The East L.A. trio Thee Commons pride themselves on their musical diversity and have created a style they uniquely can call their own: psychedelic Cumbia punk rock. Since 2012, when the band formed, Thee Commons has been receiving critical raves for their fearlessly confident and spontaneous, off-the-cuff shows that have been wowing fans at numerous venues and festivals. Recently, David Pacheco spoke to tHeARTofla about the band’s origin, new and ambitious 18-song album, “Patela Sonora,” the East L.A. music scene and touring on the road.
Q: How did the trio form? I know there are two brothers in this band but what was the genesis behind this project?
A: Brothers Rene and David Pacheco started the band in 2012. Intrigued by the Roots of Chicha compilation they began dabbling with Cumbia rhythms. Their dad encouraged their new musical endeavors and introduced them to classic Cumbia artists from Mexico such as Fito Olivares, Rigo Tovar, Mike Laure and Sonora Dinamita. Upon hearing Sonora Dinamita’s “Mi Cucu,” the formula in which rock & roll meets Cumbia first revealed itself to them. They embraced it and kept messing with this formula. Despite some slight disdain by peers in their lack of mastering the “Cumbia” rhythms, they worked endlessly perfecting their sound. Adding psychedelic elements, they blended and blended. However, the formula was not complete until after seeing Argentinian group Kumbia Queers perform live. Kumbia Queers are a “no fucks given” band and they rocked Cumbia like no one they’d ever seen. Inspired by this newly found sensation, they kept working on their sound until they created something that was uniquely theirs: Psychedelic Cumbia Punk.
Q: Is your latest 18-song album a culmination of your time together as a band? Is it a concept album or are there particular themes you wanted to explore, and why?
A: Thee Commons last album Loteria Tribal got a review in which the album is described as their attempt to explore their “Paleta Sonora.” That phrase became the theme of the album. Playing on the Spanish word “Paleta” which means popsicle, they used that for the cover art. However, “Paleta” also means pallet — like that of an artist with his choice of colors and in their case, sounds. They thus began writing songs that weren’t confined to the “Psychedelic Cumbia Punk” signature sound and in true fashion explored their “Paleta Sonora”.
Q: Can you talk more about the East L.A. music scene and how that has been fertile ground for Thee Commons’ own creativity?
A: Growing up in the backyard Punk scenes of East LA and the DIY scene at The Smell in Downtown LA, Thee Commons developed a hardcore DIY Punk mentality. They weren’t worried about being perfect musicians; they just wanted to play. However, in the Boyle Heights/East LA scene of the early 2010s, musicians such as Chicano Batman, Buyepongo, and Viento Callejero gave them the realization that musicianship is also VERY important. How well can you play your instrument? How much discipline do you have? They embraced the discipline and musicianship of their peers and pushed themselves to one day be on par with them.
The East LA scene has a really warm feeling of community. If you go to La Cita you’re more than likely to run into local musicians. The East LA music scene is great because everyone is “subconsciously” pushing each other to succeed.
Q: How has the tour been going? Have these experiences been any different from playing venues and festivals you’ve done before?
A: Tour life is hard work, but it’s the best work in the world. It’s a humbling experience when you perform at a venue and there’s only a handful of people in the club. The band has to channel the same energy and put on a great show. Touring has made us appreciate each and every fan. It also has given us the opportunity to strengthen our bond as a band. These are the hard times, with time and more hard work we hope to continue and grow.
Find out more about the band