When Los Angeles band Thee Commons was looking to film a music video for a song from their new album Paleta Sonora, filmmaker Andrew Vasquez found the perfect opportunity to pay homage to his cousin Ruby’s 1990s quinceañera. Though Thee Commons’ sound is typically described as psychedelic punk cumbia, their latest record explores new musical palettes, including nostalgic takes on duranguense.
On Paleta Sonora cut “Camisa al Revés,” Thee Commons recall the sounds of their East L.A. childhood and celebrate self-described “chunti” music. The frenetic song provided a perfect backdrop for a 90s visual pastiche replete with references to Los Ángeles Azules, WWE, and Johnny Canales, host of the iconic regional Mexican music show The Johnny Canales Show, where Selena had one of her first televised performances.
Thee Commons started practicing out of their East Los Angeles garage in 2012, at a time when local favorites like Chicano Batman and Buyepongo where gaining traction. Thee Commons now sells out shows at mainstream venues like the Echoplex, but the scene didn’t always embrace their eclecticism. At the time, smaller venues like La Cita and Eastside Love were often the only places booking local Latinx bands.
Lead singer and guitarist David Pacheco remembers forcing their way into the scene by way of guerilla performances. “We weren’t always accepted by L.A. We would do generator shows on the street and we would play outside of festivals,” he recalls in an interview with Remezcla.
Part of Thee Commons’ special magic is how their music speaks to a particular Los Angeles experience. Growing up Latino in East L.A. or South Central often means two-stepping to cumbia at family functions and moshing at backyard punk shows. True to form, “Camisa al Revés” includes elements of norteño to memorialize this experience. The clip is an vibrant tale of unrequited love, set in a 90s quinceañera home video. “It embraces being naco, that one tía that starts dancing more than she should be…the sound is our way to make it chunti,” explains Pacheco. By reclaiming chunti, which often used as a derogatory term to describe working-class culture, the band is asserting its value as a form of cultural expression.
At one point in the video, the quinceañera’s court poses for photos in Boyle Heights’ Hollenbeck Park. It’s a scene so authentic to the city that filmmakers had to compete with four actual quinceañeras just to get the shots. “It’s about being nostalgic. It’s family parties and Los Ángeles Azules; something so ingrained in our respective childhoods. We wanted to do something that was within the zeitgeist of Latinidad,” describes Andrew Vasquez, co-founder of Bracero Productions. Alongside co-founder Giovanni Solis, the Latinx-owned production company helped bring the video to life.
Pacheco adds that experimenting with these cultural signifiers goes beyond pure nostalgia. “People now kind of fetishize Latinoness and being conscious about these things is kind of fun because you can maneuver around it and use those stereotypes to your advantage and kind of play with them,” he explains. “Thee Commons is us unabashedly wearing the nopal en la frente and embracing that.”
Watch our exclusive premiere of the video for “Camisa al Revés” above.