Interview: Eduardo Arenas of Chicano Batman

Chicano Batman (Photo: Josué Rivas)

Chicano Batman
(Photo: Josué Rivas)

For a band, if you’re going to have a weirdly interesting name, then you better be good. With their unique and soulful sound, Los Angeles’ Chicano Batman are one of the top up-and-coming acts of 2017. They incorporate an influx of cultures and styles to create their own identity. In an age where art can easily be duplicated, this quartet strives to be different. They’ll be showing people why at the Green River Festival taking place at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA, Jul 14-16; they’re scheduled to play Sunday, Jul 16, at 3:40pm.

Before the upcoming extravaganza, I had a chat with bass guitarist Eduardo Arenas about artistic inspiration, those cool vintage suits, recording with vintage equipment and what the band’s plans are for the rest of 2017.

Rob Duguay (Motif): Chicano Batman has this Latin-infused soul sound that’s rhythmic and infectious. What inspired you guys to capture this particular style when the band was starting out?

Eduardo Arenas: One of the reasons we got together was Bardo [Martinez] and I had a relationship in terms of the music coming from Brazil. Stuff by João Gilberto and a lot of bossa nova, music that took things from other genres and made it their own. It kind of revolutionized that whole æsthetic to a whole new generation. We wanted to do the same with our æsthetic vision of music we like and the direction that we wanted to take it into. There was a lot of freshness that came out of that with a lot of fresh ideas along with rebelling and being different.

RD: That particular influence is noticeable through the band’s originality. Now where can one get one of those vintage suits that you guys wear? Do you get them from a friend in Los Angeles or do you hit up thrift stores to see if they have any?

EA: Going through thrift stores can be good, but you probably can find one – but you can’t find two, and good luck finding four that match. There’s a place in L.A. called Big Fella’s that we went to and they’ve got some great apparel there that’s pretty cheap. They’re pretty cool people so we like to go to them and they support us so we have a good relationship.

RD: Nice.

EA: They’re right in downtown L.A.

RD: Very cool. I’ve always wondered about that since I discovered you guys, I thought “Man, look at these frickin’ suits!” The band’s latest album Freedom Is Free was released this past March, and you got to work with a lot of old-school analog equipment with producer Leon Michels. Do you feel that the recording process was any different than before due to what you were using in the studio?

EA: For one thing, the quality of sound is really subjective. Maybe Shania Twain and Celine Dion will have the $100,000 budget to get top quality digital equipment to help forge the path to win a Grammy. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, though, it was pretty much what you had to work with and it’s great to know that over in the East Coast, Leon Michels and a bunch of others have taken to that æsthetic. Basically when we go into the studio, there are a couple things you already know. Number 1, the machine is going to do its own thing on top of what you put down on it. There’s going to be fizz, there’s going to be warping and other things are going to happen that’s amazing. Number 2, play your ass off and play well because we’re doing all live takes in one shot.

There’s something about the energy being captured in the room at that moment that’s going to be captured on tape. That, in itself, is special – and it’s amazing to be a part of that process. With all that going on, why would you want to multi-track? To do the drums and then the bass and then the guitar. You don’t cook like that either, you put everything together to see what happens. So why do anything different with music? That’s what we try to do and with all the great gear that they had, there’s no point in having dope gear if you don’t have the talent, the initiative and the will to make the best thing you could possibly do with your music.

RD: What would you say was the oldest piece of equipment that Leon had? Was it all from the ‘50s and ‘60s or was there stuff that was even older?

EA: They had the original Sars pedal, the original wah-wah pedal. They had a Silvertone guitar from the ‘50s, basses from the ‘60s. They had Hammond and Altec compressors and preamps from the ‘50s that they used in Motown. I’m talking about stuff that Jimi Hendrix was using when he recorded. There was stuff that we didn’t know worked or not but they looked cool as if they were a museum piece. They had all this stuff.

RD: It must have been a wild experience to be surrounded by so many classic types of gear. To use stuff that Jimi Hendrix used must have been pretty rad. After the Green River Festival, what does the rest of the year have in store for Chicano Batman?

EA: We’re right in the middle of our tour for the summer. We’re doing a bunch of other festivals along with playing the Central Park Summerstage. We have three sold out shows back-to-back-to-back at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles [Sep 21-23] which is a pretty big deal for us. After all this, we do a big tour in the fall so we have everything laid out. We’re going to be shooting a music video pretty soon, too, so be on the lookout for that when it comes out.

Buy tickets to the Green River Festival here:

Green River Festival web site:

Chicano Batman web site:

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