If you want proof that an indie band can make it increasingly big in today’s music world, look no further than Chicano Batman, the Los Angeles outfit that will be playing at Schmidy’s Tavern on Monday, Oct. 20.
Chicano Batman originally came together as a trio, put together by Bardo Martinez (guitar, vocals and keyboard), Eduardo Arenas (bass, guitar) and Gabriel Villa (drums) in 2008, The band fused Latin music styles, as well as space-psychedelia, American soul and even electric-jazz instrumentals. The group gained attention first in Los Angeles, and later in other markets throughout the Southwest.
In 2011, the band became a four-piece, adding Carlos Arévalo (guitar).
“I’ve known Bardo (Martinez) since I was 20 years old,” Arévalo said during a recent phone interview. “He had been a fan of a band that I was in, and we always talked about playing music together. What prevented us from doing that was I was living in the Inland Empire at the time, and he was living in West Los Angeles and going to UCLA. The group as a three-piece cut a record, and it was well received. Shortly after that, I moved closer to Los Angeles, and Bardo called me up and said that he wanted to play more of the organ, and he wanted me to play guitar. I joined in 2011.”
When it comes to Chicano Batman’s sound, there’s something for everyone.
“We’re just big fans of music in general,” Arévalo said. “A lot of the references you hear are because we’re fans of that music. For example, we love the music of David Axelrod, who is a composer, but he scored film music, and (his music) would be pretty funny, psychedelic and something like a hip-hop producer would sample. We really like that kind of sound—those funky instrumentals.
“The group is into Brazilian music and Cumbia music, and we’re also fans of soul music in general—American soul and Latin American soul. It has great bass lines and great breakbeats. We draw a lot of inspiration from that.”
Chicano Batman has built a huge fan base through exposure gained by touring. The members have also managed to build a following through self-promotion of their music, as well as word of mouth. They’ve appeared in festivals put together by major promoters, including the Viva Pomona! event back in July.
In other words, Chicano Batman is very good at marketing.
“We get emails from a lot of fans, and they want us to come through their city,” Arévalo said. “We know where there’s demand, and we sell a lot of our music online. We’re independent, so we see where a lot of our records are being sold. Obviously, we have a huge fan base in the Southwest. … We also played in New York this past July as part of an East Coast tour. … We also played in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., and the fan base was (made up of people from) all different kinds of backgrounds and ethnicities. We also toured in Japan last November; we did the whole island and played about seven shows.
“People feel that we’re doing something genuine, and that it’s from our soul, and they appreciate it.”
When the group plays at Schmidy’s, Desert Hot Springs’ Slipping Into Darkness will joining them for the show. It won’t be the first time the two bands have shared the same stage.
“We love them, and we think they’re an amazing band,” Arévalo said. “Every time we have the opportunity to pass through the desert, we always ask them, ‘Can we play a show together?’ They’re just such a great group, and they’re all amazing musicians. It’s all about the songwriting—and they have great songwriting. It’s just a sound I feel that you can only get out there in the desert, and I’m not talking Queens of the Stone Age. I feel they’re carrying that tradition of really original music that can only be made in that area.”
Chicano Batman will perform with Slipping Into Darkness and Fever Dog at 8:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20, at Schmidy’s Tavern, 72286 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $7. For more information, call 760-837-3800, or check out the event’s Facebook page.