WHO IS CHICANO BATMAN?
Hailing from L.A., this four-person bilingual musical act got together in 2008 and rose from playing small gigs in local SoCal theaters to pulling crowds at Coachella and Bonaroo. Notable for wearing matching, 1970s-highschool-prom-inspired tuxedos at every show and singing about political issues in both English and Spanish, they are expanding their fan base beyond loyal Latinx listeners and breaking into the mainstream American audience. Recently, the band signed with ATO Records and collaborated with Brooklyn-based producer Leon Michels (who worked with Lee Fields and The Black Keys) resulting in a more soulful, groovy sound. With two EPs and three LPs released thus far, Chicano Batman is one of the most exciting Latin-American musical acts of the year. They are on tour now, with a show coming up in Pilsen’s own Thalia Hall on Saturday, September 30th, performing alongside trio Khruangbin.
WHAT DO THEY SOUND LIKE?
Chicano Batman blends vintage psychedelic sounds from all over the Americas. Notes of cumbia, soul, funk, and the “low-rider oldies” of the American Southwest are infused with modern indie-pop motifs to create a sonic patchwork broad in both its historical and geographic scope. Chicano Batman’s earlier albums are heavily influenced by experimental Latin American rock sounds of the 1960s; they are sweltering and dense, droning with electronic harpsichords and fuzzy, twangy guitars. Band members cite Brazilian tropicalia giant Caetano Veloso as an inspiration, along with other Anglo-American psychedelic rock influences.
Switching gears from their buzzing and tropical 2014 LP Cycles of Existential Rhyme, Chicano Batman’s latest album, Freedom is Free, is lighter and brighter, and stylistically rich. The album alternates between energetic, cumbia-infused boogie-woogie and balmy interludes of reverb-laced guitars. The bigger hits, “Friendship (Is a Small Boat in a Storm)” and “Freedom is Free” evoke soda pop, sunshine and pool parties, but they also carry political and ethical messages, producing a combination that is playfully defiant in the face of repression.
You’ve got your guns up on display,
But you can’t control how I feel, no way
‘Cause freedom is free
Approaching the middle of the album with “La Jura,” they exchange the bright electric chords and funk beats for a heavier, more soulful atmosphere. For this tune, lead singer Bardo Martinez slips into Spanish, crooning about police brutality alongside the wailing, organ-like sound of the keyboard, the song itself building in intensity towards its middle then abruptly breaking into a slow, stripped-down conclusion, mirroring the structure of the album as a whole.
Click here to listen to the band members discuss their musical inspirations and the creation of their unique sound.
Here’s a brief survey of some of my favorite tunes from Chicano Batman, interspersed with a few of their musical inspirations of the past:
(note: Chicano Batman’s self-titled debut album is unavailable on Spotify. But it is definitely worth checking out!)
WHO’S IN THE BAND?
BARDO MARTINEZ – lead vocals, keyboard, guitar
EDUARDO ARENAS – bass guitar
CARLOS AREVALO – guitar
GABRIEL VILLA – percussion
WHAT ARE THEY LIKE LIVE?
Chicano Batman will be playing in Thalia Hall on Saturday, September 30 at 8:00 PM. Purchase tickets here.
♥ Written by Jessica Breznick ♥