Thee Commons Interview
By Sharon Cardona / DJ KIDDO
Sharon Cardona: Guys I’m so excited! My name is Sharon, I’m a radio DJ at Cal State Fullerton, I go by DJ
Kiddo. I’m so glad you guys had the time to talk to me, some random cholita from Orange County.
Thee Commons: Yeah no problem, thank you for waiting! We scheduled it for earlier, but now we finally
had some down time.
Sharon: No dude it’s fine! You guys have been touring, you’ve have been everywhere! How’s the tour coming
Thee Commons: Were leaving New York right now we just drove off the island, we’re heading to Philly. This is
about as east as we go, we’ve been on the road for almost four weeks now with another four weeks to go.
We’re just going to start making our way back now. this is good, this is it’s kind of the turn around part of the
tour. This is like oh were halfway done were gonna go home and it’ll be awesome.
S: Yeah you guys started like in September, and tour is
going to end around November right?
TC: That’s right its going to end the first week of November, we should be back home by the 5th or the
6th for Tropcalia.
S: Whoo! I can’t wait! How do you guys keep your sanity, because you guys go going from town to town n
a short amount of time.
TC: You need to have sanity to keep it in the first place.
S: …Like do you guys meditate? Do you have time for your naps? What do you guys do when you’re touring in
the bus like going from town to town?”
TC: It’s not as hard as it seems, this is something were very comfortable doing in the first place. If anything we
go a little bit more crazy when were at home. When we don’t have shit to do we don’t have anything like that.
so for us, this makes us feel productive and useful. We do this to keep our sanity. What keeps our sanities is we
like to listen to comedians while were in the van, smoke weed, Jose likes to drink coffee and I like to take naps
in the back of the van.
S: Who is your favorite comedian?
TC: Ooo tough question!…We like Eric Spears, Joe Rogan…He’s a bit more informative than funny but is
still funny every now and then. We were listening to all of Felipe Esparza, Gabriel Iglesias, Bill Burr, and some
other names I can’t remember, but they’re funny as fuck. I like Maria Bamford she’s funny. Oh! We’re going
over the bridge right now!
Sharon: Oh which bridge? That bridge it’s really famous, it’s in New York, you guys are still in New York
TC: Yeah we’re leaving New York right now, we’re driving off the island at this moment. We’re over the
water, over the Harken right now.
S: Oh my god that’s exciting! So how was your show last night? How was the crowd?
TC: Last night was great. We didn’t play at all. *Laughs* It was about two nights ago, we played at the
Mercury Lounge, that was a really good show, we had a really good turnout. It was a Tuesday and we really had
a good turnout. People were dancing. Even people from last year remembered us for an entire year and came
through. We danced too, Ratas El Zelo came up on stage and helped us out for a couple of songs, that was
really cool. Combo Chimbita was a really good band and probably the perfect band to open up and play with
us. Those guys were cool.
S: I wish I could have been there. You guys are from East LA right? I grew up going to a lot of backyard
shows, when you guys started your band did you start out like cumbia, like surf rock or punk, how was your
sound before you guys became ‘Thee Commons”?
TC: People would call it a garage style, we were only making music out of a garage. I had more of a personal
aggressive approach to it, I just wanted to play loud and fast. As we progressed we became better musicians and
more aware. I started actually venturing off and once i got introduced to cumbia the whole percussion sections
of it , i started to incorporate it with my style, which took me a while, doing all of these things with one
S: You know how what’s going on in politics, about DACA or ‘building the wall, when you go to places to
where Latinos aren’t the majority, how do people react when you show, what’s your audience like?
TC: The audience, if they don’t like us they wouldn’t have stayed the moment they saw us, but to be honest
the first year we came i thought there was going to be a lot of racist shit because of what you hear about in the
south. We hear ‘don’t go to Texas or the South’. But no, everyone is really nice. This year, I thought some of it
was going to be more obvious with Trump and everything. But no, there’s like different levels of racism. There’s open racism, and racist remarks you keep to yourself but no everyone has been nice. No one has really come up to us. I mean, we’re big guys, we’re scary looking, no one’s going to fu** with us. No one has actually been aggressive or given a sh**. The only thing we saw was on a drive, I’m not sure where, we saw a big confederate flag waving around. Oh it was in North Carolina.
S: Oh wow. Besides that, when you play your shows do people still dance around and mosh and go all out.
