An evening with Uncommon Denominator, Chippewa Valley’s top cover band

Elliot Adams

More stories from Elliot Adams

The Tator
May 9, 2023

Photo by Elliot Adams

Uncommon Denominator plays Valentine special at The Lakely.

Uncommon Denominator, a local cover band that has been recognized for the third year in a row for being the best cover band in the Chippewa Valley, performed a special Valentine’s Day set on Saturday, Feb. 12 at The Lakely

The band, which is comprised of eight members, took the stage in the small, ambient venue and performed a three hour long set that included five decades of love songs

Before the show, the band discussed everything from the band’s creation, the influences that UW-Eau Claire has on each band member, how the band survived COVID-19, what they attribute their success to and what people in the Chippewa Valley can look forward to this upcoming year from Uncommon Denominator. 

Emily Watkins, Ben Phillips and Jake Arnold, the only three founding members still in the band, discussed the formation of the band in August, 2018. 

“I remember we used to play a lot at Stones Throw,” Arnold said. “I always liked the music we play now, and we didn’t really get a chance to play it in our college groups.” 

Watkins added that in the early days, the band underwent several name changes and was known as Common Denominator for a brief time. Nicole Johnson, the band’s trumpet player, interjected that it was picked by a Facebook poll. Phillips then explained the origin of the name. 

“I just threw that in there because it’s something my dad says a lot,” Phillips said. “He talks about people he thinks are dumb, he says we need to tailor things to the lowest common denominator.” 

Watkins said, “So we’re named after the lowest common denominator.”

The name Uncommon Denominator was created after a New York area artist contacted the group on their Facebook page and asked them to change the name as he was recording music under the name Common Denominator. Watkins said the group decided to add an “un” at the beginning, and so Uncommon Denominator was born. 

The band then discussed how their time at UW-Eau Claire prepared them for their careers today. Phillips discussed the impact that working at UW-Eau Claire’s Event Production Crew had on his own expertise within the music industry. 

“It was a good opportunity to learn a lot of skills that jobs want you to be able to know and not have to train you,” Phillips said. “I had a lot of great opportunities being able to mix audio for nationally touring artists and setting up audio and light equipment.” 

Will DeBlaey, the band’s bassist, described how his time at UW-Eau Claire prepared him to play at the “highest level,” but that when it came time for him to join Uncommon Denominator, he was ready to move on from his time at UW-Eau Claire. 

“I kind of describe my college experiences as kinda half in the door and half out,” DeBlaey said. “I learned a lot, took what I needed, but I don’t want to say I saw the writing on the wall, but the academia world wasn’t for me in a lot of senses.” 

Johnson then talked about how the band was affected by COVID-19. She said that during the early stages of the pandemic, all of the gigs they had planned were canceled. 

However, this allowed the band to focus on technical recording skills and learn how to record at home during quarantine. This eventually paved the way for their first music video. 

“We did a music video in the empty Chippewa Falls pool. So we just sat ourselves in the drained pool in the middle of August,” Johnson said. “That music video, as goonie as it was, Ben did all the production, he did all the sound and mixing and we all recorded from home. It kinda matches our personality and set the tone for that season of Uncommon Denominator.” 

During their setlist later in the night, Uncommon Denominator performed several love-themed songs to a packed venue. According to Phillips, who also works as an audio technician for The Lakely, the venue had to bring in extra tables to accommodate the large volume of reservations. 

The band played an energetic rendition of “Shout” by the Isley Brothers which had patrons out of their seats and dancing. Another highlight of the night was a never before played rendition of Silk Sonic’s “Smoking Out the Window” while vocalist Chase Bucheger wandered out into the audience to sing directly to the patrons. 

Following the show, Bucheger said what he thinks sets the band apart from other groups in the Chippewa Valley. 

“As a group, we really love what we’re doing,” Bucheger said. “The audience can tell from the outside and it just makes them enjoy it even more because they know we’re genuinely having fun and we genuinely love what we’re doing.”

Uncommon Denominator can be found on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube. They will be hosting an open-mic event this upcoming Friday at The Cabin from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Adams can be reached at [email protected].