26 BATS! is a Minneapolis-based band that fuses multiple genres–funk, soul, jazz, alternative rock and hip-hop–to create a unique sound. I spoke with lead singer Bailey Cogan and bandmate Karl Remus, representing the 5-person ensemble, at Hard Times Café. Read on to discover how they got to sell tacos while attending the country’s top music festivals, how music impacts their lives every day, and what new projects the band is working on.
The Wake: How did you come up with your name? What does it mean?
Bailey Cogan: That’s a very common question. I have a few answers. The first one–the one that weirds people out–is that 26 is my god and bats are my angels. That one’s a fun one because I just leave it at that. That’s only when I don’t want to explain it. But, 26 is my birthday. I started seeing it everywhere when I was a teen. And, I started thinking of it as a good omen. I noticed it was a common number in my life. Like, I was a runner and there’s 26 miles in a marathon. I’m a writer and there’s 26 letters in the alphabet. And, I meditate and there’s 26 vertebrae in the spine. So, it’s a very potent number in my life. I got into numerology later and 26 is a power number. It adds up to 8 which symbolizes abundance. So, I was like, that’s dope! It’s always been with me, so I wanted for it to be in the title of my band. And bats have always been like my angels, and for lack of a better word, my spirit animals. Someone told me that when they listen to our music, it feels like a ton of bats fluttering within them. I like that!
The Wake: How would you describe your music?
BC: It’s hard for me to do that. Recently we found some cool words that are inspiring. Someone said, “Doom groove” and I was like “Word. That’s cool.” Also, we came up with “punk jazz,” which I think works because of the attitude behind it. But, I also think “soul” is appropriate. And we have moments of alternative rock. So like genres? Also… ok so I’m gender fluid so I recently said we’re “genre-fluid.” Really my music is a reflection of my insides.
The Wake: What’s been the best experience you’ve had playing live so far?
BC: I feel like we’re both gonna have different answers. Our last song at the Turf Club… I felt like that was our best show. I just felt really present and my voice was on point. Sometimes I just sing, but in that performance, I was putting myself in it. It also helped that the audience was also very present and very responsive. So that was dope. And, I was good at stage banter, which is sometimes really awkward and really hard. And, we did choreographed toe touch! Really cute and really engaging.
The Wake: What is your music all about? Who does it speak to?
BC: It’s about trying to love ourselves… or me trying to love myself in this broken society. I’m anti-capitalist and anti-racist, but here we are in this racist, capitalist world. And, being a white person in that and confronting my privileges. But also, seeing where I fit as a queer, genderfluid person that is femme-presenting. It’s all about me trying to figure out who I am, but also trying to inspire others to spread the word of how to love yourself within this weird situation we have to exist in collectively. That’s like the lyrical content. Also, though, I do have long songs to nature. So, you know… But that could also be like “Try and love the Earth, bro!”
KR: I think 26 BATS! is for the weirdos. Out of all of the bands that we’re in, I like being in 26 BATS! a lot because I feel comfortable being my weirdest self. Just like, promoting that and promoting that it’s okay to be who you are and be really weird about it if that’s who you are.
BC: Specifically, when I’m on stage with 26 BATS! I feel okay to be my weird self fully.
The Wake: How did the members of your band find each other and form the band?
KR: Berklee [College of Music] was actually a huge component. I go to college and I’m randomly roommates with our drummer. While we were there we were kind of friends, but more so just roommates. And then I left and that summer I was putting together an album of my own music and I wanted him to come out and drum on it. Ever since then, he would come out to Minnesota every couple summers. Then eventually I convinced him to move here. So, he’s been here for almost 3 years. During one of those summers, we met the guy who’s our bass player now, Christian, at a show for my music. Then I met Bailey somewhere in between there. We’ve known each other for like 4 years now.
BC: 5 years. We met on Twitter. We went to the same high school but he’s 4 years older than me. [Karl] was good friends with my best friend. Then we started dating and then we went to Hawaii together. I didn’t want to go to college because I just wanted to be a musician. I wasn’t feeling like spending a lot of money just to be a musician. Some people do that, and I’m not judging. But, I didn’t see the value in that. And, I just wanted to travel too because I was not feeling Minnesota. You know, there were just a few bad winters or whatever. So, we went to Hawaii in January 2014, and we lived there for 3 months. There, we met this guy Jesse who asked us if we wanted to sell tacos at music festivals all summer. So, we were like “yes, yes.” So, we worked for “Peace Love Tacos” which was at a bunch of these huge festivals, which was really cool and inspiring. We got to see a lot of our heroes for free and we got paid fat. It was so sweet. And that’s where we met our trumpet player, Chavo. We met his brother at Coachella because they’re from LA. We were jamming at Firefly and then we were at Electric Forest, and then he came home with us just to hang out for like two weeks. We had a gig and were like, “You can just jam with us.” And, that went really well. So, we said, “How about you stay for the BATS! gig on Halloween?” which was a month out. He was sleeping in my room and I was sleeping in Karl’s room. It kind of worked There was like 5 of us in that house.
The Wake: You released your last single, “No Limit,” in October of 2017. What other music projects have you been working on since then?
BC: We are recording our next album; it’s called “Sweet Fang.” I’m really excited about it. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got 2 songs—3—songs recorded. I really want this one to be a masterpiece. I don’t have a specific date where I want to release it. It’s because I feel like “Cave Cuts” —that’s our first album—I wanted to be just from our basement… very like “we’re doing this thing.” And, we got it out. But with this one, I want to take our time with it and have it feel more like a movie, with scenes. I love albums that are cohesive and have atmospheres that you can feel like you can enter when you close your eyes. I want it to be like that.