Chicano Batman Love the Challenge of "Latin Psych Soul"
When new, exceptionally talented bands without a previously categorized sound come out, writers all over from Pitchfork to regional publications tend to throw any label at them that will stick, from "coldwave" to "afro-indie." The taxonomy behind music is something journalists and writers spend countless hours hammering away at, but when a band like southern California's Chicano Batman arises, Rialto-raised guitarist Carlos Arevalo has inadvertently discovered the best way to describe his group's relentlessly eclectic sound: a Venn diagram.
Jessica Augustine Chicano Batman
"If there was a Venn diagram with Latin and psychedelic soul, that middle ground is where we'd exist," he says.
Using a Venn diagram as a tool to describe his band Chicano Batman's distinctive hybrid of worldly rhythms is the best, and probably only, way to really give a label to what they do. Since their self-titled debut album was released four years ago, the quartet (initially a trio) have been producing a type of Latin-flavored funk that's as rare as it is accessible.
"We play shows and there's all types of people there. There's people that come for the psychedelic element, there's people that come for the Latin element. I think for the most part our music appeals to people that are really open-minded towards music," Arevalo says. "There's people that come that don't even know Spanish that enjoy the music for the melodic content and the arrangements. I think the passion and energy translates well; they know we're coming from a genuine place."
A show at La Cita in LA even prompted concert-goer and accomplished drummer Raul Morales (of legendary rocker Mike Watt's bands The Secondmen and The Missingmen) to pull aside Arevalo and proclaim to him how "punk" they really were. "He came up to me and was like 'You guys are a punk band, that energy is punk rock!'" recalls Arevalo.
It's that punk-esque "passion and energy" combined with the musicality and melodies that attracted Arevalo early on, and when he began playing with the group in 2011 after an invitation from friend and soon-to-be bandmate Bardo Martinez he took the gig so seriously Chicano Batman became his main musical focus. In order to perform alongside his new band for their outing at LA's 2011 Bloomfest show he had to learn virtually the entire debut album within a month's time, and not only did he accomplish that, but he also quickly became immersed in the recording process for their follow-up EP Joven Navegante
Arevalo, a self-taught musician, grew up adoring various shades of the genre spectrum. From an early age he began a listening journey that involved the likes of Television, Radiohead, Miles Davis, and Frank Zappa. In fifth grade he had been introduced to Weezer by a friend and was amazed, and by 14 years-old he was immersed in hip-hop culture, and rap's influence sparked a desire in Arevalo to take up turntables initially.