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Artbound Presents Studio A

The Bots: Youth Brigade

Brothers Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei have been making music together for years, self-releasing tunes and playing some pretty big gigs along the way, but "Pink Palms," release this year through Fader, is their first full-length for someone else's label. Produced by Justin Warfield (She Wants Revenge) and Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), the album was nearly a year in the making and the culmination of years of practice that began before the younger sibling hit his teens.

"We started playing music just because we've listened to a lot of music growing up," Anaiah tells "Studio A." Raised in Glendale, the brothers were schooled in everything from reggae to classic rock to alternative to hardcore thanks to their dad. David Bowie, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Black Flag and Minor Threat were all a part of their rock 'n' roll diet. "The best of the best," says Anaiah.

Mikaiah agrees, and expands on the statement. "I guess that inspired us to want to make music and, where we are now making music." He adds, "We're doing exactly what we set out to do and it's amazing that we are able to come out here."

Encouraged by their parents, Mikaiah picked up the bass. Anaiah learned guitar. As they continued to jam out songs, Anaiah moved on to drums and Mikaiah started working with other instruments, guitar amongst them. In high school, they played with friends as they continued to hone their talents. "It takes a lot of time," says Mikaiah, "a lot of money." Altogether, they've spent seven years practicing daily.

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Anaiah was still in elementary school when they started playing together. Mikaiah was a high school freshman. At the time, the elder brother had formed a band with some friends and they needed a drummer. Young Anaiah stepped in to help. "It just seemed like the logical thing to do," says Mikaiah of getting his kid brother to play drums. "I am not gonna pick somebody else to drum in the band."

Anaiah adds, "They were freshman in high school and they probably didn't know anybody."

It's true. Mikaiah agrees that they didn't know anyone else who could drum, but clarifies that this was a good decision.

That first incarnation of The Bots, a five-piece, didn't last. However, the core of the group formed by the Lei siblings did. "It boiled down to us two," says Mikaiah, who suggested that they continue on together. "We could have gave up pretty easy after everyone left," says Anaiah. Fortunately, they didn't.

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

When the brothers stepped out as a two-piece, there was still a lot to learn. Mikaiah had mostly played acoustic guitar, so he had to learn about pedals. He also had to learn how to play while moving around on the stage. "I would stand in one place or have to sit down and barely could do anything," he says. "We've come a long way."

The White Stripes were an early influence. "As minimalist as it seems, there is so much room for creativity within that because you can build songs with loops," says Mikaiah.

He points out that making music as a two-piece would have been more difficult in previous decades. Technology has its benefits. "Everybody can buy a Macbook and it comes with Garageband," Mikaiah says. "A couple of years ago, this wouldn't be possible." Thanks to technology, they can fill out ones with loops or bring in a baseline later.

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"People often ask why don't we have another member," says Mikaiah. "I think it would further complicate things if we try to make a band with any more people in it." He adds, "We love jamming with other people, but, as far as being The Bots with more members, it would be different."

Anaiah says that, in order to understand their songwriting process, you have to understand his "sleep process." Everything starts with dreams. "It's like when you go into your dream and you hear a song," Mikaiah says that he dreams while awake and that leads to writing new tunes.

The songwriting process changes from song to song. Sometimes Anaiah will come up with a guitar riff that will become a part of what Mikaiah plays. Other times, Mikaiah has a drum beat that he'll give to Anaiah to perfect. Mikaiah frequently writes with an acoustic guitar. Sometimes he'll write on the keyboard or the bass. Other times, it's a lyrics-first process. "It's always ever-changing, just to keep things interesting and fresh," he says.

Mikaiah says that the move from working DIY to working with a label was a progression that happened slowly over time. "We've been doing this for a minute by ourselves," he explains. "Obviously, I think the next logical step was working with a producer and taking it to a more professional level."

But, as professional as the Lei brothers are now, there is still a ways to go. Says Mikaiah, "Every single day we are playing, we are bettering ourselves."

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