Eduardo Arenas, bassist for Chicano Batman, had just put his baby to sleep when we met on Zoom for a video interview. Now three months old, Arenas’ first-born child entered the world about one month after Los Angeles’ COVID-19 shutdown. It was a home birth, something that the parents had planned beforehand and that turned out to be a fortuitous decision. “It was at a time where there wasn’t a lot of information out there and the hospitals were already swamped,” he says. “It would be the case where I would not be able to go with my wife to deliver the baby.”
And the massive event cancelation that happened at the dawn of the pandemic worked to Arenas’s favor as well. Were it not for that, he might have been preparing to play Coachella with Chicano Batman in mid-April and spending the first few months of the baby’s life on tour with the band to promote their latest album, Invisible People.
“When we found out my wife was pregnant, the schedule was already in motion,” says Arenas. He realized that the baby was due Coachella weekend. “I was stressed the fuck out,” he recalls. The band worked out a touring schedule that would give him time to make frequent trips back home, but, in the end, that wasn’t necessary.
Yes, the pandemic meant the tour was canceled, but it also allowed Arenas to stay home at a crucial time. “How in the world is this possible right now that I’m going to be with my baby for, essentially, a whole year? Paternal leave for a year?” he says. “It’s this rare opportunity that doesn’t happen in the United States, and a lot of places in the world, considering that you have to work and everything.”https://www.instagram.com/p/B_ya5WcABf4/
There’s a downside, though, he says. While Arenas and family have been able to hunker down together, the pandemic has also limited bonding with the extended family. “My mom will probably not be able to carry her grandson before he crawls, maybe before he walks. Who knows?” he says. “I don’t know how far this is going to go.”
Meanwhile, Chicano Batman also celebrated the release of their fourth album, the wonderfully psychedelic Invisible People, in the midst of the shutdown.
“Invisible People has a different interpretation to a lot of people,” Arenas says. “To me, it’s paying homage to people who make the world go around, or at least this country go around, that do not get recognition for it.”
The album was recorded in 2019, but by the time of its May 1 release, and in the weeks to follow, its themes took on new meaning. “I think that we’re in a time now of revolution, whether it’s mental or psychological or harmonious,” he says. “We’re all in quarantine. There’s a lot of time for reflection, a lot of time for processing. A lot of things that we haven’t processed in a long time.”
He adds, “I think you cannot deny that the invisible people of this country have been shafted for a very long time.”
Arenas says that they were a little more intentionally political with their last album, Freedom Is Free, the title track of which was released right before Donald Trump’s inauguration. “We didn’t anticipate that we would be on this political front again,” he says of the release of Invisible People.
“I think you cannot deny that the invisible people of this country have been shafted for a very long time.”
During this downtime, Chicano Batman has still kept busy. The band collaborated with HomeState on a vegan taco, with proceeds benefitting Watts Empowerment Center and No Us Without You. The former has been providing pandemic-related support for those in Watts and on Skid Row; the latter brings food to undocumented families in the hospitality industry whose work has been impacted by the pandemic.
It may be quite some time before the band can hit the road in support of Invisible People, but Arenas has found a silver lining there as well. He says, “Eventually, when we do get to go out and play, people will know the material and sing along.”