TC: There’s not really much moshing. The shows are 21 and up, when you’re older you just don’t mosh
anymore. When they try to get into it its very new to them. Sometimes they’ll just sort of stand and stare,
because its the first time they’re watching us. They’re kind of just like ‘what the hell’. They drop whatever
they’re doing their phone or whatever, stop and stare and just look at us perform. That’s all we want. Its like
they took a hit of weed or acid tab or something.
S: Oh my god, wow! Ok, so I was reading LA Weekly, and you guys are named #15 of the best bands to see
live, how do you guys feel about that? What makes you guys stand out in your performances, what do you guys
TC: I show my butt at the end of the set! *laughter* Honestly, it comes from our own personal interest in
keeping an energetic show because most of the time, and perhaps the band has the shares the same opinion,
when were watching bands perform and they’re standing fucking still it’s just crazy, it makes me crazy
like move! Move to your own music and enjoy it! James Brown was a big inspiration for that in how to throw a
live show, we’ve seen other bands that know how to get down with their beer and just play some badass shows,
and we like that that’s the kind of energy you want to bring to the table. We don’t want you to come see us
and just stand around you could have done that at home! Also, we like to improvise, we go off script, we
don’t necessarily always stick to the plan. We keep it spontaneous. People have also been big fans of groups
of people we’ll bring in like we’ll bring in gorillas, dancers, and clowns and mimes and just really get all
crazy with it. We’re here to put on a show, We’re here to entertain you! We’re not here for you to just like watch
us stand around. We care about it.
S: What’s been your favorite performance so far during this tour?
TC: I’d say probably the last two shows that we’ve had at the Mercury Lounge in New York, and in Vienna.
We’ve been getting more on our game, we’ve been partying it up just make a badass performance and
make badass impressions.
S: So you new album is called Paleta Solora, which means dreamy popsicle right? So what were certain
inspirations you had like for this album? What were some of the tough things you had to go through to make
this album come to be?
TC: The album title, Paleta Solora, actually the translation, a poleta can be like a popsicle, also like a
pallet, like a taste pallet or when an artist puts his paints on a pallet. It’s a play of those words, and solara
means sound so what we do its a musical pallet of what we can create as songwriters. This album is not straight
up cumbia, it’s is us exploring new attributes of songwriting. For example, what we have in the song
“Milk and Honey” that’s more like rap hip-hop style, we have a banda style songs. Cumbia is pretty straight
forward to play and relatively easy once you get the general feel for it. We like to explore and keep
challenging ourselves, creating new avenues which we can explore songwriting.
S: Yeah like, I was laughing my ass when you have a song named “Selena’s Butt” I was like ‘Oh my god, they
went there! *laughter*
TC: Yeah, but it has nothing to do about her butt though!
S: “Oh really what’s it about?”
TC: It’s about her personality!” *laughter*
S: But you just got the attention!
TC: Its actually has more to do with what Edward James Olmos says in the movie, where he gives that
speech on how it’s tough being a Mexican American. That scene, where he says “Its hard being a Mexican
American, you’re too Mexican for the Americans and too American for the Mexicans’ so like that inspired the
lyrics. I don’t really speak Spanish, but it basically means we’re not from here, we’re not from there, we’re
not going away, we’re playing music without borders and we’re not here to stop.
S: Yeah I definitely agree, I’m half Salvi and half
Columbian, but i grew up around Mexican culture. I’ve always been around Echo Park, East LA, and I know
that feeling if you don’t speak Spanish you’re not Hispanic enough but you have to show you know
English. I really like your music because I love to dance but sometimes in the scene people don’t do that. I like
how you incorporate dancing, while adding psychedelic stuff to it. It gives me an excuse to shake my little tushy.
*laughter* Yeah, that’s why I really like the song “Selena’s Butt” but now I wanna hear it again and really
understand it more! But like I read something like you did 16 songs at One Take Studios in San Pedro, did they
really make you take one take of a song or could you have gone over the song again?
TC: No no! It was really done in one take! We practiced a lot beforehand, these were songs that we were very
familiar with when we went into the studio, which is why we were able to complete the entire album in two
days. If we in one take we would mess it up we would trash it and we would do the whole thing over again but
its all live and whatever you hear on the album is what we recorded at that moment.
S: Oh wow, did you guys get nervous or feel the pressure?
TC: Hell yeah we did the thing is we got to rely on one another. It’s like one person has a really good
performance right but if one of us fucks it up, and the whole thing isn’t that great then the whole thing is poo
poo and we have to do it all over again. You don’t want to be the one that fucks it up!
S: What’s like the punishment if you mess up?
TC: Punishment is you have to bring beer!
S: So you guys are gonna be here you’re gonna play at The Echo over here in November right?”
