ABQ Green Room
Q&A: The Ordinary Things
By August Edwards
The Ordinary Things orbit a sun of their own. They have their own moons and pull at them with gravitational force. Their musicianship speaks for itself, and they bring professionalism to Albuquerque's music community that is worthy of emulation.
Drummer Jackie Chacón, guitarist Andrew Chacón, and bassist Justin McLauchlin are experts at taking inspiration from the music they love and turning out tunes completely unique to them. If you're looking for '90s indie rock with a twist of metal, you're gonna wanna keep an eye on this trio.
The Ordinary Things's sophomore album Something to Believe In comes out on Friday, February 26. This band is full of surprises, and already at this point they have me anticipating their third, fourth, and maybe even fifth album. I'm glad The Ordinary Things were one of the last bands I saw before COVID came, because with them, it's always a magical show experience - they are a solid band, and I hope you tune in for what they have in store.
How did The Ordinary Things come to be as we know them today?
Jackie: We originally had a different bass player, pretty briefly. She left, and we recruited Justin. We met by chance—it was like good luck. He agreed to join, and it was interesting because maybe we had two rehearsals and he played the first gig with us. Then he made up his mind that we were cool enough for him to continue.
The first album [Stories], we were in the studio like right away. Justin had only been in the band for a couple of months at that time. We laid down this eleven track album in two days. I feel like the latter part of that, after the first album, was more of the growth part of things. But that’s how we got started.
Justin: I just left a band, it was a salsa group, ‘cause I just needed more time for myself. I gig with a lot of different groups, sometimes as a sub or sometimes as a full-time member. The day I left the band, Paul Hunton [with Dust City Opera] contacted me. I was gonna decline because I was getting burnt out.
I decided to join Dust City Opera, never had a rehearsal with Jackie—heard about Jackie, became friends with her on Facebook ‘cause we had a gig together that week. We go in [to play the gig], and I’m like, ‘What the fuck did I get myself into?’ But that’s when I first met Jackie, and we did the gig, and immediately I felt like, wow, this is a good bass/rhythm connection, rhythm section connection. And that’s cool. If I hadn’t taken that gig, I would have never met Jackie. And I did make five dollars that night.
So, Jackie’s telling me about her Ordinary Things, so I go down in December to see them play at Moonlight. It was great, and I thought, man, ‘if only you could get some vocal harmonies, it could be really killer.’ I told Jackie that. But they had good songs, good band.
After the first rehearsal and the first gig, I was like, yeah, this is a good collaborative project here. The input gets shared equally. This is the first real band I’ve been in, not to disrespect the other groups I’ve been with—either I’m a hired gun, and very rarely do we collaborate in those types of groups. I love power trios, always been a fan of power trios.
Justin, you said that you were burnt out, and you said yes to all these things—how do you say yes to more?
Justin: You get burnt out, but then you remember why you do this. Had I said no to Dust City, I would have never been a part of Ordinary Things. Whatever gig I got in the past has always been right place, right time. I do work hard, I do practice a lot, but—why do I take these gigs? There will be times where I get burned out, but it’s only for like a week, then attitude’s better again. In fact, when COVID hit, I was so burnt out I was ready for it, man. COVID hit, it was like the best week ever. At that point, I needed like three weeks off. So if the pandemic had only lasted like three weeks, that would have been ideal. But it didn’t—it’s a plague.
You guys have been so prolific throughout the entire pandemic. You’ve completed two albums during this time. But it doesn’t surprise me, considering how prolific and active you were before—getting on shows, getting out there. Has your motivation been impacted by COVID?
Justin: What the fuck else are you gonna do?
Jackie: True—well spoken.
Justin: Our philosophy is, Jackie and Andrew are married, same household—that’s one household, and I’m just going there. We are safe, we’re distanced. I think we did get frowned upon. But we upped our game to rehearsals twice a week, and we’ve been keeping it consistent since the pandemic. There’s been maybe a week off, holidays—maybe one rehearsal a week. But most of the time we’ve done two rehearsals a week.
Jackie: I’m the one who’s the wild card, just because of my job. Andrew’s working from home, Justin’s working from home, and I work in healthcare, so I’m wearing all the stuff, and now I’m vaccinated. I think we felt like we were being as safe and smart as possible about it.
