Interview with the folk foursome ahead of their May release of their 3rd studio-recorded album — Rattle Your Bones.
After nearly a decade of hard work and dogged determination, Pueblo’s beloved Haunted Windchimes have solidified themselves as not only a local or statewide force to be reckoned with, but a nationally-touring, festival-headlining, chart-topping Americana powerhouse (they were recently ranked as the #1 Folk artist globally on reverbnation.com).
But after ten years of grinding it out, what really continues to impress and move me about them is despite the long drives and endless miles, from small scale gigs to big festival sets, good nights and bad nights alike, the Haunted Windchimes now stand as something more than merely a band; they stand as a family unit, quite literally and otherwise. The love and respect that they hold for one another are always on display in the songs they create and on the stages they share.
PULP | So how long have the Windchimes been a band for now? Were there ever plans for a long career with it, or was that even thought about?
Inaiah Lujan | Desi and I started the group in 2006 shortly after we started dating. Much like the spontaneity of Desi and I’s meeting and beginning a relationship, the ‘Chimes were born in a similar spirit. We didn’t really plan for the long term or approach the project in terms of it being a career, rather appreciated it for what it was in the moment — something new to explore and get to know each other in the process.
Desirae Lujan | I personally didn’t think much about the future of it, I was just happy to be doing it right in that moment.
Chela Lujan | I used to write stories when I was a kid about a girl in a famous (pop) group. I think I was supposed to be doing this – I’m just a folk singer instead.
Mike Clark | I’ve been in the band around six and a half years with a year of guest performances before that with my old band The Jack Trades. I believe we have always dreamed of “making it”.
Is it ever hard at all to retain “the fire” from when you first started as a group?
DL | I feel like we have trouble with it all of the time, just never when we are playing. That’s what keeps me going. New material and new sounds help to fan the fire when it feels like it’s dwindling.
IL | So long as we are constantly growing and reinventing ourselves, “the fire” lives on, that spirit in which it was created goes and goes and grows and grows. Not to say it doesn’t come with ups and downs, it takes hard work and constantly reminding ourselves why we do it.
CL | There are definitely times when you ask yourself “What am I doing?” especially when you played a show that makes you feel like you just started playing music yesterday. There’s also the age-old fact of getting older and starting to think of things like health insurance and a retirement plan. I love to sing and I love to play, and I really love to do both of those things with these three people in particular. That makes all the actual hard work and doubt musicians deal with worth it.
MC | Sometimes it is hard, but it seems like every time we are about to give up somebody in the band steps up and stokes the fire all over again.
There’s a noticeable shift in sound and aesthetic on your newest album. Am I mistaken?
DL | No, I think that’s a real thing. We want to stretch the limits of the genres that we and our audiences have put us in. It isn’t that we have anything against those genres, it just feels really good to open up a bit.
CL | The only thing that stays the same is change, right?
IL | For me, the “shift” as you put it has been a natural evolution of us growing and maturing as songwriters. “Rattle Your Bones” is our first studio record since we released “Out With The Crow” in 2012. In that time we have experienced so much as a band, a lineup change, numerous tours, successes and failures and gained perspective that only experience and time could allow. All of this finds it’s way into the material we write in a completely organic way.
MC | Some of these songs are as old as the ‘Chimes. I feel like the change comes from the sound of our new arrangements.
Was the change up a premeditated decision to do so or a natural shift of focus for the group as a whole?
IL | It’s rare we sit down with a particular theme or concept in mind when we write, we write what we feel, and the hope is to write something we’re proud of and are willing to play night after night.
DL | A little bit of both I think.
CL | There are four songwriters, different ages with different experiences, but we all seem to have some sort of connection that allows us to move together fairly well as a group. I don’t think it was premeditated – we just all arrived there at the same time.
MC | As far as my writing goes, I’d say I’m in my classic southern rock phase and the band lets me sneak one in every once and awhile.
Being one of Pueblo’s biggest, if not biggest musical export, do you ever feel and kind of pressure to exalt the positives of Pueblo? Or do you even think about that kind of stuff?
IL | Yes and no. On one hand we all want Pueblo to be better, to reach it’s full potential as an arts and music community. We’ve watched it grow and thrive and crumble collapse over the years and grow again… That’s the beauty of it though. One thing for sure is we (Pueblo people) are a resilient bunch, and it is in both our successes and failures that make this town great. It’s honest and it’s home. So to answer you question, we love to shine a light on all the positive things happening and that have happened in our little town, but not shy away from the negative aspects, or the hard times — but rather draw inspiration from it.
