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Chicano Batman making exciting new strides following release of ambitious album

Chicano Batman — Bardo Martinez (from left), Eduardo Arenas, Gabriel Villa and Carlos Arevalo — headline Concord Hall on Friday.
Chicano Batman — Bardo Martinez (from left), Eduardo Arenas, Gabriel Villa and Carlos Arevalo — headline Concord Hall on Friday.
George Mays

Los Angeles-based Chicano Batman is soaring fearlessly into exotic new sonic hemispheres following the release of their ambitious 2020 album “Invisible People” and recent singles. For multi-instrumentalist member Carlos Arévalo, the “Invisible People” sessions felt like the moment “when the caterpillar sheds its skin and becomes a butterfly.”

“We felt like we were getting into some new territory that was fresh for us,” Arévalo says of the eclectic psych-soul quartet. “It was exciting and inspiring.”

After releasing several albums oozing with an adoration for ’70s soul and funk music, the band members realized they needed to shake things up, that they weren’t “beholden to this sound.”

“It was comfort food for us, we could excel in it, but we had other sources of inspiration: film, cinema, literature, other styles of music that we like and have grown up on,” says Arévalo. “We wanted that to filter through our songwriting, and we became open to that, and it was very liberating for everybody.”

For example, “Polymetronomic Harmony” has a “straight 4/4 beat that’s pumping along and it’s just locked into some tempos and groove that we hadn’t explored on previous records,” he notes.

That drive to keep trying new things carried over into the band’s recent single “Dark Star” and its b-side “Pastel Sunrise,” which came out earlier this year.

“That even lends itself to how we present ourselves on stage. We ditched the formal attire. We used to perform in suits and now we’re just out there being ourselves as the truest representation of who we are individually within this group project and it’s great,” says Arévalo. “The band is just continuing on this journey of just trying to make music that we want to hear, that feels fresh to us. And there’s no rules on how it gets made or who makes it and what it sounds like. It feels good.”

While its sound has grown more ambitious, the band remains committed to using music to provide important social commentary. The bandmates are not shy about getting into uncomfortable topics. For example, “Invisible People” is a reflection on what it’s “like to be a person that is ignored or not paid attention to by society, but you exist, and you live, and you thrive despite being viewed or not viewed in that way.”

“Despite being ignored, you’re still thriving and doing your thing,” says Arévalo. “For me, the song is about being a person of color and reflecting on how, for decades, growing up, you didn’t see representation. You didn’t see people that looked like me or my friends in meaningful roles in the media or on TV, movies, especially in Los Angeles.

“You see movies about Los Angeles and there’s no Latinos in the movie, and [then] you go to Los Angeles and [you see] Latinos, Black folks were everywhere, Asian people [everywhere], but you don’t see that representation. That was kind of a critique on that and [I’m] just saying, ‘Despite that, we’re here and we’re going to keep on keeping on.’”

The band hopes to start working on its next album following the current tour. Arévalo expects the new material to continue the momentum of the band’s recent releases. For his part, playing keyboards in addition to guitar has opened up songwriting possibilities.

“I tend to write a lot on keyboards now and then develop the guitars later, around the time that the lyrics get made,” he says. “It’s like a different type of songwriting than I used to do in the past, which is just write everything on guitar, and so that’s opened up new palettes”

For now, the band is enjoying being back on the road. “People love [the songs],” says Arévalo of the tour so far. “It’s a beautiful affirmation for us that we were doing something that still resonates with people.”