Editors’ Notes “I think the main idea was to make a record that was as strong as possible,” Chicano Batman vocalist/keyboardist Bardo Martinez tells Apple Music. “The drive was really strong because of the growing fanbase and all the work that we’ve done over the years—we’ve also grown a lot, so it’s time to lay it down.” The LA-based psych-soul four-piece wanted to raise the stakes on their fourth album, looking to reinvent themselves and their sound after 2017’s profile-boosting Freedom Is Free—even if change was hard for them to accept at first. “I was the most resistant to that,” says bassist/guitarist Eduardo Arenas. On Invisible People, the band touches on their trademark styles—funk, Tropicalia, soul, bugalú—while adding rock backbeats and steering in a pop-leaning direction, although it was important for them to maintain the essence of their past work. “They don’t know who we are,” Arenas says of potential bandwagon-jumpers being welcomed into the fold. “I think we’re finally giving the audience an opportunity to see inside.” Here, Martinez and Arenas, alongside guitarist Carlos Arévalo, guide us through a sonic journey with this track-by-track guide.
Color My Life Eduardo Arenas: “When Bardo brought in the demo, I knew immediately that this was going to be our single. It was a hit. Simple, funky, uplifting, and catchy as hell. And I thought, ‘I'm in.’”
Blank Slate Bardo Martinez: “A smooth ride, dream state, really about the personal journey and bringing on the listeners to whatever vibe we're projecting. And vice versa—everything around you has a way of influencing your thought process in some way or another.”
I Know It BM: “It’s a love story. It's about the power of premonition. It's a feeling that became reality. It's separating your own ego from it all and believing in the power of life itself.” Carlos Arévalo: “This is a song that went into three iterations before you hear the final product that's on the record. And it changed again when we were recording it at Barefoot [Barefoot Recording Studio]. We had a session with Eduardo and [drummer] Gabriel [Villa]. And I showed them the tune and we rearranged it for like Bardo's YC-30 organ sound. And we came up with a groove and it was cool. We liked the vibe. Everyone was happy with it.”
Invisible People EA: “This one originally started off as a demo that we pitched to Johnnie Walker for the ‘This Land Is Your Land’ rendition that we did. We sent them three demos, and they didn't choose this one, which relieved all of us—because we really loved this song. And we're like, 'Hell yeah, we get to keep it for ourselves.' We were all attached to our arrangements, and we've all been hearing the tracks for eight months now, so Leon [Michels, Dap-Kings producer] would be like, 'I got an idea, why don't we just slow it down?' And it created so much space and intensity. And I think it made the words stand out even further, you know?” BM: “It's a message and a proclamation. All of us are invisible. Invisible because of the ways in which people are categorized throughout history and society. Regardless, we're living, we're moving, and we're going to shake you with this music. I mean, it's really kind of trying to approach that the biggest problems that we have in society is the conflict of race itself. It is hard to shake that, because it's so ingrained. I just wanted to like throw it out there, like, 'Yo, this is actually just a concept. This is just made up.'”
Manuel’s Story EA: “I was in Panama at the time. Earlier last year, in February, and I was hanging with my uncle, Manuel, and he's from Cartagena, Colombia. My family is from there, and my mom's from there. And he had to flee 20 years ago because one of my other uncles had some drugs on him. He was selling some, or trafficking some drugs, to some dealer. And the dealer wanted to get his money back, but my other uncle spent it all. It was easy to imagine and it played out like a Tarantino movie in my head, so it was easy to put it on paper. And the way I write is the way you hear the story—pretty much the way my uncle told it to me. And it's guns blazing and all. I think it's a fun kind of edgy action flick.” CA: “This song was an exercise in patience. Because in Chicano Batman world, when we all four get together, it's cutthroat when we try to show each other our arrangements. If the fire is not happening immediately, oof, you get put on the back burner and forgotten about, so you better bring your A game when you present a song to the band. Whether it's Eduardo, Bardo, me, whoever. You can feel the sweat dripping down like the sides of your armpits.”
Moment of Joy EA: “Sleeper hit, bro. I think this is one of our favorites. For us, this is a f**king West Coast, lean in, dig in, f**king lifestyle. And we're not faking it. That's us.” BM: “Laidback G-funk something beat, ode to boogie, elevator '80s, West Coast, hip-hop. There's a lot of people making music like that on your modern psychedelia or top indie playlist, just a lot of beats. You just hear a lot of beats, and then a lot of times you hear a soft vocal on it. It could be something like Whitney—a lot of cats are doing this. All right, we could do this too. Just getting the pop hit, you know? Just provide some catchy lyrics.”
