Music Monday Presents: É. Arenas
Meet Los Angeles’ own É. Arenas, best known as the bassist of Chicano Batman, who recently released his first solo effort, Nariz.
This week Wear Your Voice is proud to introduce you to Los Angeles’ own É. Arenas. Best known as the bassist of Chicano Batman, Éduardo Arenas recently released his first solo effort, Nariz, an album six years in the making.
Wear Your Voice asked Arenas to create an exclusive Spotify playlist for readers, so that we can get to know him better. Listen along as we interview Arenas to learn about the city and artists that have shaped him, as well as his thoughts on the music industry and what a Trump presidency means for our youth.
Wear Your Voice: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and how does that shape your music?
É. Arenas: I’m from Los Angeles. This is a culturally rich city, a microcosm of the world all in one place. The challenge is knocking down social barriers that bifurcate neighborhoods and communities from one another. [Changing your] mentality exposes [you] to the diverse realities that surround us from the private Malibu beachfront properties to the homeless epicenter on 5th and San Pedro. Los Angeles becomes an experience and an emotional intelligence I personally acquire from opening my eyes, ears and heart to the city. This translates into creating sincere music with rhythm, dissonance and beauty.
WYV: Can you describe your sound for our readers? Who are some of your biggest influences?
ÉA: My biggest influences are probably Brazilian artists like Caetano Veloso, Tom Ze and Tim Maia. I’ve always been into bands that push the envelope like Tortoise, Dillinger Escape Plan and J Dilla, artists that disregard the convention for the way songwriting should be. It’s a difficult concept to deconstruct, but artists like these create music that constantly reminds me to keep true and let my compositions come out as naturally as I feel them before trying to lock into a certain verse-chorus-verse type of format. I use lots of guitars in music that don’t sound like guitars. I use drums to decorate the songs. I explore uncomfortable chord progressions glued by crying melodies and I try to attempt to resolve the story that I am unveiling.
WYV: What other projects have you been part of? How does your solo work differ?
ÉA: I am an original member of Chicano Batman, a Latin-Psych quartet out of Los Angeles. Before that I played guitar for Olmeca, a household name in conscious political hip-hop in many parts of the country. I have mostly worked as a producer and mixing engineer for the last 10 years working with bands in the Los Angeles area. Recording other musicians has taught me a lot about the attitude of music, how to fine-tune the intentions of a composition, and help the artists deliver the best performances possible.
Nariz, my solo album, has a mix of genres and languages that make up the album. I didn’t compose it thinking that I was going to do a pop or soul album. In the six years it took to make this album, I just let the compositions develop and mature over time. Luckily for me, when I put them all together it kind of sounded like a cohesive album. I’m not sure how, but it felt like it.
WYV: What do you wish to see more of in the music industry? How can media reflect that?
ÉA: I would like to see more opportunities for youth development in the music industry. During this presidential election, a lot of youth voiced their strong opinions and fears about what a Trump world would look like. They may not be able to vote, but their views are absolutely valid. In this same vein, their musical vision is also valid. Adults can learn a lesson or two about realities facing our youth of this country. Just the same way life lessons have allowed Al Green express his ideas of love in “Let’s Stay Together,” how does a youngster’s music sound when they have to deal with divorced parents, bullying or self-esteem issues? If the media can ditch the immortalization of the pop icon for just a second, it can make room for creative bands with sincere messages. Good music can sometimes be subjective, especially when we don’t get to hear the other 95 percent of music being created in the world.
WYV: What can the industry do to create more opportunities for young BIPOC musicians?
ÉA: We can keep inviting them to play festivals — but STOP putting them on at 11 a.m.!
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
ÉA: The more popular an artist becomes, the more people want to idolize them as a larger-than-life figure. Maybe fame is the goal of certain artists but definitely not all of them. Since releasing my album, the feedback I have received ranges from the textures of its sound to the stories told in the songs. People have shared their feeling of loss of a family member, breakups, or general misguidance. All I do is listen; sometimes that’s all a person needs to feel validated. That’s what I do. I try and demote myself from the position of an idol down to the role of a cousin or friend. We need more empathy in this world. When we remember to exercise that ability, we may find ourselves changing lives without even knowing it.