Thee Commons. Photo by Alejandro Ohlmaier.
Long Beach Post contributor Jose Romero III recently interviewed the East Los Angeles-based Thee Commons ahead of their scheduled performance at Tropicalia Music & Taco Festival at the Queen Mary Park in Long Beach this Saturday, November 11. The group was voted Best Band in 2017 by LA Weekly.
The following Q&A is mostly with bandmates and brothers David and Rene Pacheco, the band’s frontman/guitarist and drummer, respectively. Their bassist Jose Rojas was busy driving the guys in their van from Seattle to their next tour stop, Portland.
Long Beach Post: What does your band name mean/where did it come from?
David Pacheco: Our band name stems from “the commons” which is the cultural and natural resources of a community being accessible to all members. There resources are not held privately, but in common between the people of a community. Our own version of this is our own utopian world where artists can come and share their ideas and digest ideas from others as well. It is a more philosophical and artistic approach.
What genre do you describe yourself as?
David: We are psychedelic cumbia punk. Definitely a different type of music and we came up with that ourselves. At first, people usually don’t understand what that means or how we even got that name, but once they see a show they get it. We have influences from all three of those main genres and feel that is what best represents our style.
When did you start making music? How did you all meet?
David: Well, me and Rene are brothers and I met Jose at East Los Angeles Community College (ELAC).
Jose Rojas: I played in a norteña group, which is a Mexican band, and I met up with him and offered him my music talents.
David: He told me he played in an indie band which I thought was kind of similar to the music me and Rene were making style-wise. I was more interested in the norteña music though. He joined us two years ago and these past few years have definitely been the most successful for our band.
Do you all have any formal education in music?
David: Jose is studying music and is still in school currently and Rene got his degree in fine arts for animation. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and I teach full-time at an alternative high school. It’s kind of like a charter school for at-risk youth. I was pursuing a Master’s in English literature, but I stopped that because I felt it lacked a lot of the creativity I wanted or thought was going to be there.
How does it feel being named LA Weekly’s best band in LA?
David: It doesn’t really feel like a big shock. We’ve been working so hard and trying to be the best musicians we possibly can be while putting on the best shows we can. It really just feels good to be recognized and accomplished.
Rene Pacheco: It’s a marker in the distance of our hard work, so to speak.
Any advice for upcoming artists or people who want to start making music?
David: Find your own sound that is authentically you and create your own world. Its very easy to gravitate to what’s popular, but when you do something that’s genuine and also good, people will start to take notice. It has to be good though, truthfully, no matter how hard you work, if it’s not good and people don’t like it, it’s not gonna go anywhere. You really have to work at it and keep working at it. Kind of like a sculptor- sculpt ‘til you find your sound. You are looking for longevity with your music, not just a quick hype.
Did your parents have an influence with your music careers growing up?
David: Our parents never really pushed us to play music. But, our dad did tape a boombox in the restroom when we were kids so we could listen to music when we showered. We would always sing in there, or the car, really wherever we were. My first memory of singing was when Rene was born, I was probably 3 years old or something and was left with our grandparents and my grandpa had this loud car, really loud! A Spanish song came on and the words “llorar” stuck and I just kept singing that part of the song.
Our uncle also played in a norteña group and he had a drum set and some other instruments in his garage so whenever we got the chance, we would sneak in there. He really didn’t like us going into his garage. I was about 14 or 15 years old at the time. He was really bitter that we showed more interest in music than his own kids, so he was kind of harsh on us whenever we played with his stuff.
Rene: Our parents never gave us instruments, but we always wanted them as gifts for whatever, Christmas, birthdays, etc. They always thought we would play with them once and never touch them again. They kind of laugh about that now.
What is your biggest show to date and some of your favorite shows you’ve played?
David: Coachella was definitely the biggest. We played the new Sonora stage. But honestly, it was more hype than an actual show. It’s just easy to get publicity with a big festival like that. It is really fun though. One of the most memorable shows I can think of was Night on Broadway. They shut down the whole street and it was like a huge block party full of people. It was crazy. People crowd surfing, girls flashing us, it was very surreal.
Rene: My favorite shows are the ones where I’m on shrooms and survive. But forreal, the Echoplex, our home town venue is where it’s at still.
Do you ever get nervous still?
David: Of course. We still get really nervous. I think the day we stop getting nervous is the day we stop playing music.
What’s it like being on tour?
David: It’s a borderline between hate and love, but at the end of the day, you realize this is fucking cool! We get to travel the country and play music. We play a city, pack, play a city, pack…it’s tight! Some cities we do well and we’re stoked but some we ask why we are even there, so there’s that as well, but at the end of the day, what we get to do is amazing.
Are you excited about the Tropicalia lineup?
David: Hell yeah! I’m actually more excited about this lineup than I was about Coachella’s. So many legends and other great bands are gonna play! When I told my parents I was playing with Los Tigres del Norte, they got all excited.
Rene: This is going to be our ‘Baptism to Legendaryness’. And I’m also excited about the free tacos!