TC: November 10th. I’m trying to make it a Halloween theme but the guys think it’s too late to make it
S: You should do it! i know Universal Studios they have their Halloween Horror Nights till November 3rd. So
you guys are all good!
TC: But were November 10th!
S: Oh that’s right! Its okay just wear like scarecrow costumes or turkey! So what was your first show, you
guys would play a lot of backyard shows, what was your first like venue?
TC: I don’t remember! I remember playing at this place, but we didn’t even have a name! We weren’t technically
Thee Commons yet, but we definitely played some warehouses, locations by downtown. David recollects at
KA Cal U was our first official show was February 12, 2012. You could probably look it up, or YouTube it! One
of the first venues we played at though, as Thee Commons, was this place in Boyle Heights called
Corazon del Pueblo. That was one of our first shows starting out. The community there really liked and
encouraged us to keep doing what we were doing. They were vibing with the cumbias, so Pueblo was a very key
venue where we felt comfortable, in bars as well.
S: When you great up in East LA, there’s been a history of gang activity, were you guys exposed to that when
you guys were growing up?
TC: Oh, hell yeah.
S: How does it feel now that things are changing you’re playing at these places that are like once dangerous like
The Echo for instance?
TC: That place is gentrified now all the cholitos are gone, for the most part. We’ll wind up paying for a
really big parking ticket if anything else. The real fucking gangsters is the real estate business. Bankrupts,
they evolved. We went from being scared from petty criminals to even bigger criminals out there and they’re
S: Yeah it’s not the stereotypical tattoo bald head low rider we’re accustomed to. But I really want to know,
there’s one song called “Elotero Spaceman,” have you heard the story about this man, his elote, his stuff, it
was knocked over by this one guy… was that what the inspiration was?
TC: The one guy, he was from Argentina. That’s what i thought they were argentine and I wanted to clarify he
was from there. We’ve been hearing about that sh** happening all the time. That happened we’ve seen them
get arrested, we’ve seen all of them we were at the rose garden behind the science center, over there by USC. I
remember all of them started running out. They were all warning each other “The cops are coming!
Corritelde!’ They were all just trying to make sure they left with their shit. That was the first time it was
recorded and other people got to see it but yeah we’ve been seeing that all the time.
S: Yeah it’s just horrible but do you use your music to bring people together like that because I know you
wanted to bring like younger Latinos and older Latinos to come. What is your mission now that you’re touring
and going to these places where not a lot of people know about cumbia?
TC: We wanted to do exactly that we wanted to show the music. Keep doing it, keep pushing ourselves
creatively. Before we left on this tour we recorded another album 10 more songs. They’re being mixed and
matched right now we’re gonna be releasing something early next year. This is just our goal just to creatively
challenge ourselves all the time and challenge ourselves to just respect the music go everywhere and anywhere
people will have us.
S: For Tropicalia, will we hear some of your new music?
TC: Yeah we’ll play some of our new songs.
S: Yay I can’t wait so are you going to have a performance plan, you said you have like pink gorillas
coming in and all these random people but what’s like one character that always comes out of nowhere during
TC: Poco Loco shows up out of nowhere randomly to our shows.
S: What does Poco Loco look like?
TC: It’s a clown, yeah he’s the homie. I don’t know how to explain it really. The first time we were ever in
Denver we got flown out by Heavy Dose Records. At the first show that we had there, I just remember being
homesick for a quick second, and I turn around and there is Loco the clown! I’m just tripping out like ‘Ay!
What the fu** are you doing here? He’s like a nomad, always on foot. He’s been at New York, Texas, at the
most random of places. But yeah, he’ll just show up sometimes. *laughter*
S: So like the people that show up on stage, you don’t hire them? You just tell them to come up on stage?”
TC: We plan on it if we want them all there. Whatever we bring the different characters or the personalities.
The way it kind of developed is that we would do burlesque shows with dancers, and we would be the backing band playing music while they would dance. That became really fun, so we did it once we got hired to perform like that because we put out a variety show. It was like us playing; we had the clown, we had the pink gorillas, we had burlesque dancers. This girl she was just like ‘oh this is great do you guys have a show out here?’ Then we would watch her bring a whole group of friends, then we thought lets do a costume one. So it became a whole little thing, we were making different kind of show. We noticed it would be like the comics in show, and that’s what we’d be billed under, but it expanded so we took advantage of that. When we played Coachella it was a good way to get our friends in to the shows. Coachella only gave us 6 free VIP passes for our guests, but we had like a bunch of friends that were wanting to come. So we were like well put on a costume and dance on stage and we’ll give you an artist wristband. We had like our little sister with her boyfriend, they were like mime dancers, and one of our friend Angel dressed up as a calavera. Yeah you know just different things. It just kind of happened so we could get our friends backstage and into shows.
