Early on Batwings Catwings‘ posters were written out in goth font, plenty of bleeding letters, the type of band name you’d see on a black t-shirt or on the back of a van.
Their sound, more a pop punk blend, shreds up the landscape with sidewinder effects, dueling guitars and stalking bass notes, a siren call in the wind. With their EP “Woah” freshly released into the wild, the band, whose members live in Highland Park and Glassell Park and practice in Atwater Village, describes the record as dirty, fun, full of energy. They use foods like pizza and nachos as modifiers, a perpetual summer that refuses to mature, just like the group themselves.
“We were trying to go for a dirtier, I don’t know a DIY-type of thing,” says drummer Clay Johnson of the youthful, five-track EP. “That’s why I love all-ages shows in general. I can’t get rid of that. You can’t get that with bigger bands. It has a personal feel – I think I’ll always be into that.”
Recorded at guitarist’s Jeffrey Byron’s house in Highland Park, the youthful, surf rock vigor of Batwings Catwings plays out like a band out of high school, in a good way. Certainly the group is mature, but what’s being transmitted to our ears is a younger person’s mantra. There’s the intense wind-up of opener ‘Energy’ with a gnawing electronic buzz that hogs the higher spectrum and then there’s the more refined closer ‘September’ that shows the group grew up with hair bands, but also played around with display keyboards at music shops.
On the EP cover is Keanu Reeves circa 1980s, grinning like some sort of saint, chosen by the voice of Batwings Catwings Dana Poblete. “My Own Private Idaho” she says of the picture.
Guitarist Ray Santillan admits, “Some people might say it’s kind of a cliche, like that whole 80s throwback. But our formative years are in the 80s, into the 90s.”
And it shows – the band’s practice space is decked out in posters: Prince from his Purple Rain days is on the wall, while Batwings Catwings’ guitar riffs remind of old video games like ‘Double Dragon’. The title track video for “Woah” is a playful short of two joyriders stealing a car and finding a baby in the backseat (The night of our interview Byron’s car breaks down, the car featured in the video and he was unable to make it.) All the band members are decked out in costumes, Santillan and Johnson are bicycle cops in shorts.
This record took six months to make, but it was not necessarily due to the band being perfectionists.
“One month we would go in, and then another month Josh would go in. Two months later Dana would go,” says Santillan.
Says Johnson, “We’ve had like five different dates. I would put it on the site. JUNE! JULY!”
Poblete didn’t know either, “I would tell people at the shows, ‘Next week!’
Eventually the record came out on Higher Life Records, along with a red tape cassette. The band members seem proud when speaking about the album, all the time they stare up at the picture of Keanu at their practice space.
When I ask the band to describe themselves in high school, they all agree they were introverts, but are now excited and will show it to anyone in public. Or at least they hope they are different. All the band members have day jobs, they understand that being in a band is more a privilege.
Johnson sums it up, “This is something I get to do and it’s varied, something different from my everyday life. I get to play music, see my buddies. It’s part passion, and hobby.”
Click here for the full Batwings Catwings interview on Smashed Chair.
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.