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Tune of the Day

Tune of the Day ~ Chicano Batman’s É Arenas Premieres New Tommy’s Burgers Cumbia

[dropcap size=big]C[/dropcap]hicano Batman's É Arenas Thursday released a cumbia 45 celebrating an L.A. institution: Original Tommy's, known by its street name Tommy's Burgers. The 7" record is called La Fila de Tommy's (or the line at Tommy's) and features two tracks dedicated to the 73-year-old chili burger specialist. It's also available for digital download here.

"I'm really happy with it," Arenas said in an interview with L.A. Taco. "It's a really fun project and I'm really excited to keep evolving in this direction." Arenas is having a record release party on 4/20 at the Moroccan Lounge in Little Tokyo.

Side A of the record features what Arenas calls a "cumbia-quebradita" also titled "La Fila de Tommy's." The song sounds like something you'd catch at La Boom in Huntington Park in the early aughts. The lyrics pay homage to many L.A. neighborhood Tommy's – sort of like "California Love" but with quebraditas and a shoutout to Huntington Park. "If Rick James were playing cumbia-quebraditas in early 90s Los Angeles backyard parties, this is what they'd sound like," Arenas explains.

The horn section is incredible and manic, and the tempo is frenetic. And it's sung in the style of a Banda El Recodo jam sped way up, with lines like, "Aquí en mi pueblo, hay un lugar, que cuando ganan Los Doyers, vamos a celebrar." That translates loosely to, "Here in my hood, there's a place where we go celebrate when the Dodgers win."

Side B features "Chili, Chili, Chili" a rebajada (or slowed down cumbia) that Arenas says "explores Tommy's famed chili-infused menu on a deep, melting party vibe." It also just straight up lists ingredients in dynamic vocals that range from super low to high pitch and make you feel high, hungry, and deeply chilled out.

RELATED: Tune of the Day: ‘Mar Iguana’ Director Lorena Endara Explains How Power Rangers Helped Inspire the Visuals

É Arenas. Photo by Lorena Endara.
É Arenas. Photo by Lorena Endara.

Joining Arenas on La Fila de Tommy's is Gabriel Villa also of Chicano Batman, Federico Zuñiga  of Chacombo, and Austin Ford of Big Fun. The Chicano Batman bassist previously released a cumbia anthem to legal weed, "Mar Iguana." That single featured a spellbinding music video shot on Super 8mm by director Lorena Endara which essentially combined the best parts of Power Rangers with a John Waters flick.

Arenas has now released four records as a solo artist, including a self-produced debut album called Nariz and is currently working on a new album called Forgiveness, set to debut in the fall 2019.  He also just finished recording on the forthcoming Chicano Batman record, produced by Grammy-nominated Leon Michels. Chicano Batman is scheduled to tour with Vampire Weekend and Andrew Bird in the fall.

L.A. Taco talked to Arenas Wednesday night, hours before the record dropped digitally.

LT: Why is Tommy Burger such an important place for you?

EA: In the late 80s, I use to go to Tommy's on Beverly and Rampart in the back of my uncle’s pickup truck back when it was legal. One time as a kid, we went after going to Circus Vargas, the paisa version of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. Another time, I went with some friends and some gangsters got in a fight and pulled out some guns. Anything can and does happen at Tommy's. It’s one of those iconic places of the city, the real side of it.

Why are places like that so important to L.A. culture? 

This place is a landmark. Next time you’re at Tommy's, check out the line while you wait to place your order. Places like Tommy's are important because they are neutral social grounds. People of all race and color, income bracket, shape, and size dig into the chili-cheese burger. The chili-cheese burger is like a social common denominator of our ever-changing city and it doesnt discriminate against anybody. Plus, Tommy's doesnt pride itself on being healthy so when you go, you know what you are getting into. It ain’t pretentious and you dont have to pay $15 for a new-aged hamburger. #gentrification.

What can you tell us about the next Chicano Batman album? 

As people read this interview, we are putting the final touches on the next Chicano Batman album. It’s our first full-length recorded album in over three years. We are working with Leon Michels as our producer again (who also produced our last album) who we love working with and are teaming him up with Shawn Everett, a three-time Grammy winner (Alabama Shakes, War on Drugs, etc.) to mix the record. It’s gonna blow people's minds.

It feels to me, like the new age of digital storytelling has freed you up creatively. Am I right about that? Has it freed you up to do more of your own thing? Like that last music video your wife, Lorena Endara, directed was amazing! 

Absolutely.  My wife, Lorena Endara, shot and directed my music video for "Mar Iguana," a cumbia-quebradita music video shot in super 8mm about an mar-iguana who smokes weed now that it’s legal in CA but is worried about the future of his friends who are locked up for marijuana charges that are no longer crimes. La Fila de Tommy's is about how I use to love Tommy's but it would fuck up my stomach every time I would eat it. All of these songs are club style cumbia-bailazo joints. I’m just trying to flip the narrative and talk about what my generation can relate to, while simultaneously making them dance and laugh. Sounds like a good combo to me.

Has the new tech and rampant social media growth also made it difficult to make a living doing your art? 

No, in fact the opposite. Instragram, Facebook, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Spotify are all amazing platforms for any artist that has the courage to believe in her/himself and push their artistic aesthetic. At the same time, you can also have crappy music and go viral because you do stupid funny videos that reach the masses. Sometimes you are directly competing with what is trending and thats weird. But maybe it’s always been like this but now we have social media to hyper accelerate it. But I just believe in what I’m doing and the support of the fans has been amazing so far. I mean, a quebradita about Tommy’s Burgers? People are gonna scarf this up!

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