18 August 2018 (released)
18 August 2018
Chicano Batman was formed in 2008 by three Los Angelenos and one Colombiano. In the subsequent decade, they’ve garnered glowing press from around the world in outlets like NPR and the Guardian. Recently, they’ve emerged as a favorite on the festival circuit, playing heavy hitters like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch! And FYF, among others. They’ve been described as a leader in the LA music scene, giving inspiration to other aspiring Latino artists. The band sat down for an interview just before their 5:20 set on the Sutro Stage.
Bardo Martinez (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar)
Carlos Arevalo (guitars)
Eduardo Arenas (bass, guitar, vocals)
Gabriel Villa (drums).
Carl Carpenter: So Carlos, you spoke in an interview about the lack of Latino representation in rock and indie, and you spoke about seeing Mars Volta, and how they were the first group who looked like you, and how it gave you belief you could pursue music. Who are some other people or bands who gave you this sort of inspiration early on?
Carlos Arevalo: Well, definitely Mars Volta. Cedric and Omar. It was really inspiring seeing them play when I was a seventeen year old high school student. Zack (de la Rocha) from Rage Against the Machine, of course. Ya know, he's from the Los Angeles area and I definitely could relate to him and his political outlook. Ummm who else?
Eduardo Arenas: For me, honestly one group that I don't shout out enough is Quinto Sol from East Los Angeles. They were one of the first bands that showed me like you could do some really deep, heavy music.
CC: There have been more and more emerging Latino groups lately, including from your hometown of L.A. Cuco, who’s only 19, is one, and he’s also at Outside Lands this year. Have you seen him, or heard his music?
EA: Oh yeah. We played a festival with him, Tropicalia, in Long Beach last year. We really enjoyed it.
CC: Are there any other emerging Latino groups you’re excited about our readers might enjoy?
Bardo Martinez: We just played with Helado Negro in Brooklyn last year. He's amazing. It really made me revisit his catalogue and really dig in to it. It's really impressive, sophisticated programming with drum machines and just synths. It's really beautiful. Linda from Hurray For the Riff Raff is killing it, she's just such a beautifully outspoken resistance proponent, and her music's great too.
EA: I'm more intrigued by Latino bands getting invited to play Coachella and Outside Lands, festivals like that, as opposed to playing Latino festivals because…
CA: Because we're tired of that shit. We don't need that kind of division, ya know, especially when something is mainstream, and something else is Latino. There are so many subdivisions, like in music, like in film, in anything, and I think it's time for stuff to start mixing, and it is, and that's what's most positive and uplifting I think for me, to see that happening now.
EA I wanted to add Le Butcherettes to the end of that question too. Teri Gender Bender is an amazing musician, and Latino.
CC: Cuco did a collaboration with one of my favorite Latina and Los Angeles based musicians, Empress Of. They exchanged covers for the website We Are Mitu, which you guys did with Miguel, which was an incredible set of covers. How did you get involved with We Are Mitu and what can you say about their concept and cause?
BM: We've been with them for, we've been working with them for years, like right when they started up, like 5 years ago, they were interested in using our music for some licensing when it first was starting out, and they've really blossomed to this huge company that has the capital to put out really cool, amazing works like the We Are Tugether series. It's been great working with them and they recognize us and we recognize them, and we always reminisce about old times.
EA: And they get it. They've gotten our music from the beginning, and they get what we're trying to do. They're trying to use culture as a way to communicate to the rest of the world
CC: So Miguel did another series, “Earthworks”, where he returned with his brother and his father to the town where his dad grew up in Mexico and explored the culture there. I know you have members with Mexican, but also Colombian and El Salvadoran heritage. Have you had many opportunities to tour Latin America?
EA: Ya we've played there throughout the years. One of our tours I guess we played in Cali, Colombia where Gabriel is from. So ya, I mean we've always traveled. I think all of us have been to where we are from on tour.
BM: We just played Mexico City in the summer for Vive Latino Festival. It's just really beautiful playing that. And the year before we played Lunario, which is a big room, and it was really our first big look there, and it was sold out, and the fans were just amazing. It was really beautiful and made us feel like we're doing something right and people are coming out and they get it.
CA: We played Chile also a few years back, so ya, it's starting to form.
CC: Whenever I've been to festivals in Mexico it's been the best crowd experience that I've had.
CA: Absolutely. And we're looking forward to playing Brazil. We've been there a few times.
CC: Miguel is hard to top, but if you were going to trade covers with any other artists, what are a few contemporary bands and songs that might come up?
BM: "Killing In The Name" by Rage Against the Machine.
CC: Definitely the most intense mosh pit I've ever been in was for a Rage mosh pit to that song.
EA: I bet!
CA: Ok, hold on a second. That's a good question...
BM: We could do that one that goes (sings drum beat), (Sings) "Ella era una chica plástica"...
EA: Ruben Blades!
BM: If we could to “Plastico” and he could to “Soniatl” (by Chicano Batman).
BM: If we could to “Plastico” and he could to “Soniatl," because I think also it shows our dexterity as musicians and, you know, we got our rhythm master from Cali, Colombia (pointing to drummer Gabriel Villa), ya know, so we have everybody adding a certain element, so we can do it in a lot of different genres, ya know? We can live in them. And it's just a challenge to somebody else to see if they can live in ours too.
CC: What about historically, which group would you trade with?
BM: I think Curtis Mayfield would be a pretty cool one to do it with.
CA: Did you say Curtis Mayfield?
BM: I did.
CA: Oh hellllll ya.
CC: That'd be a killer duel falsetto combination.
CA: I think for a today one, it would be dope to do that Kuli Uchis song that she did where they shoot it with Tyler the Creator.
CC: Ya, and Bootsy Collins.
CA: Ya, I think we could mess around with that funk, and Bardo can kill it on the vocals.
BM: I would pick (sings) "Ridin' round and my car's low" (By Kali Uchis).
CC: Have you guys thought about pitching Chicano Batman as a superhero movie? And who would you cast as the lead role of Chicano Batman?
BM: Martin Lawrence as the lead?
EA: (Laughs) Yaaaa
CA: Martin Lawrence!
BM: We were just watching Black Knight the other day (laughs), remember? Ya, Martin Lawrence would definitely be the lead. Supporting actress would be ummm...
EA: That'd be Rosie Perez. Know what I'm sayin?
BM: So what would be the plot?
CA: Well I just saw that movie, Sorry To Bother You. That would be more of the vibe as opposed to the, you know...
CC: Marvel Comics
CA: Yeah, same old story, just different actors. Ya know, let's talk about the myth of the social construction that we're all trying to survive in, when in fact, it's all phony. Ya know?
BM: And that's the vibe of all this, ya know? Chicano Batman could be anybody. The roots stem back to everywhere..... but mostly Martin Lawrence.
Photo Credit: Zachary De Guzman Instagram: @zacharydeguzman