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Picked to Click 2019 No. 4 (tie): 26 BATS!

26 Bats!

26 Bats! Emma Wondra

Genre is over! (If you want it.)

That’s the feeling you’re left with listening to 26 BATS!—all the way down to the exclamation mark.

The Minneapolis five-piece refer to themselves as “genre-fluid,” but they’re practically post-genre. Why invoke the stricture of the g-word at all when a single song melds so many moods and dances between decades of influence?

“I like a quick or a jolty change. Obviously,” laughs vocalist, keyboardist, and songwriter Bailey “26” Cogan. “I have a short attention span, so when something catches me off guard, I really like that.”

When they sit down to write at the piano, Cogan—who has a background in choir but is largely self-taught on the keys—says they’re often stringing ideas together without a plan. They feel no “intellectual need for it to make more sense.” Cogan has less background in theory than bandmates Karl Remus (guitar), Warren Thomas Fenzi (drums), Daniel Chavez (trumpet), and Christian Wheeler (bass), and typically brings songs to the group, where they’re analyzed and put together. (“I’m just a weird person. They make it sound cooler.”)

This kind of carefree musical amalgamizing has magic in it. It somehow lets a 26-minute record like last December’s Onyx stretch and shift, occupying a space more expansive than its sub-half-hour runtime should allow. “The process of songwriting for me is fully intuitive,” Cogan says. “I don’t even like taking all the credit. I’m like, it just came to me, I don’t know. It’s a mysterious and beautiful thing.”

Onyx takes its name from the stone, one the singer was once given on a necklace. Its metaphysical properties are rooted in protection: the transformation of negative energy, the elimination of toxic thought patterns, the freedom from fear’s debilitating clutches. And there is a healing energy to these songs. Hearing 26 BATS! find themselves on songs like the affirmative “IM OK” feels both transformative and healing, even more so if you catch it live, feel the power of singing along and swaying: “Love I normally give away imma show to myself today/I know I’m ok.” It’s restorative.

“I get most of my inspiration from my surroundings and nature,” Cogan says. “I think I’ve learned the most life lessons from just, like, experiencing the four seasons. You kind of have to have little mini deaths every year. And rebirth, constantly.”

It’s not altogether unlike listening to a 26 BATS! record.

Click here to check out the rest of the list, or click here to read about Kiss the Tiger, who ranked No. 6 in Picked to Click.