I think, too, the motivation was always there. We were just starting to hit our stride. We had a little tour planned and we had a bunch of bigger shows on the bill—of course those all got cancelled. But we were really just starting to, after that first album, do a lot more collaboration, so when you’re collaborating like that, there’s more material to go around because it’s not just me writing it and these guys learning it, it’s everybody writing and hashing ideas out. We send stuff back and forth. ‘What do you think of this riff?’ and ‘okay, maybe you put lyrics to this.’ I think it was the perfect opportunity to do that and hone that.
Justin: It was also interesting recording those two albums—obviously the second one was started first, then COVID happened, and we were really distancing from studios. We only got half the album done in February, but we kept writing [after everything shut down], and recorded three new songs [for the third album].
Andrew: Almost every practice we have something new to try or work out.
Justin: There’s a lot more where that came from. We recorded two songs with Rio Grande that will be on our fourth album. Maybe it will be an EP, we don’t know quite yet what we’ll do with that. But yeah, we got a lot of stuff going. Right now we’re tightening up for the CD release, pretending we’re gigging. We still work on new song ideas. We already have ten potential songs?
Jackie: Yeah—that would be potentially a fifth album—we’re also having to figure out, what do you do with this? Releasing stuff during a pandemic is hard, ‘cause you can’t promote it with an in-person release. Trying to time that based on what’s going to happen in the next six months or a year.
Do you all have a specific formula or practice to keep crankin’ out these ideas, or is it essentially just the benefit of being able to meet so consistently and keeping tight communication?
Jackie: Yeah, and I think we have our different processes. I know how I write, and I’m not the one that’s gonna come up with some cool riff. I’m lucky if I can get the chord progression somewhat passable. I’ll send it to them, and they will work out the guitar parts better and maybe change things around. But I usually have the melodic idea or lyrical idea pretty solidified.
Andrew: I think Justin’s been pushing us too, teaching us unconsciously with arrangements and stuff. ‘Cause he has great ideas on how to move stuff around, or add stuff, or take stuff out. That’s been fun.
Justin: I’d take out all your guitar solos! Just kidding.
Andrew: One day I’ll write one.
Justin: It’s great, I mean, I’m quite a bit older than these two kids, and I think I have experience in so many different genres from my career that I just hear arrangements now. I’ve played so many great arrangements in the past. And it comes from a jazz band, college band, it’s still high school marching band. My whole entire life has been music. I think it’s all lead up to this. This is where I wanted to get to.
You gotta like each other, too. Sometimes it’s hard to put the work in with certain people who aren’t receptive to your ideas sometimes. And it’s just easier to write rock. That’s what I like best, that’s what I love and what all of us love, I think. Various types of rock. ‘70s rock. Progressive rock. Indie rock. Heavy metal. Everything. I even got Jackie to—she’s like, ‘Aw, I hate Dave Matthews.’ I was like, ‘Listen to it again.’ The things that you don’t like, sometimes, give you the best ideas.
Back in the day you couldn’t get me to listen to anything that was on the radio in my twenties. I was all about metal and underground. I was bein’ a poser about it, ‘cause music is music. If I had an open mind back then, I’d probably be a lot better now. Anyway.
Tell me about Something to Believe In—what does it mean to each of you?
Jackie: We’ll first tell you about how the album title came to be, it’s a funny story. We were up with Dennis [Javier Jasso] at Fw studios. I can’t remember when we tracked what would be the title track—but he asked, ‘What’s the name of this song?’ and I said "I’ll Be Leaving." So he was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ He heard "Something to Believe In." So he typed it in that way, and it never got changed. So when we were going back and forth about what to call the album, it was probably Justin that said, ‘Why don’t we just call it Something to Believe In?’
Justin: It was my idea!
Jackie: And I was like, yeah, that’s good, it’s not a bad title. So I said that to Dennis, and he just cracked up.
Justin: As long as you don’t think of the Poison song…don’t associate it with that Poison song. I say I have an open mind, but not when it comes to Poison. Unless it’s the Native Tongue album. That’s a good album. Anyway, Dennis actually sent me a text that said, you know, ‘now that I think about the album title, it really does fit our time. Rings well with the time we’re in now.’
Jackie: It's so interesting how it all came together. Some of the songs were older songs that I had written in the really early days of the band. As COVID unfolded—some of those songs are, just, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is weird’—there’s a song called ‘Brother,’ and it’s pretty poignant for the times but it was written way way before any of this happened. I think it’s just a representation of the ups and down of being a human and some of the crazy stuff that we live through. Some of the hard things that we witness and go through, and some of the really joyful moments, and it’s really cool how it all came together because it is really collaborative as well. Maybe you can tell who wrote what songs, and a lot of them sound very different from each other. I don’t think there’s one that sounds like the other on there. But it still sounds like us.
