Chicano Batman Descends Onto Phoenix

It's bad enough the city has run amok with dastardly brown people crawling up and down the streets. So what's ol' Joe gonna do when El Caballero de la Noche swoops into town this weekend? The conservative pricks that run the proverbial show in Arizona have been targeting the Valley's Latino community ever since the economy tanked, and legal citizens and undocumented youths alike have been in desperate need of a hero to call on.

Enter soul/psych rockers Chicano Batman. The Los Angeles-based quartet is set to kickoff their Tour of Aztlan 2012 leg with an appearance at the Lost Leaf on Friday, October 19, in support of their latest EP, Joven Navegante.

Bruce Wayne may have a gaggle of gaudy goodies at his disposal but Chicano Batman comes armed with psychedelic riffs cloaked in samba-soaked melodies and Brazilian bossa nova. A unique mezcla that reflects their equally diverse background.

Up on the Sun: Who is Chicano Batman?

Bardo Martinez: Well first we got Eduardo Arenas on bass. He grew up in Boyle Heights and his family is from Michoacán. He went to USC and got his degree in urban planning. He has all of these different tastes but he really loves Brazilian music -- he lived there for like six months. And he really likes Mexican cumbias -- bands like Los Bukis and other stuff that he grew up with. I can relate to that, but I also come from a whole different angle.

I'm Colombian and Mexican, so I love Colombian cumbias, too.

Gabriel Villa is our drummer. He grew up in Colombia and moved to France at the age of 18 to study music. He had to serve in the Colombian military but got out of it after he paid a certain amount and performed a concert for them. That's how he got out of the country to study percussion.

Carlos Arévalo is from Rialto and he is Salvadorian and Mexican. We met years back through mutual friends. He's a really good guitarist; very precise -- he has been playing with us for like a year now. At first it was me, Gabriel and Eduardo.

I always had this concept of playing music like Los Angeles Negros with very clean guitar riffs and solid drumming -- almost like hip-hop drums or jazz drums even. I wanted the bass to sound super clean, super smooth, super heavy. So I wanted to set up a band like that. I played reggae music in high school and from there got really into cumbias. We started playing our renditions of jazz and everything -- we had a melting pot of music.

I'm a songwriter, I've been writing songs since high school, so I wanted to do something that centered around that.

But we have all kinds of different tastes because we all have different backgrounds.

Chicano Batman Joven Navegante Video Directed by Mochilla from Qvolé Collective on Vimeo.

What about your handle? Chicano Batman: You guys don't exactly emit the ominous tones we associate with the crime fighter in the movies. How'd you guys come up with the name?

It was a name that I had for myself, like a pen name. I came up with it at a party in 2006 along with a music partner of mine at UCLA. But Chicano Batman was basically a drawing that I made of a Batman with a little mustache. He's a Batman with a makeshift hood and cape made of a flannel shirt and a tank top that has the bat symbol, only it's drawn like the UFW logo. The "cholo" Batman.

The whole point is that any person on the street can be Batman.

My vision in terms of how we're creating the music has a lot to do with a very existential philosophy. We want to create music that's true and reflects our particular realities. The name itself is very catchy first of all, and it doesn't necessarily reflect the music that we're playing, but it does at the same time.

You can do many different things to communicate a particular message but for me music is the most direct way of communicating culture.

Will this be your first time in Phoenix?

This is like my third time coming out there. We were in Flagstaff last November, but we passed through Phoenix. I actually have a cousin that lives there -- so shout out to my cousin Nena.

What kind of impression did the city leave on you?

It's a very conservative city. You have Arpaio out there doing his madness. When I was out there in Phoenix -- I know it's a desert, but I just saw these massive freeways going through the city; very spread out, similar to L.A. But it also seems like a place that's going through a lot of political turmoil like a lot of other places. I definitely felt it in the air and the attitudes among the people. There seems to be a lot of tension.

The first time we went out there, we played at Tona Tierra and it showed us that there are a lot of beautiful people out there. People on Facebook have been asking us to come back and now here we are.

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Anthony Sandoval
Contact: Anthony Sandoval