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ulab music

The West Coast soul and Latino heart of Chicano Batman

Listen to the new U-LAB Podcast episode with this band that has played at Coachella and opened for Jack White.
21 Jul 2017 – 03:17 PM EDT
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Chicano Batman

You might recognize them from that Johnny Walker commercial that played during the Superbowl: Four Latino guys in retro suits walking down the streets of Boyle Heights, singing a bilingual version of the American classic 'This Land is Your Land'. It was a powerful pop culture moment that the Los Angeles band Chicano Batman says is "one of the clearest statements that Chicano Batman has done."

"It redefines whose land this is," says bassist and vocalist Eduardo Arenas. "A lot of people would not feel comfortable seeing four Latinos sing that song. It's a political statement in itself, in the time of Trump, in the time of ICE raids."

The soul rock band released its latest album, Freedom is Free in March and after playing Coachella multiple times and serving as opening act for Jack White in the past, is currently on an ambitious tour that started this summer and will extend through November.

In this interview for the U-LAB Podcast, it was hard at first to distinguish the voices of Arenas and Bardo Martínez (lead vocals, guitars and organ) calling in from their hometown of LA. But soon enough, the conversation flowed and I felt I was talking to my Mexican and Colombian long-lost cousins who I share musical references with. In fact, through the course of our conversation, Martínez and Arenas mentioned groups as varied as Rage Against the Machine, Los Angeles Negros, Roberto Carlos, Ralfi Pagán and Al Green as inspirations.

Chicano Batman might not do typical "Latin music", whatever that means, but in their songs they bring their identity, their "sea of history" (as they put it) and bilingual skills to the forefront. "With Chicano Batman we wanted to pay homage and respect not only to Black soul but also the soul coming out of Mexico, Chile, Colombia, in the 50s, 60s and 70s," says Martínez, who sings several songs in Spanish in the new album. "It takes a lot of work and a lot of thought into how you can be yourself in this world. That's the point of Chicano Batman, is to able to craft a style of music that sets itself apart and simultaneously makes these historical references and connects with the present as well."

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