S: At Coachella you only brought 6 people and the rest of your family had to pay the entrance?”
TC: No, family didn’t go, what we would use our passes was to bring representatives from Spotify or Apple, or
different publishing companies to check us out. But what we did was all our friends came in as performers
like our girlfriends were dancers and so on. So we ended up having a party of like 16 total artists on that
stage, we brought a sax player, it was a big brigade of friends.
S: So should we expect something like that for Tropicalia?
TC: Yeah but not as crazy. What started happening was that we didn’t want it to become a gimmick for people
to expect that every time we played a show. We’ve been relying on just playing a really good show from the
three of us, because thats how were touring. We’ll see it all depends on how we want to do it the day of the
S: Who are you most excited to see for this festival?”
TC: Los Tigres el Norte, Brenton Wood, Sonora Dinamita…
S: I can’t wait! There’s gonna be free tacos, I just love the set. Chicano batman is gonna be there! I’m really so
stoked, I just like the theme it’s really chicano and you guys fit in so well, it’s like meant for you!
TC: Yeah it’s not even Chicano, its bisando. *laughter*
S: Sometimes don’t know the difference, I know Chicano means Mexican American and bisando how
specifically how would you define it?
TC: When you see a really brown ass fool, like you see like he’s been working outside, it’s like someone
wearing huaraches with white socks on, true bean.
S: It’s just like I say too, its almost to ratchet right? So, theres the San Gabriel Valley trail you pass by like in El
Monte, south El Monte, Downey, Santa Fe Springs, It’s crazy cause you see these caballeros, legit I feel like I’m
in Mexico. They feel like sharp boots, you know the ones I’m talking about that like curve in and they have
TC: El botas picudas!
S: The boots, the hat, they’re riding their horses and bumping their music. I’m like oh my god! This is so
epic. I feel like I’m gonna see a lot of them at Tropicalia.
TC: That’s a great idea we should get some of those pointy boots and play the set with it. A lot of those
horses you see outside San Gabriel Valley, they’re show horses! You can just order them and have them
perform at your party, now that’s a party!
S: So after Philly, what are you guys going to go after?
TC: We go to Columbus, Ohio, I think at the Basement. After that, Fort Wayne Indiana, and after that Chicago.
Chicago is gonna be a good show. Chicago is always lit.
S: Is there like a huge Hispanic community there?
TC: Fuck yeah! There are Hispanic communities everywhere, some who know us some who don’t know us will be there.
S: That’s just so great you guys are just getting recognized everywhere! When the tour is over, what are you guys gonna do?
TC: We’re gonna write a new album, read a book, draw a book, draw a graphic novel, kiss our girlfriends kiss
our moms kiss our dads hug our families, f**king buy some weed cause I’m stressed. *laughter*
S: Its hard to get weed when you’re on tour?”
TC: Yeah especially east coast! *change of conversation* I want to come visit the Arboretum at Cal
State Fullerton, I actually graduated from there, I got a B.A. in animation and art.
S: What! What year did your graduate?”
TC: I graduated I believe a year ago now.
S: Oh I transferred there a year ago, I went to Mt. Sac. I wanted to check out OC Peeps and wanted to see if
people are racist or not and open my mind. Everyone is pretty cool at Fullerton. I feel like everyone is busy.
TC: Most people are kind of lame, you gotta find the cool kids those people that go out to shows and who
don’t mind having a beer here and there, and going to class.
S: Yeah you should come to the station! I swear, we’re like the black sheep at that school people look at us like
“y’all are weird!”
TC: Yeah it was just weird back at community college they would look at me funny like “oh you draw?”I didn’t
get anybody like that over at Fullerton. I was trying to be really polite and everything. I told a friend and they
said it sounded like a bunch of white people and I was like ‘yeah it was’. *laughter*
S: Do you know Baldwin Park?” TC: “Yeah I know
where that is.
S: Yeah cause I have a friend and she’s from there, and I notice how people tiptoe around us. They think were
like crazy Cholas, and its like no! I feel like people who come from San Gabriel Valley, I feel like were just
naturally, I don’t know are we too grunge? are we too brown? are we too chill? ‘Cause were nice people! Its
just like OC is like totally different vibe. I get you like, cause some people you say weed and they’re like
“yeah!” and some people are like “uhhh i don’t know. But at the station were like smoke? Yup! Okay! Lets go!
