Chicano Batman, a four-piece band from Los Angeles, bring their unique blend of Latin, Psychedelic Soul to the Bay Area for two performances; fresh off the heels of Coachella.
Singer Bardo Martinez and the rest of Chicano Batman had a vision to recreate and expose popular Latin genres of the 60’s and 70’s, including Brazilian bossa nova, samba and bolero. Not only do they emulate these styles musically, they dress the part as well, often adorned in retro-ruffled tuxedo shirts. Their latest record, Cycles of Existential Rhyme, catapulted them into unfamiliar territory, landing them the opening gig for Jack White’s Lazaretto tour, opening two weekends at Coachella and honorably added to NPR Music’s Alt Latino Best of 2014. We caught up with Bardo to talk about their latest high profile gigs, appreciating the warmth of the West Coast and the symbolization of Chicano Batman.
Chicano Batman plays Brick and Mortar, May 15th and Leo’s Music Club, May 16th.
How does Chicano Batman prepare for tour? What are some of the essentials?
We gotta make sure we have the trail mix and water, and make sure our heads are right.
Your influence of 70’s retro is prominent, even down to your appearance. How many outfits do you bring on the road?
Man, unfortunately we have two pairs. We have the blue ruffles and the cream colored ruffles. That’s all we got, we don’t have a back up so we wash them consistently or don’t wash them at all.
That’s rock n’ roll! Speaking of touring, you opened for Jack White on his Lazaretto tour. How was that experience?
We had a blast. It was our first time playing a tour on that scale. It was a learning experience and a positive one. We brought our sound guy, Jose, and it was our first time operating that type of board. It was much different than other shows, cause we just set up and played and hit it with all our heart. Every place was a new experience and our crowds were warm or receptive.
Did you get to hang out with Mr. White?
He did invite us over to his house in Nashville. We just hung out in the bowling alley in his house. Just hanging out with some folks, good vibes. It was a pleasure and an honor for us to be there. It was kind of like an accolade for us.
Have you spent a lot of time in the South and on the East Coast before that tour?
We’ve been doing shows in the Southwest for a while; in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. We played New Orleans for the Voodoo Music Festival and played New York a few times. We’ll be back on the East Coast in late May.
May is the perfect time to be in New York; otherwise it’s either too humid or too cold.
The first time we went around February and that shit was so cold. I’ve never been in cold like that. I’m a So Cal kid. It was like zero degrees and we were lugging around gear, it was nuts, but we survived that.
We were touring late December and January in New York and the Jack White tour was in February so we were in Ohio, Kentucky- the Midwest- it was so cold but we were almost used to it. It was interesting that were getting acclimated. I can’t say that now since I’ve been home. The cold is something to reckon with, but New York is so beautiful.
You just finished playing in the desert for Coachella, completely opposite weather.
It was like a hundred degrees, but it wasn’t that bad. You just have to tune up and run some scales a half hour before. Once you’re on stage you’ll be good. We played our two sets two Sundays in a row. We played at around 1 pm and a lot of artists I didn’t expect came out. Luckily for us, we had fans roll through, rocking out as they approached the stage. We had the ability to sound check and had like two rows of people, and then by our first songs we had a good four or five rows- about five hundred people; a lot of fans and family out there. We were really inspired and are trying to record a new album hopefully by the end of the year.
Were you inspired by some of the musicians you saw at Coachella?
We have a lot of new material because each of us is a composer in the band. We’re just gearing it up, but we saw a lot inspirational music. I was able to meet St. Vincent in the parking lot. Out of the blue she shows up right in front of me and I just yelled. I was super excited and started talking to her, just being a fan, and trying to be cool. I showed her the bat symbol on my shirt and our drummer actually had one of our cd’s so we gave it to her. She was like, “that’s a cool band name.”
My wife and I saw her play that night and were blown away. She’s revolutionizing music on so many different levels. My wife was saying she was empowered by seeing a woman like that work so hard. For me she’s playing perfect music, but it’s so different, like Madonna, or Prince, playing funk music but with weird scales and dissonant chords with everything working right.
Chicano Batman blends lots of styles of early 60’s and 70’s Brazilian bossa nova, psychedelic, and Surf Rock. Have you altered your sound at all on your new material?
I mean, personally I listen to old music generally, but everyone has different influences. For instance, Eduardo listened to Metallica when he was growing up, but together as a band we work together. We kind of delineated where we were gonna go. Back in the 70’s if you picked up a record, many of which would look like us, aesthetically speaking, you’d hear a Bolero, which sounded like American pop with Spanish lyrics. And then you have Norteña music. Part of our aesthetic was to meld all these different genres. That was the foundation, keeping it vintage. We were very loose with it at the beginning. The last album was a little more focused with shorter songs. All of us are going with the same momentum, but in terms of working within the new music world, we are truly trying to tap into what’s crackin’ among contemporary artists.
If it weren’t Chicano Batman, who would it be? And what influenced that name?
Ethiopian Batman? The idea was basically that anybody could be a superhero. Batman belongs to everybody now, it was created in the 1930’s, and whether you grew up in Thailand or Indonesia, everyone knows of Batman. And everyone grows up with this super hero complex- you want to save the world and be a hero. You look up to firefighters and policemen growing up. For me, I was like, how I can I connect to that? And being Latino, growing up in LA, we aren’t necessarily the face of channel 7. For example, the whole idea was that anybody could maximize his or her potential, that a working class person with that many resources can do whatever that person wants to do.
We want to be able to connect with all people. We wanna extend a warm hug to the Bay Area, too. I lived in the Bay for a year, so we’re really excited to play here.