Chicano Batman is one of the most sharply dressed bands on tour right now, and they’re gaining an increasing fan base and wide reputation as a stylish show stopper. The band played back-to-back weekends at Coachella, where they first played in 2015 and were named one of The 10 Stylish Bands to Watch for at Coachella by Paste. They also recently made their late-night premiere on Conan, performing their song “Friendship (Is a Small Boat in a Storm).”
The band is on tour supporting the release of their album Freedom Is Free (ATO), produced by Leon Michels (The Shacks, The Arcs) at Diamond Mine Recordings in Long Island City, NY.
Off-stage, these guys looks like laid back dudes with SoCal Style. On-stage, they are a modern rendition of Thee Midniters in matching tailored suits. While frontman Bardo Martinez spends his evenings on stage breaking the hearts of audience members with vocals as smooth as Boz Scaggs and dressed as sharply as Marvin Gaye, his everyday look is a t-shirt, jeans and Converse, ready to jump on the long board he brings on tour.
While the uniform onstage look of vocalist Bardo Martinez, bassist Eduardo Arenas, drummer Gabriel Villa and guitarist Carlos Arévalo has made the band highly visible and identifiable, these guys more than look classy; they are a class act. Whether it’s taking the time to meet with fans, pose for pictures, send personalized video messages or promote their opening acts, the band takes the time to connect and reach fans on a personal level.
The title and message of their latest album is closely in line with the current political climate, and though the material was written two years ago, it resonates with today’s ever changing notion of freedom. It’s this timely message that has made the fans all that more emotionally connected to the music.
Though Paste caught up with the band at sold out shows at New York’s Bowery Ballroom and The Glass House in Pomona, CA, Paste Design sat down to talk fashion and new music before the tour takes the group to Mexico next month.
Paste: In 2015 you were named the second Most Stylish Bands to watch at Coachella by Paste Magazine (behind Angel Olsen) what has and hasn’t changed since then?
Arévalo: At that time we were wearing polyester pants and ruffled shirts, we’ve since upgraded to three-piece suits with a little more of a sleek look.
Villa: We had a bigger crowd, more support, a better time slot and were able to navigate the festival a little better. It was great. It was amazing. I’m glad this time it wasn’t that hot. The first time we played we opened the festival at 1pm. This time we felt great. We have a new album so we were expressing new material. It was fresh and it felt good. The first time we felt that it was too big (for us), but this time we felt ready for it and more comfortable.
Paste: Where do you get those great suits?
Martinez: We get our suits in the Garment District of L.A. at a place called SuitFellas and get them tailored locally.
Paste: How are you the only member who got to cut off your sleeves? Was that from the heat of Coachella?
Villa: No, actually. It’s a funny story. We were playing another festival and I finished a set and my shirt was soaked. I saw a little lamp in the hotel room and thought I could put it there for a little while to dry. I stepped outside for some fresh air and when I came back the whole room was filled with smoke! The mangas (sleeves) were on fire! I put it out, thankfully. We had a show the next day and it was really hot, I thought, burnt mangas so not worth it. So I cut them off.
Paste: What’s your off-stage look?
Arenas: Since I was a kid, I was into second-hand clothes by necessity. I hate buying clothes and will wear whatever fits me.
Arévalo: I like fitted clothes; pants and t-shirts.
Martinez: I like to wear Converse because I bring my longboard on tour, so I stopped wearing dress shoes on stage. So that’s my on and off stage look. I only turn that shit on at night.
Villa: I like comfort at home. Comfy pants, jogging wear, sports jacket to go out, v-neck shirts and tight fitting clothes.
Paste: The new album was released March 3. What has it been like to tour this album in this political environment? Has there been more political discussion surrounding the album.
Martinez: We released a thesis statement about the song “Freedom is Free” and it became a platform for debate. Its really a response to war time propaganda namely the catch phrase “Freedom isn’t Free”, the notion that war is necessary, that it is the price we pay for freedom. Our position is that freedom is a feeling as natural as the air we breathe and there is no government that can give it to you or take it away. Yes humans have perpetuated extreme forms of destruction and suffering, but that is because they are trying to control the uncontrollable. No matter how hard humans try nature will always shift and change as it does. The human spirit is the same because we are also a part of nature. Freedom is Free is a reminder for us to tap into that reality, to connect with the universe around us so we can truly be ourselves.
Purchase the album here, and watch “Freedom Is Free Live” @ Lincoln Hall here.