Pink Elephant EA: “When I did the song with Gabriel, I didn't think about Chicano Batman. Because that was too limiting. I was like, 'You know what? Let's make the sickest beat we can possibly find.' We spent two to thee hours creating the sound. The demo didn't take so long to record. We just kept flying and flying and just creating the sickest villa type of feel, type of fat meat that we can get.” BM: “‘Pink Elephant’ is a play on 'the elephant in the room.' The lyrics describe the situation and create a fictional character, a woman à la Beatrix Kiddo [Uma Thurman in Kill Bill], who slashes up the competition and takes the violent route out of an awkward situation. I wanted to create just like edgy lyrics, whatever worked and stood out. Whatever was colorful and pop with it.”
Polymetronomic Harmony BM: “I was inspired by a late-'60s avant-garde sound. The core progression came in like warm waves, and because of the fever high, I was dealing at the time. The verse came like the summer of love, with the angst of a fever. When tracking the beat, I needed to be driving to the sea of festivalgoers swaying their limbs around in a chaotic swarm under a blazing sun.” CA: “I remember Bardo came to my house and showed me the demo. And then I came up with a little melody that adds to his vocal on the pocket. It sounds '60s, it kind of reminds you of something Stereolab was doing like in 1997 off Dots and Loops, like their interpretation of '60s music, so I kind of went that route with some of the keyboard. And then the end needed a '60s-sounding fuzz guitar solo, so that was the route that I went. I was trying to complete the vibe and the direction that Bardo was aiming for the track, just trying to accent it.”
The Way EA: “This was one of my favorite songs because it reminds me of old Chicano Batman. When Bardo or somebody else brings a demo in, sometimes it's not about the song. It's about other bulls**t. All that unsettled bulls**t around personal life that now you're like, 'Oh, you got a demo, f**k you.' And so I think this one started out that way. But then, when I heard that, I was like, 'Motherf**ker, that song is great, oh, I like it. All right, let's do this.'” BM: “‘The Way’ is just trying to find the inspiration in life to keep on going, to find happiness, to find joy. There's something about my mom that I love. She's always inspired that light that's shown us so much love and light since I was born. And it's just me trying to ask her, 'Show me the way to live,' because there is a way to live.”
The Prophet BM: “All of us have good intentions for the most part. And in life, we're just humans and we're just trying to live now and navigating in society—so I just wanted to play with that idea. And we're in a band, we're living off of this music. It's like we're the music industry itself, we're creating vibes, but we don't really make anything, you know? We're just making energy. It had a few lines in there together. And I remember Carlos not feeling the 'I'm a prophet for profit' hook. And I was like, 'Wow, that s**t is f**king money, though.'”
Bella CA: “I remember I was in the rehearsal studio with Gabriel, and Eduardo and Bardo left to go get lunch. And I had this rhythm guitar part that was like some Chic, Nile Rodgers kind of vibe that I was toying with just for rehearsal. And Gabriel came up with the beat to it. I had my loop pedal and I looped my rhythm guitar and then I jumped on the bass. It was just for fun. I didn't think it was going to become any kind of song.” EA: “I think Bardo and I, without even saying anything, knew this had to be a f**king Jorge Ben, mid-‘70s, late-’70s samba funk kind of a thing. It had to be a mover. The depth is in that swing and in the groove. And that's another approach we had never really done before. It's like, 'Let's create the atmosphere and keep it there like it could be a 13-minute single on a 45.'”
Wounds CA: “I talked to Bardo about it and I told him, ‘I have an idea for a song.’ Or if he would be open to writing lyrics about a song about a dream I had. It was about my grandmother who had passed away during the writing sessions for this record, and then a few months later, I had a dream and she was in it—and we were hanging out in the dream. I was conscious that she was gone, but in the dream, I was having a great time talking to her and seeing her. And I woke up and had that feeling of elation of seeing someone that had passed away and realizing, ‘Oh, that was a dream.’ She's still gone, but it's also enlightening because it made me realize that they're never gone. I just have to dream about them and I will always see them, even if they're not physically here on earth.” BM: “I think Chicano Batman can do an album of ‘Wounds,’ easy. That’s our forte, you know? We can always fall back on sad, melodic songs. And I think that's why it came together really fast.”
Color my life
I know It
Moment of Joy
12 Songs, 39 Minutes
May 1, 2020
℗ 2020 ATO Records, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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