Witnessing the rise of my old high-school pals Anaiah and Mikaiah Lei to future hometown hero status is life affirming to witness, a heartening culmination of their dedication to their musical craft. The Bots, a two-man alt-punk duo formed by the Lei brothers, hail from my hometown of Glendale, California. Now that they’re garnering critical acclaim throughout the blogosphere, the Lei brothers have signed to the New York City-based Fader Label. The Bots are now on tour to back the release of their second album, Pink Palms, which infuses left-of-center alternative rock with the worldly eclecticism of their upbringing and musical travails. The Bots took some time off from their hectic touring schedule to speak with The Daily Californian over the phone about their sonic progression since forming the band, tour experiences and the support they’ve received from legendary musicians across genre lines.
The Daily Californian: How has the process of creating Pink Palms differed from your method of creating your earlier releases?
Mikaiah Lei: The writing process was the most different part. We began working with outside producers, compared to the past, where it was just Anaiah and me working on stuff together. It felt like someone from the outside looking in, almost like a third eye.
Anaiah Lei: For one thing, our production values have definitely changed. It’s been great to have a good set of ears and a good producer on the boards. We’ve been able to create songs we wouldn’t have written for ourselves had it not been for a third person in the room to bounce off ideas with.
DC: In interviews, you’ve mentioned that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are an inspiration. Their guitarist Nick Zinner co-produced Pink Palms. What was it like working with one of your musical inspirations? What was that developmental process like?
AL: Working with Nick was definitely interesting. It was almost like working with a vampire. We’d be in the studio working until 3 or 4 in the middle of the night until he perfected the track. That’s just the way he is.
ML: He’s got a lot of great guitar tricks he showed me. In the process, I got the opportunity to learn why and how he made all of those Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs sound so cool. I was sitting there with Nick for hours, mixing a song up and down until he felt it was just right.
AL: We jammed a lot during the process — that’s what he was really on about. That’s how it all started. He just let us do our own thing. He wanted to hear riffs, and then we brought drums to it — the songs would start off with a basic beat, and with Nick’s help, they would naturally evolve from there.
DC: Damon Albarn praised you guys and invited you to tour with him in the United Kingdom. What does it feel like to obtain support from him and other iconic figures in the musical sphere?
ML: It’s definitely a great feeling. Having that sort of praise from musicians like Damon validates our music career — it makes us know we’re definitely doing something right with the direction we’re headed. Especially since it’s people that I grew up listening to, people who inspired us to start a band who are praising us, it makes all of the work we’ve put into the band that much more rewarding.
AL: It’s more than a pat on a back — it feels like a bear hug.
DC: As a sibling duo, critics have likened you two to garage-rock duos such as the Black Keys, the White Stripes and, more recently, sibling-based bands such as Haim. In what ways does being a brother duo play a role in the formation of your music?
ML: It definitely works in interesting ways. We can read each other’s minds, read what each other is thinking musically. Sometimes, we don’t have to say anything; he knows what I want our sound to be like. It’s super hard to explain. When you grow up with someone, having that connection, that relationship, makes such a difference in how we communicate with one another. It’s totally different from bands whose members met two years ago on Craigslist and just decided to give making music together a shot.
AL: It really does give us an upper hand, in my opinion. It makes things a lot easier, especially when we go on tour. If he screws up during a show I know what to do to cover for him and fix it, and vice versa. We’ve got each other’s backs.
The Bots are performing at Leo’s Music Club in Oakland on Thursday.
Contact Joshua Bote at [email protected].