So like you did animation? Why did you pick Fullerton?
TC: I only applied to two schools that I would have wanted to go to and that was Long Beach and Fullerton.
Brown people with good grades we need diversity here! Bring him in! Long Beach already had too many brown
people and artists so yeah. I went to where I was a rare commodity.
S: So like in the animation classes? So you drew or did
TC: We did animation and character designing. Life drawing, I got to draw a lot of naked people. Not so
much storytelling, but that’s what I’m working on right now personally. I also got to do ceramics, watercolor,
oils, acrylics, graphics, all kids of things. That was my sh** I loved it, really enjoyed that was my kind of thing.
I realize I should have gone to a fine arts because animation it was a bit more separated from what was
actually i was interested in when it came to the people. and fine arts instead was more of the pirates like all the
S: Who drew the album for Poleta Sonora?
TC: The majority of the graphic designs were done by David, he has an eye for that, he has all his little studies
of graphic design as well. How to put something thats captivating but pretty simple.
S: Cause it has like a disco ball, and its all wavy and trippy. I like its simple but it’s like cool, cause I’ve never
seen a melting disco ball or a lollipop it’s like ‘what is this?’” You say your gonna do a book, what’s your book
going to be about?
TC: I just want to tell like little comic tales sometimes it will be a little hard stories, one of like a witch and
elephant, one I started from animation. I figured like animated it takes a big ass group effort so i feel like the
next best thing is to just put it in comics. I’m thinking of just an actual comic print to just take as a comic book
entrepreneur, sell it like that.
S: That’s going to be cool, so when can we see your
artwork or your comic book?
TC: You can check out my instagram, for most of my artwork. Also, shoutout to the CSUF animation
department! Whats up ya nerds!
S: Lately I’ve been meeting a lot of CSUF alumni! That’s so crazy, its a small world!
TC: When I would go to Cal State LA, I thought we were the elephants, because I would see elephants
everywhere. So I’m always like ‘go elephants!’ They were like no, its titans, and I’d still be like ‘elephants!”
S: Yeah we do have an elephant, his name is Tuffy!
TC: Yeah but everyone would be like we’re titans and I’d be like “no were elephants!”
S: Once a titan, always a titan!
TC: Yeah, so we’ll be updating you on that when it’s more of it comes out, but for now our tour were
working on it with a friend, but he’s lagging so I’m just going to get it started without him.
S: Oh okay, yeah keep doing your thing dude!
TC: “Can’t wait for everybody!”
S: So your last day of tour is going to be in what city?
TC: When we come back to LA is the last day, we’re going to have a week off then go around to like San
Francisco, Nevada, Reno…
S: Ooo I was there for Reno! It’s like a mini Vegas.
TC: We hope to have shows coming up in December too, like the tour is going to be over in mid-November
but like were going to keep playing.
S: What’s been your most memorable moment so far?
TC: Watching Jose beat four dudes at pool in a row. That happened last night, I was just on a roll. I was
playing pretty well and yeah…yeah but i beat the f**k out of them. It was all guys from the same group. They
were getting upset too they weren’t too happy about it. *laughter*
S: They didn’t try to jump you!” TC: “They wouldn’t dare man, that’s just a sore loser attitude.
S: “Well I’m glad you didn’t get jumped, I know some people when it comes to money they don’t like to lose.”
TC: Nah man we’re too old now, we don’t fight.
S: How old are you guys?
TC: Mid 20’s.
S: Yeah you’re young, you’re still babies! I’m 25! I wanted to be a nurse at the beginning then i was like
‘no i don’t like this.’ Now that I transferred to CSUF and everyone is 18, 19, 20 it’s like whoa I’m a bit older, but
it’s like I’m still so young but they make me feel old.
TC: Yeah they can afford it! The 18 – 19 year olds are spending all that money, when you can take the same
classes at community college and transfer over. Whenever I see an 18-19 year old at a CSU I’m like
“damn you must got money.”
S: Yeah! It’s expensive to go to CSUF. I just did community college and it was really cool different vibes
though, everyone was chill. Coming here to the OC everyone’s busy everyone’s just like they don’t have
time to talk to people, and I feel like when you do join a club it’s like a business. It feels like you don’t really
have friends, like hanging out.
TC: It can be very isolating to be there, the only advice I would have given myself being there would be like take
advantage of everything all the resources, anything you want to do. Don’t wait till you’re out of college to try to
do it. Start now!