Los Angeles-based duo/siblings The Bots released their new album Pink Palms this week. It’s not the pair’s first record – that was (self) released when Mikaiah Lei (guitar/vocals/keys/bass) and his younger brother Anaiah (drums/vocals/keys) were 15 and 12 respectively. Two more have followed since, but this is their first on a real label. Now 20 and 16, they’ve come a very long way in their very short lives.
The Bots: "Making music never gets old."
Meet the LA brothers who've toured with Sabbath, hung out with Bad Brains and be-friended Damon Albarn.
In the past five years The Bots have played sets at Coachella, Warped Tour and Sonisphere and supported Black Sabbath, Bad Brains, Refused, Blur and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Pink Palms – which consists of eleven assured, complex and confident songs that sit somewhere between progressive garage punk and the more anthemic indie rock of, say, Arcade Fire – was demoed with Blur’s Damon Albarn and produced by Justin Warfield and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner. It’s a long way from their scrappy, early, lo-fi recordings, but still contains the raw grit and passion that made those so enthralling. Over a truly terrible coast-to-coast phone connection, the brothers gave us the low-down on what Pink Palms and music in general means to them.
So Pink Palms came out at the start of this week. How do you feel about your first ‘proper’ album being released?
Anaiah: "It feels good! It’s actually really nice. It feels good to have the finished product out and to have it worldwide. I’ve been waiting for people to have the chance to listen to it."
It’s a very accomplished album with a huge sound – especially for a two-piece. How did you achieve that?
Anaiah: "Just by working hard! We just got creative. Justin helped us with a lot of the stuff we did on the record, but a lot of it was just us thinking out of the box, trying to make this record bigger than it was. That was the main thing that played a part in that sound you’re talking about.”
And how did these connections, with Justin and Nick Zinner and Damon Albarn come about? Because you’ve also had an impressive run of playing all these prestigious festivals and with these incredible bands. How did all these bands hear about you?
Anaiah: "Damon I have no idea how he heard about the band, but we met Nick through Damon when we were on the Africa Express tour. Bad Brains, well, my mum and my dad have always known the guys in the Brains since their time in the ’80s. But I couldn’t tell you how Refused found out or how any of those other bands found out. We have good booking agents, I guess!"
Presumably, then, your parents have always been supportive?
Anaiah: "They’re really supportive. They love every single thing we do. They do whatever they can."
They weren’t concerned with you missing out on your education?
Anaiah: "No, that never was an issue. Of course, they’re parents and they want the best for us, but…"
Mikaiah: "…they’re always looking after our best interests. They want us to do well and to do what makes us happy and they try their best to help us all the way. We’re very lucky that we don’t have to work at The Gap or a retail outlet or something like that. We’re very lucky to have a career and our parents are very supportive of that."
And it’s a career that started when you guys were so young. You’re probably bored of talking about your ages, but when you started out, did you imagine that all of this would happen?
Mikaiah: "No. I don’t know if anybody starts a band and expects it to be their job. I mean, we make music because we love making music – it’s our hobby, whether that’s touring or making an album or whatever. And if you make music and people like it, then maybe that’ll get you somewhere, but you shouldn’t make music to get a certain lifestyle. It’s not about that. It’s about the passion and the love of making music. Nothing is guaranteed in life, especially in the music business. You can be relevant today and irrelevant tomorrow. I’m speaking in very dramatic terms, but it is like that. A lot of bands work really hard their whole lives and don’t get anywhere. We’re very lucky."
At the moment, it seems like you guys are into this for the right reasons. How do you plan to not become jaded, now that it is more of a job?
Anaiah: "We’re doing that right now as we speak, actually. I always have fun doing interviews, because it’s a part of the job where you’re talking about your life."
Mikaiah: "Right. And that’s never going to get old. As long as you like the people you work with, that’s never going to get old. Making music never gets old. If you’re really into music there’s no way you can be bored making music. I always find new ways to keep myself entertained when I’m making music, by not always writing on the same instruments or taking a different approach to songwriting. It’s not just different chords, but we really try to layer things and make it interesting. There’s so many ways to keep the entire job well-rounded and exciting that I can’t ever imagine getting jaded."
The Bots' Pink Palms album is out now on Fader.