome: What qualities does Jaden have of yours, and how is he like Hefe?
Jen Abeyta: He turned out a very unique kiddo. He's definitely adopted the best traits from each of us. He's very animated like his Dad, and a super outside-of-the-box thinker like his Mom. He's an immaculate speller (which definitely came from me).
Mable Syndrome: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a mom?
Jen Abeyta: I think all of us mom's have similar challenges! Regardless of our lifestyles, we all face the same upbringing trials. Not having my husband around much can be tough. I'm always the bad guy, the discipliner. My husband doesn't really discipline Jaden and I
think it's because he doesn't want that guilt each time he has to leave. So, I always end up being the bad guy.
Mable Syndrome: Has Jaden ever come on tour with you and Hefe?
Jen Abeyta: I've taken him to a couple local shows and a couple Warped Tours back in the day. When they play locally, I usually just take him to sound check and then back home. Backstage is not always the best environment for children.
Mable Syndrome: You homeschool Jaden, right? Why did you decide to do that? And how is it going?
Jen Abeyta: Homeschool is amazing! We enrolled into a pricey "higher education" academy. The curriculum is advanced, and the best part is that they didn't adopt common core into their curriculum (one of my big pet-peeves). Originally, we were attending a local private school, but they ended up closing down which forced us into public school ...that didn't go well for us at all. There was a lot of bullying going on and nothing was done about it ...it's strange, I always assumed my kid would be the "cool kid," his dad being a musician and all ...that was so not the case. We'd attend school functions and try to mingle with other families, and I can't count how many times parents would scurry their kids away from us like we had the Black Plague or something. I've lived in this town forever, I'm a native here, and I never imagined that making friends with other families would be this challenging. I was so sick of the bullying that was happening to Jaden, as well as the non acceptance that we constantly received. Now, I get to provide a prestigious education to my child, sans the over-crowded classrooms, and I get to be with him all the time. We do, however, still take him to the local after-school programs 3 days a week, where he can socialize, play sports, etc.
Mable Syndrome: Moving on to your career, you’ve done a lot of different things…modeling, acting, graphic design… and now record-label owner...
How is the label doing? What is your favorite part of running Cyber Tracks?
Jen Abeyta: The label is growing so fast, I can hardly keep up with it. But, I have a great team of distributors, publicists, a phenomenal roster of bands, and most importantly, the fans, that have all been a major part of where we are now. I couldn't have done any of this without every single person that has supported and helped me along the way. I think my favorite thing about it all is that I get to work with bands and music.
Mable Syndrome: Is it difficult working with your husband?
Jen Abeyta: Beyond, lol. He's more musician-minded, so when it comes to business, we've both agreed it's best for me to just deal with everything.
Mable Syndrome: You guys just signed Fenix TX. That band is super fun. Are they nice guys to work with? Any info on the new EP CRE.EP?
Jen Abeyta: The FTX guys are seriously beyond awesome. I love when I get to work with great people, it makes my job super easy and fun. They're great song writers and performers too, I'm so fortunate to add them to our roster, for many reasons. CRE.EP should be out late August.
Mable Syndrome: The new Unwritten Law Acoustic album is super rad. We love it!
Jen Abeyta: Thank you! I love it too! Scott Russo is such an amazing songwriter and vocalist.
This album is so solid and unique, and I am proud to have been a part of it.
Mable Syndrome: You are quite the fashionista.
Describe your style and how you manage to merge punk with pretty.
Jen Abeyta: It's really all about what makes you feel good about yourself.
Forget all the rules, have fun with your wardrobe, and walk out of your house feeling like a million bucks, regardless of how people look at you, or what they say or think. If I feel good in an outfit that has clashing patterns or colors, I'll sport it anyway. It's fun to be creative and unique. I studied fashion design and merchandise marketing at FIDM for a while, and in every class, they always promoted creativity.
Mable Syndrome: What are your favorite punk bands to see live?
Jen Abeyta: Tough question. There are so many bands that I love that I've never even seen live, for example AFI and My Chemical Romance ...unfortunately both those bands aren't really together anymore, maybe AFI still play? Pulley and Good Riddance definitely top my list of favorite bands to go see live. Both of those bands have such a rad and unique energy at their shows, I can't even explain it.
Mable Syndrome: Do you feel that being a female in the punk scene comes along with certain stereotypes? If so, how do you deal with that?
Jen Abeyta: Definitely ...mainly because my husband is in the spotlight. I don't know why people choose to pick on me so much (yet they kiss my husband's butt). I've dealt with a lot of scrutiny and bullying (mainly on the internet), from total strangers. It's been tough to get past the hateful things people say, but I definitely have thicker skin now because of it. I also think a lot of people underestimate me, which actually works in my favor.
Mable Syndrome: We can’t imagine you have much free time, but when you do, how do you spend it?
Jen Abeyta: We don't go out very much, but one thing I try to do each Wednesday is trivia night at a local restaurant by my house. It gets my mind off of things for a few hours, and it's a great mid-week break. I spend a lot of time in my hot tub too. Relaxation is key, to maintaining a healthy mental balance.
From Kristen and Jessica: We want to thank Jen for taking the time to provide thoughtful and sincere responses to our questions. She is super rad, fun and kind. XO