DL | We try to have Pueblo’s back without over glamorizing it. We want people to respect and appreciate it, but we don’t want a mob to move here and buy up all the good houses before we do.
CL | I can’t even tell you how often we hear “You’re from Pueblo?!” We feel proud to represent what it is and what it has the potential to become. We also want to help in creating something good here despite all the hardship. Pueblo doesn’t have to stay this dangerous, drug run industrial town just because that’s all we and surrounding areas think we can be. There are lots of locals working really hard to change that and it’s exciting.
MC | We are all very fond of Pueblo so it’s easy for us to speak highly of the city.
Do you still like touring as much or as often as you all do?
IL | Touring like many things in life is a rollercoaster, ups and downs and all-arounds. We love to travel and do it well, but we’ve done some hard traveling too. The trick is to not have unrealistic expectations and to try to keep yourself open to new experiences even in times when you feel like you’re going through the motions. Life on the road can be bountiful and it can be soul crushing, but we rest in knowing that even the harshest of winters has a springtime ahead. We are grateful for the opportunity to travel and bring our music to new people and towns and we have those who support us, feed us and house us to thank for making it tangible.
DL | I still love to tour, it’s just a little more exhausting than I remember it being in the beginning.
CL | I’ve found touring to be much more enjoyable in the last few years than it has been in the past. Being solid in relationships, feeling like a veteran on the road, knowing just how long is too long, being able to go with the flow are all things that make it easier. We travel pretty well together and touring for 8 plus years certainly helps you know the ropes and know each other.
MC | No.
What do you want your listeners to come away with after listening to ‘Rattle Your Bones’?
IL | I’d like listeners to come away with a sense that they bought the ticket and took the ride and that somehow related to their own life experiences, in that we have all loved and lost, have had joys and pains, extreme highs and lows, so we may as well sing out! All together now.
DL | I just want them to feel good like we did when we made it.
CL | I hope Chimes’ fans are just excited about taking the journey with us as we are sharing it with them.
MC | I want them to feel like listening to it over and over again. It’s a very nice record as a whole and plays great front to back.
Does playing music with family ever present any additional or unforeseen challenges?
DL | I want to say that we bicker because of it, but I don’t think we really bicker more than any other traveling band. There’s a whole lot of love there; we’re family!
IL | I’ve played in a lot of bands, plenty that didn’t include family members, so I know the family dynamic isn’t mutually exclusive to the experience or dynamic of any other band. It has its problems and challenges, but at the end of the day we are a family, not in the literal sense, although it is that too, but in the sense we have each others backs and love and respect one another greatly, and just downright enjoy making music together, which trumps any disagreement we may have.
CL | I always wonder what it’s like for Inaiah to be in a band with his little sister and now his wife. Inaiah and I mostly worked out our sibling strife when we were younger, really he’s one of my best buds and I imagine I’m harder on him than he is on me. The other two just get to see how weird we are – they get to see traits and family dynamics amplified.
MC | Every once and awhile Inaiah and Chela get into a tiff over who was playing with the Stretch Armstrong first, but after I threaten to turn this car around they usually stop.
Is there anything or anyone in Pueblo that isn’t getting the attention it deserves?
CL | I used to work on the east side at Diamond Jim’s – now it’s the Pacific Warrior MMA gym. These guys are doing a lot for the community teaching mixed martial arts, MMA stuff. They’re teaching kids how to channel their energy in a good way – with integrity and respect. They just got a interviewed by the New York Times – that’s a pretty big deal!
MC | I really like the stand-up comedy scene in Pueblo. I think in time you may see some of them finding success on a larger stage.
Any plans for the Windchimes in the coming year?
MC | We are hoping to record and release a few singles this summer so keep an eye out for those.
IL | Our plans for the future is to focus more on well planned and curated events like our CD release show at the Sangre De Cristo. It’s so easy to get caught up in the play as often as you can rat race of the music world, but we’re taking a step back and focusing more on quality these days, making sure the whole experience is great for all involved.
Last Question; What is your karaoke jam and why?
IL | (laughs) I have a couple of go-to’s, but I’d have to say “Maybelline” by Chuck Berry is my favorite, don’t think I need to explain why!
CL | “Blue” by LeeAnn Rimes. She’s got country pipes for days so it’s good practice.
MC | “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding. It’s my jam.
DL | Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”. Because I always know it, no matter how many drinks, and because it’s swanky. Not very original, but I love it anyways.
The Haunted Windchimes will release “Rattle Your Bones” 5/13 at the Sangre De Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo, CO. Tickets, Pre-Order and more info at www.hauntedwindchimes.com