This album was the sophomore album. I think that’s a great word to describe it because we were a vastly different band when we tracked the second album, tighter, we know each other so much better, musically we’ve progressed. It feels like it was an, okay this is who we are, we’re finding our sound.
Andrew: I think the title fits the lyrical content, what’s going on in the world, that just tends to be what we write about. What we see, how stuff makes us feel. And during this time, you do need something to believe in.
Justin: It’s good personal growth of our musicianship and our writing. We’re a lot tighter as a unit, we’re a lot more comfortable in the studio.
What would you like your audience to get from this album?
Jackie: For me, how I envisioned that—of course it just happens organically—but I want people to feel like it’s meaningful for them whatever way they want to interpret it. So if that struck a chord with someone, I think that’s amazing. I know that’s what I’m going for, I think that’s what we’re going for, too—that sense of, we’re all here, we’re all sharing the space, we all experience similarities, whether it’s good or bad.
Speaking to the times and where we’re at right now, and how difficult things are, from every perspective. It’s just not easy to be a human in the world right now. When I was writing ‘Human,’ I had my grandmother in mind, my grandparents. I wrote it pretty soon after she passed away. We eventually are all headed there, wherever there is. We’re not permanent.
Justin: “All we are is dust in the wind…”
Jackie: The pictures in the beginning [of the “Humans” video] and throughout are people we know—Justin’s dad, my grandparents and family members.
Justin: Cause we all fuckin’ die. That’s why I like it, it’s a metal song.
Andrew: At this point I just hope people like it. This is my first band, and my first time putting out artistic stuff that people are seeing and listening and watching. Sometimes it’s nerve-wracking, so I just hope people enjoy it. Like Jacqueline said, interpret it in their own way and find something. Just find something, whatever it is.
Justin: That's what’s great about music. If it means something to one person, it could mean something different to somebody else. We just want more people to—I think we have something decent to show, to share. It’s hard being creative and sharing it with people. You’re vulnerable, you’re vulnerable sharing your stuff. That’s personal sometimes. We just hope people can relate to it. I hope people dig the musicianship too, because that’s—we just don’t wanna, we wanna be good musicians as well, arrangement-wise and being tight. We’re exploring a lot of odd meters too, these days. Why not? We love everything, almost anything musical can go and we can arrange it to where it’s really cool.
What’s your favorite part about Albuquerque music and musicians?
Jackie: I was being super drum nerdy with Dustin Hoag, who’s in the new Adam Hooks band and the Hi-Watts. He said, ‘Man, the music scene here is rather supportive.’ You feel like if you’re elsewhere, you’re just a small fish and people have better things to do than to even care what your band is doing. Here, it’s a small scene, it’s not like living in LA or Nashville, but people are supportive. We’ve gotten so many opportunities from Barney [Lopez], Red Light Cameras, just people that will put us on the bill or they’ll reach out to us. Or when we reach out to them, they’re really receptive.
Andrew: It’s just been fun meeting people. You see these people at local shows, the bands that come through, and you start seeing them at grocery stores and music stores—it’s cool. It’s just cool to be a part of that, and meeting different musicians of the different genres.
Jackie: That too is that’s the cool part about it being small. You just know people. You go to Music Go Round and you just know everybody. Getting to know all the people, networking. Having people you know featured in your first video accidentally. ‘Hey, there’s Nik! And there’s Adam!’
Justin: I’ve been here for so long now, since 2000. I just kind of know all the different genres, and I’ve never actually been to this local rock music community scene—what’s great about Launchpad and Moonlight is you get all these local bands, for a while there it was Monday through Sunday there at Moonlight sometimes. It was tiring for us, because we would go out and support these local shows, drink three or four beers, these guys had work the next day, but we would go and gig, and I may have other gigs. Since I joined Ordinary Things, it felt I was out every night. And I was working with Porter Draw, and they were getting twelve gigs a month. It was just crazy. Since I joined The Ordinary Things until the pandemic, I’ve never been busier. We’d constantly be going to shows, rehearing, gigging, and then supporting local shows at the same time. Sometimes I would take a Sunday off. But you gotta be supportive. If you’re the band that tears down and leaves while there’s two other bands in front of you, three bands in front of you, you’re kind of a fucking asshole. You gotta stay and support.
