“That whole Chilean-miner story was weird for me,” Batwings singer/keys/bassist Robert Lopez relates in the band’s Mission Valley practice space. “It’s this feeling of being stuck and told you can’t get out. A lot of our lyrics in the past have revolved around El Centro desert and being kinda stuck.”
“There’s definitely a sense of escape when you move out of that place,” drummer Sebastian Ulloa says. “I don’t think any of us would consider going back there to live, but I’m glad I grew up there. It gives you character.”
Despite all four Batwings leaving El Centro soon after high school, the experimental punk band returns to play neighboring Mexicali.
“It’s a lot of fun down here,” says guitarist Larry Stage. “It’s like a second home.”
“There’s a different energy from the crowd,” guitar/vocalist Bryan Oczkowski adds. “They’re really into it.”
“It’s a sign of affection, I guess, but they throw beer on you all the time,” Sebastian laughs.
Bandmembers speak fondly of the “Scolari’s days” in North Park, which ended when the bar changed hands in 2008.
“We were part of that short-lived generation,” Sebastian says. “The live, local music is different now. Everything’s kind of slowed down. I think we’re a bit more trepidatious to go out and play as much as we did.”
Playing up to three times a month when they started in 2005 alongside groups such as Chinese Stars, Fever Sleeves, and Maniqui Lazer, Batwings has slowed to playing just two shows so far this year.
“We’ve managed to stay together as a band even though Larry is double majoring, Bryan’s almost done with college, Bobby just got married, and I just finished some postgrad work and am working as a teacher,” says Sebastian. “The fact that we’re still together is a feat in and of itself.”
Despite everything, Batwings has been recording since May in UCSD’s Conrad Prebys Music Center. The six- or seven-song album, as yet unnamed, marks a rebirth for Batwings.
“I feel like our music has gotten a lot more textured,” Sebastian says. “We’re doing stuff in different times, but we’re still keeping it fun and energetic. With the new album we’re learning how to play our instruments again.”
See what all the flappin’s about Thursday, November 18, at Whistle Stop and December 6 at Tin Can Ale House.