Listen to just a few notes of Chicano Batman’s soulful throwback sounds and it’s easy to imagine it being the soundtrack to a laid-back, retro Chicano film. And with the name Chicano Batman, you can’t expect anything less than cool.
The Los Angeles-based band, which is on its Outer City Limits tour, will make a stop in Austin on Saturday at the Sahara Lounge.
Chicano Batman, a bilingual quartet, draws influences from 1960s Brazilian tropicália music, psychedelic rock and old-school Latin soul. It’s a nod to the past, but with a fresh take for a new generation of listeners.
The band name emerged one night at a college party, says vocalist and guitarist Bardo Martinez. He remembers doodling on the back of a piece of cardboard and ending up with a Chicano-inspired version of Batman, sporting a moustache and all. The character also led to the creation of the band’s Chicano Batman logo, which transforms the United Farm Workers of America’s iconic eagle symbol into a bat.
It was a playful idea that later began making a lot of sense to Martinez. In 2008, he launched Chicano Batman with Eduardo Arenas (bass, vocals) and Gabriel Villa (drums, vocals). They later added Carlos Arévalo (guitar) to the group. The inspiration for their eclectic sound emerged from a UCLA class focusing on film and social change. Martinez not only watched many off-the-beaten path Latin American films but also listened to their expressive soundtracks.
Moved by the feelings the songs stirred up, he set out to create music that could move others in the same way. Chicano Batman’s second full-length album, “Cycles of Existential Rhyme,” showcases bicultural music mashups that range from chilled out to cinematic.
Martinez says people are often curious about why he embraces the term Chicano when he’s both Colombian and Mexican-American. “To me, Chicano means a mixture,” he says. “I grew up riding a low-rider bike, loving oldies and being around cholos. At the same time, I didn’t fit into (Chicano culture). My mom is from Cartagena, and in many ways I grew up different than Chicanos. Not everything is black or white.”
It’s that gray space where Chicano Batman operates that makes the sounds of the past relevant today. The band’s Outer City Limits tour comes through town a week after the Austin City Limits festival, and the tour’s name brings attention to the bands on the outer edges of the major festival circuit. Martinez says that “people get comfortable musically” and bands that incorporate a Latin sound can be categorized as only Latino.
“These boundaries exist, and no one calls them out,” Martinez says. “As a band, we have no beef with any organizers … we just got to talk to each other, make it happen.”
As the band-to-watch continues pushing the limits, future plans include branching into indie rock, contributing some tracks to an upcoming PBS documentary and learning Ethiopian languages to incorporate into their multicultural sound.
IF YOU GO
What: Chicano Batman concert
Where: Sahara Lounge (1413 Webberville Road)
Cover: $10 (ages 21+)
For more information, visit chicanobatman.com.