When they were approached by Johnnie Walker to rework the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land is Your Land” for their Keep Walking America campaign, the members of the LA-based band Chicano Batman knew it would be a challenge, but it was one they were up for.
“The difficult part for some of us was what the song actually meant verses what we thought it meant,” Bassist Eduardo Arena said. “We sing it growing up as kids without questioning it, just like we do ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ but as adults we get to interpret the song word for word and what Woody Guthrie was trying to do with it.”
Using their own style—a mix of soul, tropical, and psychedelic music—they arranged and recorded their version of the song over the course of three or four sessions. In that time, the band got to reflect on the timeliness of the song.
“It’s essentially a protest song that’s meant to be empowering and celebrate multi-culturalism and unity and it can’t be more relevant than now,” guitarist Carlos Arevalo said. “The message applies globally—it’s not just an American thing. People are fearful of people that are different and I feel this song asks people to put those fears aside. We’re all human beings, we all want to be able to accomplish our dreams and goals.”
The political message inherent in the song extends beyond just this song, though. It’s something, according to lead vocalist Bardo Martinez, that the band decided to make more apparent in their music on their newest album, Freedom is Free, which comes out March 3rd on ATO Records.
“For a while we’ve been talking about the content of our songs and Carlos suggested we do some songs that talk to what’s going on around us. With this band most of our songs are love songs with a political tint that isn’t too explicit. We decided to go explicit with it. That’s been something that’s changed on our new album,” Martinez said.
That message is something, they hope, will help affect change in the world, especially in light of recent events.
“When we play we’re spreading a positive vibration and a lot of people are coming together to experience that. When you can feel that, then a lot of nonsense can take the back burner. Whoever shows up leaves with that mentality. Hopefully they leave and go to create change,” Arenas said.