Q&A: “Genre-fluid” band 26 BATS! talks numerology, the creative process and the importance of shaking conformity

A&E sat down with the group before they played a free show at the Minneapolis Institute of Art last Thursday.

Daniel Chavez of 26 BATS! plays trumpet during the Third Thursday: Bike Night at the Minneapolis Institute of Art on Thursday, July 18. Every third Thursday of the month the MIA hosts a free event with live music, food and other vendors.

Tony Saunders

Daniel Chavez of 26 BATS! plays trumpet during the Third Thursday: Bike Night at the Minneapolis Institute of Art on Thursday, July 18. Every third Thursday of the month the MIA hosts a free event with live music, food and other vendors.

Becca Most

The air was heavy and humid as people settled into a green space outside the Minneapolis Institute of Art for a free concert featuring 26 BATS! last Thursday.

The band, comprised of lead singer and songwriter Bailey Cogan, guitarist Karl Remus, trumpeter Daniel “Chavo” Chavez, drummer Warren Thomas Fenzi and a stand-in instead of regular bassist, Christian Wheeler, took the stage, filling the space with their jazzy, feel-good sound.

Before their show, 26 BATS! chatted with A&E.

Can you tell me more about the significance of the number 26? I know there are 26 minutes in your last album, “Onyx,” and it was released on Dec. 26, too.

Bailey Cogan: It started on my birthday and it’s just kind of followed me around. It’s my magical number that tells me that there’s a little glitch in the matrix. 

Warren Fenzi: Since moving here I’ve adopted my own number, and for me it’s kind of like that — when I see the number 23, because it’s my birthday, it is a reminder that I’m in the right place right now. I’ve gotten more into numerology, like 555 or 333 had these different meanings– it’s almost like a reminder that you’re in the right, you’re going down the right path and this is just the universe being *finger snaps* ‘You’re good! You’re in the right place.’

BC: I’ve been seeing a lot of 26’s recently and I think it’s because I’ve been getting back in tune with my rhythm. 

26 BATS! describes its music as “genre-fluid.” Can you explain what that means?

BC: I think it is a very authentic way to describe something vague. I’m gender fluid and I think creation is an expression of self. The writing process is also different every time because it is always intuitive.

WF: I think that’s accurate. If I had to put a name on it I would probably say it’s like jazz-influenced indie. But that’s like, super open and not definitive at all either.

On your Facebook page you said the band “has full intentions of empowering and healing through music.” What does that mean to you?

BC: I write a lot of songs that I just throw away and I don’t pursue. With 26 BATS!, it’s songs that I feel might really impact people, make them feel better, inspire change and healing. 

Daniel Chavez: I think a perfect example would be the song ‘IM OK.’ When [the audience is] just putting their hands up and saying ‘I’m okay’ together, it feels like something inside them is releasing something, empowering them.

Why do you think people are attracted to your music?

Karl Remus: I think it’s weird but at the same time it’s accessible to everybody. It’s the shapes and sounds of modern music so it can kind of lure people in that way, but it’s weird enough that people can feel comfortable to express that strange side of themselves.

BC: Yeah, I always intentionally make the goal when I’m performing to be myself. 26 BATS! shows are a place where I can feel comfortable being myself fully … I’m trans, so seeing someone just being themselves inspires [the audience] to maybe shake off their own layers of anxiety, shake off the conformity of acting “normal” — whatever that means. 

Do you see the Twin Cities music scene shifting to make way for more genre-fluid artists like yourself?

BC: Yeah, for sure. I think there’s a recent spark in creative people saying, ‘I don’t want to be put in a box.’ ’Cause labels are hard in general, and what is being an artist if it’s not conforming? 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.