I've listened to the four songs on Batmen's 2010 demo hundreds of times since getting hipped to this mysterious (to me) Portland band early last year. During the months it took to log those hundreds of listens, I checked in on Batmen's Facebook page once in a while to scope the scene, hoping for an update about new material, upcoming shows, t-shirts, head colds, whatever. But nope—nothing. Not a peep.
Which was kind of okay with me, because those four songs were (and are) so good that I almost felt like Batmen didn't have to do anything ever again. From surf-punk to pop-punk to dark, exploratory post-punk, Batmen's demo does a captivating dance on that dash between punk and everything else, and I'm still not sick of it. Opening track "Doje Don't Surf" is especially wicked, its three minutes and forty-two seconds still capable of raising full-body goosebumps on me, even though I've memorized its every contour.
Okay, just listen already: BATMEN ON BANDCAMP
I figured Batmen had quietly bitten the dust, leaving a nearly perfect and too-brief collection of songs for knuckleheads of the future to blog about and puzzle over.
But such was not the case.
As of February 27, Batmen is once again updating its Facebook page and playing shows around town. This fresh burst of activity happened to coincide with my random friend-of-a-friend Facebook encounter with Batmen's bass player, Adam Garcia, who agreed to tag team my Batmen-related questions via email with guitarist-vocalist Jose De Lara.
How did it feel playing again after such a long break? Like riding a bike? Or like losing a bike and then wandering around town trying to find it?
Adam: Like riding a bike! It felt great and I was glad that a lot of friends came out to our first show back.
Jose: I've had dreams about getting too drunk and losing my bike somewhere in town. But that didn't happen, not with the band at least. It was just like we never stopped playing.
WW: So what happened anyway? Where did you guys go? A break of necessity or did time just get away from y'all?
Adam: I was in California for a few months and Naveed was back home in South Carolina for a few months as well. It was a break of necessity on both of our parts, both work and family related. Jose and Andy stuck around and worked on other projects.
I didn't get hip to Batmen until last year. How long have you been playing together? How did it come together?
Adam: We've been together since about 2010 at least in this incarnation. We were in another band called Ganglionn that Andy, Jose and I started when we moved here in September 2008. We toured to SXSW and broke up shortly thereafter. We wanted to play stuff more in the vein of the Wipers, Rudimentary Peni, Rikk Agnew, rather than the heavier Unwound-esque jams that Ganglionn was doing.
Jose: Adam, Naveed, and I used to live in Boston and played shows together in different bands. I was kind of sitting on my hands in my hometown San Diego after I left Boston, unsatisfied with the music scene. I asked Andy, another San Diego native, if he wanted to move to Portland with me and Adam, even though they didn't know each other from before. He was all for it, so we chugged beers all the way up the 5 and the rest is history.
Are any of you in other bands?
Adam: Me and Jose were in a band called Drunk Dad, and I'm playing bass in a band called Wasichu as well.
Jose: Andy and I play in an electro party band called Jizz Wisard. Naveed has his own psychedelic video and music project called the Boo Jays.
The demo sounds to me like a band still in the process of figuring out what it wants to be, in the best way. It veers from surf-punk to pop-punk to Wipers-style darkness to spooky post-punk. An intentional strategy? Or just the way things came out?
Adam: We kind of recorded that in a rush to have something to sell on our first tour, with Tiny Knives. Not necessarily intentional, but I like how varied it is considering how little time we spent on it.
Jose: Some of those songs we've had for a long time, with other projects. Some of them came together right before we recorded.
Is your new stuff similarly eclectic? Or are you settling into a groove?
Jose: I think now our newest material has focused a little more on the darker Wipers feel, but we still veer off into different directions and are always drawing from lots of different places.
Does Batmen drink alcohol during band practice? During shows?
Adam: Yes and Yes, haha.
Jose: I wish Andy was here to answer this question haha. He'd say "YEAH MOTHERFUCKER!" and then shotgun a beer.
Okay, now a few quick and dirty questions that you have to answer with the first thing that comes to mind...
Best Black Flag singer?
Minor Threat or Fugazi?
Both: Minor Threat!
House show or club show?
Both: House show!
What's the best band in Portland right now?
Jose: I'm looking forward to seeing a lot more of Concrete Floor, Alex from ASSS' solo project
Green Day is awesome, right?
SEE IT: Batmen plays at the Know on Monday, March 12 with Valkyrie Rodeo, Tyrants and DJ Freaky Outty. 8pm. Cover. 21+.