Blending a seemingly limitless range of influences, 26 BATS! are building a reputation on their airtight performances and being really hard to describe. The "genre-fluid" band began in 2015 and has since made a big splash in the Minneapolis music scene. Taking inspiration from the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Lizzo, the quintet have grown to become one of the most lovable and unpredictable bands in town.
We talked with 26 BATS! Keyboardist and Vocalist Bailey Cogan ahead of the band's show with Femi Kuti & The Positive Force at The Cedar on July 31 about forming the Kremblems Collective, visualizing their music, and finding their place in the Minneapolis music scene. Read the full interview below and get tickets and more information about the show here.
Can you describe “Kriyative Emblems of a Blue Soul Renaissance” and what your relationship to the collective is?
Kriyative Emblems of a Blue Soul Renaissance or for short: Kremblems is a group of passionate and ambitious friends that play in each others bands and help record each others music and release it. You could call us an independent record label and a collective. There are 4 bands at the core of Kremblems; 26 BATS!, Lucid VanGuard, Warren Thomas Fenzi, and Christian Wheeler & His Band.
"Kriyative" is pronounced "creative" but using the sanskrit ancient word, Kriya, which means; to do, to make, to perform, cause/effect, etc. Kriya is also the ancient meditation technique Karl and I practice. So we use that spelling to honor and purify the intentions of making music or the 'emblems' so to speak.
A "Blue Soul Renaissance" is the cultural rebirth of making soulful intentional art focused on love and healing. Blue is a very symbolic color it can be sad, but it also is the color of the ocean and sky. The throat chakra is blue which is the chakra that holds creative energy. We make music with intentions to inspire folks to channel their sadness and struggles into their art or music or dance or something that contributes to the renaissance because humans need to evolve and heal to stop operating thru fear, dishonesty, hatred and greed.
My relationship to the collective or role in the collective rather is a co-creator, keyboardist, songwriter, producer and vocalist. Social media manager, 26 BATS! band manager, weirdo and bat.
How did 26 BATS! become a band?
I was making electronic solo music as "26 & THE BATS!" but I wanted a bigger sound, a collaborative effort, and to make my piano songs into the genre defying mind expanding experience I have always envisioned for my sound. We all were playing together already (minus our bassist, Christian) in the band Lucid VanGuard, so I got a show offer for Halloween of 2015 with Mark Mallman and I introduced my songs to the bandmates and funked them up.
What is the origin of the band’s name?
26 is my soul number. I see it and I feel home. I celebrate it. Bats are my angels that swoop on me when I need reassurance and help me feel less alone. I put both of my favorite things that are very much so mine into my band name and made it all caps with an exclamation point because its got energy!
The band’s sound is described as “genre-fluid.” Where does the band fit into the Minneapolis music scene?
We fit with the creators that don't make music to sound like a band that already exists. We aren't the only band in MPLS to make genre-blending music either. Real recognize real and so do non-conformists and weirdos. We find each other. We make friends in the scene that love the technicolor spectrum we make and they book us. We've played with punk bands, hip hop groups, and are going to play with one of the most legendary Afrobeat bands to exist!! And i wouldn't want it any other way.
What kind of musical backgrounds do the members bring to the unique sound of 26 BATS!?
Karl (Guitar & Keys) and Warren (drums) both went to Berklee College of Music in Boston so they're ~college~ good. Karl is self taught on guitar and keys. I was in choir and theater all through my childhood and adolescence and took piano lessons at a young age and taught myself how to write songs in my adolescence with the piano and guitar, then for about a year took jazz piano lessons when I was 19 or 20. Christian (bass) has two musician parents that started him young and thats why he is exceptionally good at every instrument he touches. and Chavo (trumpet) played in orchestra and marching bands and jazzed growing up in LA and went to college to be a music teacher and noodled on the trumpet while stuck in LA traffic. Then we found each other and have been jamming and creating since 2015.
You’ve worked with a lot of different visual artists and styles on your music videos and album artwork. How have these collaborations affected the group and the way you visualize the music?
I've always had a visual style of writing music so its interesting giving my song to a visual artist to interpret and work with them to create something new and DIY usually. Meeting with visual artist to describe the song from my perspective while releasing control of my expectations and giving them a chance to put a new meaning to the song is really refreshing and a fun way to collaborate. I like seeing my sounds repurposed in a visually interesting way. It sets a mood and gives our band an ~image~ and its cool visualizing how i want the band to be seen since I'm usually focused on how we are heard.
Is the band working on anything new right now?
Yes. Two different projects at the same time. One will come out in the fall and will be 26 minutes long and is co-produced by Medium Zach. Thats all I want to say about that.
The range of influences on the band is wide. What’s inspiring you right now?
Musical: Janelle Monae, Nazeem & Spencer Joles, booboo, serpentwithfeet, Moses Sumney, Kacey Musgraves and Lizzo.
Life: meditation, sex positivity, crushes and summertime.