“It’s a restless moment,” opens the scene for “Cycles of Existential Rhyme,” the single and self-titled EP by Chicano Batman.
For us cultura-obsessed Latino/as, the four-piece band Chicano Batman has been a well-kept secret for quite some time, and now with a spot in the 2015 Coachella lineup, their audience is quickly growing far beyond the neighborhoods of East LA.
We had a chance to talk to the boys about the process behind their music, where they see themselves in the current cultural movements, and how their latest song “Cycles of Existential Rhyme” came together. Catch the premiere of the video for the track here, filmed in LA’s historic La Cita bar and directed by Giovanni Solis.
Can you tell me a little bit about how the band came together?
Eduardo: The band came together in 2008. Bardo had a handful of songs. Chicano Batman was an alter-ego thing, but he had the logo and idea ready. We knew each other from the Chicano scene and he hit me up about playing together. Then we met Gabo in the parking lot of a cumbia show. We just put a song list together and had a show a month later. Moving forward, it has been a very positive experience.
How do you feel your experience growing up is translated into the music?
Eduardo: Growing up in Boyle Heights, we heard the kind of music people play when they are working in the fábrica like the ranchera station, or when they’re at a carne asada. Some of this music is the soundtrack to everyday people’s relaxation. This music is our bread and butter. The context of the music runs deep through issues like poverty, immigration, and cultural identity.
Gabo: Rhythm was my first passion. I was born and raised in Colombia, raised in Cali. Cali is like a pachanga 24/7. Everything is a reason for celebration. We dance everything. Salsa, cumbia, and merengue are like three best friends at a party. Everyone dances, it’s just an expression of your soul. It’s a way of being and it’s your freedom. You dance to feel alive. That’s what I bring to the table.
What is the collaboration process between the band?
Carlos: When I write music, I bring it to the guys and we arrange it together. I don’t write lyrics, I just never got into that headspace, but I trust them 100%. It’s kind of like a blank slate and they get to color it. There’s no set way to do it, it’s just whatever gets the song done.
“The message travels a lot further when you have an honest, sincere song underneath it.”
Eduardo: There’s something about the give and take, the pull, the conflict, and the resolution. Our personalities really come out in the music. Everybody adds a different dimension, it’s not just musical. We’re living on the stage when we play. We are putting out a rhythm of life. The sound of the band is cool, but it’s really the vibration we put out from our relationships as people.
Do you think music is a form of resistance?
Eduardo: No doubt. At the end of the day some of the stuff we play, we grew up listening to. Not by choice, just by inheritance. The rhythms that we play, that’s in our blood. Maybe you can’t speak out about capitalism or NAFTA or any of those big issues and be heard, but when you play music, the message travels a lot further when you have an honest, sincere song underneath it. I think that is more universal than just words.
A lot of the lyrics use feminine concepts, can you elaborate on this?
Bardo: I understand how music is male-dominated. I mean, we are a boy band. We live in patriarchy, but I try to refer to things in a feminine way. For example, I have this one song that refers to God as Her. I’ve been around a lot of amazing women who have influenced me. Politically too, I went to school. I know what’s fucked up in the world and I want to be opposite of that. I want to speak against that shit.
How do you feel your music fits into the Latino/a art movement?
Carlos: Being on the road and getting messages from people all over the world about how much they like our music is very humbling. It makes me realize we’re part of this cultural movement. We as a band are creating culture. It’s something really special that’s bigger than us.
“We feel things differently. There’s something essential there. There’s a spirit there that hasn’t died.”
Bardo: For me, it’s important to represent a good band but at the same time, its more about communicating the spirit. I think we all connect to that in different ways. It’s about getting to the root of being human. I believe we’re connected to the line of people who have lived a certain way for thousands of years. Our ancestors who worked the land. No one knows why we feel a certain way. We feel things differently. There’s something essential there. There’s a spirit there that hasn’t died.
What was the process of writing “Cycles of Existential Rhyme”?
Bardo: Carlos wrote the lead melodies when he played in another band. I loved the song. It was instrumental. I always imagined it would be dope to sing on this song. Once we had the whole band together, I was pushing these fools to do this song. A few years ago on New Years, I was going home and listening to the song. I was really feeling it. There was a full moon and everything. It was an epic moment of reflection. I always try to situate myself in the moment I’m living in. When I sat down to write down the song, I wrote it from the perspective of that night. It’s like a movie, I was watching my life from afar. We all do that; we contemplate. The song tries to show the connection that everything is interconnected. Life is not linear, everything just goes in circles.