For some from the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area, ABQ-based musician Javier Romero has long been a heroic titan of indie rock and pop goodness. A member of sadly defunct but no-less-notable bands Mistletoe and Cherry Tempo, Romero’s songwriting chops have been apparent for decades, and that includes with his solo project, Strange Magic. In 2022, Romero crafted 52 songs, one a week, under that moniker, and he wrapped the project a few weeks ago. Dubbed Quantity Inn—and available in part at strangemagic.bandcamp.com—the songs are a sprawling and introspective tour through the mind of a musician who has churned out some of the finest melodies of the ’90s, 2000s, 2010s and, now, 2020s. Yeah, I said it, and I meant it. I caught up with Romero to learn more about the Quantity Inn project. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Tell us about the impetus for the project. Did you set out to write so many songs as a specific exercise, or did it just happen this way?
It was completely deliberate. I just thought I’d take up the challenge. I don’t know why, but from what I remember, I was thinking about doing another [Strange Magic] album anyway, and it might have been [former Mistletoe bandmate] Alex Rose who suggested…not this scale, but something similar that people could follow along with. But y’know, I’m not sure it worked. I think initially people were like, ‘Cool, I’ll follow along!’ But after so many; after, like, 20 songs, they were like, ‘I’m out.’
I had a lot of voice recorder ideas ready to start with at least, but there wasn’t anything that had lyrics, or even a chorus. Typically, it was maybe just a guitar riff or a small idea I could run with, so nothing super planned—except for in October when I decided it would be a fun exercise to do Rocktober, so I tried to make those songs heavier.
What I was trying to do [lyrically] whatever came to mind in that moment, which was really fun. I even did a Christmas song: As I was doing dishes, I thought of the line, ‘I don’t want to join in on this mess/I’m not really in the mood for Christmas.’ For the most part that’s how it went, but I had a few ideas I abandoned because they didn’t come naturally. If I had sense things were coming naturally, I would go along with it.
Did you find yourself not wanting to write at times across the course of the project? How did you keep the dream alive?
yeah So I definitely had a lull because I went on a trip in June, so from pretty much end of May until August, I was drawing a blank. All the stuff that was ready and in the can, so to speak, any pieces I had, went dry. So I think that because I was in vacation mode, my brain was like, ‘We’re not doing this.’ So it took a good few weeks after that. But by the end of the year, I was really trying to keep to 52 songs, and I think on Dec. 30 I wrote and recorded three songs just to complete it. I didn’t want to slack off. I think I still had some momentum so I was wanting to record more, but I think I probably lost a little bit of that muscle.
I really just want people to hear it and wouldn’t mind some feedback—good or bad. I don’t want people patting me on the back if they don’t love it, but I still think it’s like any creative endeavor—it only really exists if someone else experiences it.
What do you plan on doing with the songs, if anything, and where can people hear them?
I do not know. One idea was to split it into four albums. I bet I could split it into four albums, 10 or 12 songs to an album. I was actually trying to get with some people who know about how to market things or know that world, how to get things reviewed, but it’s really hard…to get anyone’s ear. It’s a little icky but it seems like if you want to get your stuff reviewed or released, there has to be a little exclusivity, but as far as releasing it goes, I just need to think about scale and what that entails. It might be a tape, it might be aa few tapes. Maybe it’s just the best 10 songs or so that end up on a singular album. They’re on Bandcamp, some of them. I don’t know, though, we’ll see what I do with them. Now it’s time to write more songs.