Humble Superheroes for the Millennium
Chicano Batman invents newly-imagined, guitar-heavy tunes that are smooth and cool, lounge-like, with a deep and capacious 1970s soul vibe. Theirs is a throwback psychedelic sound from a tomorrow that was dreamed of centuries ago.
With five albums under their collective mariachi belts, their most recent production is Invisible People (2020). A quartet, their range in symphonic. Members include Bardo Martinez handling lead vocals, keyboards, and guitar; Eduardo Arenas on bass, guitar, and vocals; Gabriel Villa – who is from Cali, Colombia, on drums and percussion; and Carlos Arévalo playing guitars and keyboards.
As reported in The Guardian, "Chicano Batman aren't your typical rock band. Four Latinos from the LA area and beyond (drummer Gabriel Villa is from Cali, Colombia), they've developed a cult following in the city with their "LA Tropicalia" blend of soulful music lifted from all over Central and South America. It's a tradition that beyond a few choice compilations is far less explored than its North American equivalent. That's something they want to change."
Music is change while changing music is a conjuring, a congregation, a remembrance. The evolution of the band from 70's groove psychedelic jam-band to the multi-genre-bending formation that produced "Invisible People", CB has always engaged the social and political themes they experience as Latinos/Latinx living in the US.
As the band explained for the release of Invisible People, "The album is both the band's most sonically-varied and cohesive. It is a statement of hope, a proclamation that we are all invisible people, and that despite race, class, or gender we can overcome our differences and stand together."
In the title track, Bardo Martinez's vocals invite you to consider a possible shared social reality across apparent differences: "Invisible people, the truth is we're all the same/The concept of race was implanted inside your brain….Invisible people, the truth is we take the blame/Fuck the system, it created so much pain." Who and what attempts to render people invisible? If people are rendered invisible, or put another way, actively not seen, is it easier to not care about them?
"Manuel's Story, as Mathew Ismael Ruiz writes in Pitchfork, is "a frantic jaunt of a song driven by a spacey synth melody that belies its bleak narrative, which tells of an uncle who fled cartel violence to live in the U.S. It's a vignette that distills the collateral damage of America's drug war and Mexican immigration, a reminder of the people rendered invisible by capitalist political forces."
Grounded in the beauty of the survival politics of everyday life, composing lyrics that enchant with stories of struggle, love, and possibility, Chicano Batman invites a deep reflection through listening, while your body grooves to heartbeat rhythms and wah-wah sonic sounds.
Listen to the 2017 interview with NPR here. Check out their Instagram page here. Or their Spotify account here. Chicano Batman is also playing some upcoming dates in California, Tijuana, Mexico City, and Arizona.