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Artbound Presents Studio A

First Person: The Bots

Brothers Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei are the force behind punkish rockers The Bots, who perform a high amplitude set on KCET's "Artbound Presents Studio A."

Discover more about The Bots in their own words.


On Their Upbringing

Anaiah Lei: I was born in Hollywood and he was born in Bellflower. We moved to Glendale probably around 2003. That's when we moved into Glendale, not that big of a move and we started playing music just because we've listened to a lot of music growing up.

Mikaiah Lei: Parents played a lot of good reggae and oldies and later on dad showed us what he was listening to around our age. And then it was just like 1980's hardcore. We got into all the classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin, ACDC, Bowie, Motorhead, Black Flag, Minor Threat. Punk bands and just rock bands like the Cure, Siouxsie, all that stuff.

AL: The best of the best

ML: Yeah, the best of the best, I'd say and I guess that inspired us to want to make music and here we are now making music. We're doing exactly what we set out to do and it's amazing that we are able to come out here.

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On their first sessions

ML: When we started off, Dad bought us a bass guitar and a guitar for Anaiah. I played bass, Anaiah played guitar and we kind of jammed like that for a while. Anaiah then picked up the drums and I moved on to playing other instruments like the guitar and stuff like that and it kind of worked better to work that what I suppose for the band that we are today. But before then we had played with other friends in high school, kind of like discovering what we can do in our sound and whatnot. Yeah, I mean here we are now playing, it takes a lot of time, a lot of money.

AL:Seven years in the making.

ML:Working very hard. Just practice every single day. Sometimes things just work that way.

On the early version of the band.

AL:There was four other people. We were like "we need a drummer and I was like my brother plays the drums.

AL: There was three other people.

ML:It was a five piece band. Then the five piece thing kind of fell a part. It boiled down to us two. And I was like "we can still do this you know? you still play drums, I'll just play guitar and sing in this band." I played a little bit of bass and like acoustic guitar I had to kind of get into this stuff and playing with pedals. Like learning how to play standing up and like moving when I played because I would stand in one place or like have to sit down and barely could do anything. We've come a long way yeah.

ML: It just seemed like the logical thing to do. I am not gonna pick somebody else to drum in the band.

I've always imagined myself doing music and kind of imagined us doing music so it's really nice that we continued on and it's been successful in our own right or whatever from this band.

On their sound

AL: We just play what we want and what we like. We play what we want to play.

ML: We play what we want to hear. We liked the white stripes obviously, big influence because before then we were playing with that five piece and I didn't know that a two piece band could really do it. Like, I didn't think it made sense for some reason but as minimalist as it seems there is so much room for creativity within that becuase you can build songs with loops. I mean this wasn't so possible a couple decades ago, the technology definelty adds an upper hand to making music today and like everybody can buy a macbook and it comes with Garageband on their and if you own any midi.

Anybody can make music is what I am saying. A couple of years ago this wouldn't be possible. It's very bizarre to me like how it works because it's always different. [You can have] just guitar and drums, and you could strip that back and almost just have guitar and vocals and bring in drums and you could build it up wih loops and play like a bass line underneath it and have rhythm sections. It's so much freedom within that two piece band that a lot of people don't normally see I guess. People often ask why don't we have another member and it's like kind of works for us the way we are doing it now and i think it would further complicate things if we try to make a band with any more people in it. not to get me wrong, we love jamming with other people but as far as being The Bots with more members it would be different

AL: They'd have to dress like us.

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On where they get inspiration

AL: It's like when you go into your dream and you hear a song. It's like how johnny cash heard the trumpets.

ML:The Mexican trumpets in his dream of the ring of burning fire.

AL: You have to go into my sleep.

ML: Are you lucid dreaming or something?

AL: You have to lucid dream with me.

AL:Sometimes literally just like that Johnny cash song it just comes up in that state of you know.

ML: I am gonna be honest, I literally dream when I am awake. I am fully conscious when I write music.

On Songwriting

ML: I will have a guitar riff or something that he'll lend to me and I'll take it and kind of put my own flavor on it. Sometimes I'll create drum beats and give it to him and he takes it and just makes it excellent in his drumming style. I mean a lot of times when I write songs at home I like to write on acoustic guitar, I always start off on acoustic usually and it just kind of, you get so much room to build with like layers and other things like that. You could add keyboard, or sometimes I'll write on the keyboard sometimes I'll write on bass, sometimes I'll write lyrics first and then add the music it's always ever changing just to keep things like interesting and fresh. That's the best way to do it in my opinion, and it is not becoming jaded by starting up on the same " alright the distortion pedal" like you kind of playing just the same barre chords or riffs or whatever. That's what I find myself doing when I am not thinking outside of the box and we come together and blend our styles and our music is made that way usually. A lot of times we have come up with some pretty good songs just from jamming. it's a good way to write songs. He'll either play some sick beats and I'll be like "oh man what was that? play that again." I'll play a guitar riff over it we marry it together like that it just works.

On their album, Pink Palms.

AL: The name is called Pink Palms. The name came out because I was looking on the internet someday and, there is not story behind the name either. I saw the words pink palms somewhere, maybe Instagram. Maybe as like a hastag or something and that's kind of cool and when we came together to pick the album title. I wasn't expecting Mikaiah would like it or anyone would like it.

ML: I wrote an entire list of album names and that one was the pick yeah. we had a bunch of album names to choose.

AL: We had some good ones we had some really bad ones but... I was surprised I think that would be a really bad one. Justin Warfield and Nick Zinner both produced it. Nick did a couple songs you know we were in Hollywood everyday from November of 2013 to when we finished in June. When you come to think about it because the album just came out in October, it's almost a year of working on this record so it massive.

ML: It's taken a minute yeah.

On working with producers

ML: Yeah right, it was a very gradual transition into that it wasn't so much so that we were dropped into a scenario that we weren't prepared for. We've been doing this for a minute by ourselves obviously I think the next logical step was working with a producer and taking it to a more professional level, I think we've achieved that right now. I mean every single day, we are playing we are bettering ourselves or every single year if you practice you are getting better and really finding out what you like and what you want to do musically and discovering yourself.

AL: Working with Justin was fun. Every day was great. And then we went over to El Paso, Texas to Sonic Ranch with Nick and that was great too, that was really good.

On the narrative of the album

ML: Sadness, unfortunately. I realized it's a reoccurring theme. It's a kind of coming of age thing I think. Like a lot of the songs like "Bad Friends" and "All of Them," "Binded," and "Ethiopia," it's all about childhood and growing up I guess.

AL: People in elementary school suck.

ML: Kids in school suck unfortunately. Kids can be very cruel and as mean as it sounds to kids that are in school now just be lovely, be who you want to be.

AL: From elementary to high school they just get worse.

ML: It's because kids are influenced by television and magazines or whatever.

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