Jackie: We were going to shows at Launchpad or Sister, and you see the same people there, too—‘Hey, we just played a show with you the other day!’ It’s cool in a lot of ways, so that’s always been a thing of ours. We stay and we support as much as possible.
Justin: It’s important to stay and support, because sometimes these gigs are pitiful. Sometimes they’re great. If your band leaves, then there’s that many less people in the room. And it’s always great to play in front of people, too, ‘cause it’s an energy thing. It always sucks playing in front of two or three people. I’ve been there. It’s better to play in front of twelve, twenty, fifty. [Launchpad's] Night of the Living Cover Bands are killer because that’s all the local community guys. You’re in front of 300 people at those shows, and that’s where the local community comes out.
What’s the most rewarding part about creating and playing music?
Justin: For me, it’s an awesome feeling that a lot of people don’t get to experience. Being collaborative. I think it’s rare for people to experience that. I get the opportunity to experience it, and it’s awesome, and you wanna keep doing that. You always wanna find the magic. You always wanna find the magic whether it’s in a performance or song—that’s what it’s about. It’s about the love of it and not about anything else. Creating a song you think people will like ‘cause it sounds a certain way—just be honest. Be honest with it. You can’t go wrong that way.
Jackie: You are really vulnerable when you’re sharing this stuff, but it’s easier when it’s just like, this is what I got, this is the honest thing, this is what came out. Maybe it’s hard to be vulnerable, but that’s the magic. Getting to connect with other humans on stage. To play with these guys is really amazing. And it’s so exciting to come up with new stuff and be like, ‘I created this.’ Just to watch the whole process unfold and see everything come together is pretty special too.
Andrew: As an individual, it’s given me more confidence. Just because Justin and Jacqueline are allowing me to say stuff or play stuff that I would not usually show people. And they’re just really accepting. As time goes on, instead of being scared, it becomes fun.
Justin: Andrew, I’ve definitely seen growth, not only in musicianship but as like—you seem to be more comfortable. You were really shy when I first met you. Now you like to talk shit to me, which is great.
Andrew: It’s been great. Like I said, the whole thing has given me more confidence as a person and as a unit. It’s awesome.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Justin: I wanna say real quick, when you support local bands merch is huge, but one simple thing if people want to support is just sharing the video, sharing something. That’s how the “Burn Me Down” video got [a ton of streams], ‘cause you have people sharing it and they have friends in different areas of the world or the states. Just one person might share it, and another person gets it. That’s important. I try to reciprocate, I try to share when people put out stuff. I try to share as much as I can.
Jackie: I agree. You never know how that’s going to go. It’s already hard. It doesn’t feel like it’s competitive within our little realm here, but out in the world it is. We’re competing against so much digitally. Especially right now when you can’t play live, or do any sort of networking in that way. That’s been an interesting journey with this album. Do you sit on it or do you release it? If so, how’s it going to go over? That stuff goes a long way. Dare I say, it goes a little bit farther than buying a t-shirt sometimes. Although, the t-shirts are cool too.
I will just add—we’re just excited to be able to keep moving forward with this. This is so exciting to me, and I feel really honored to be able to play music with these guys. It just makes it so much more special to be like, 'Here, we have this thing that we created together.'
Justin: [Explains they're going to tell the coconut story.] Back in the Nosotros days—I played with Nosotros from 2000-2007, they started in '94—we had a gig at a co-op, a grocery store grand opening, and it was for free. Exposure. But one of us ended up stealing a coconut— we didn't pay for it—and we put it in Denis’s cajón. So any time anybody would mess up that night gigging, it would end up in their guitar case or whatever—they get the coconut award. So, now, [for The Ordinary Things] Jackie bought a coconut somewhere—
Jackie: I didn’t steal this coconut. I paid for it, all 80 cents that it cost.
Justin: So we have the coconut award still surviving.
Jackie: I got it last time at a show.
Andrew: I’ve got it the most.
Jackie: Or if someone asks a weird question in text or something—so Andrew has it now because he asked a dumb question.
Andrew: It was a lame question.
Justin: Keeps them on their toes.
Andrew: I’d like to add one thing. There’s one venue we haven’t played, and that’s Sister. Hopefully we get in there.
Justin: We just want gigs to come back.