A little bit White Stripes, a little bit Bad Brains, The Bots make music that brings afropunk kicking and screaming into the new millenium. The L.A. duo consists of brothers Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei, whose meaty riffs and scattergun drum patterns are imbued with hyperactive youthful energy–not surprising, since they’re only 20 and 17 respectively. Even more impressive than their age is their output. Since 2009 they’ve released an album and three EPs, including last year’s Sincerely Sorry EP, their first on FADER Label. An explosive video for lead single “5:17” set the agenda for 2014 when it came out earlier this month.
The two self-proclaimed ‘baddest brothers’ are also among rock’s most well-connected. Damon Albarn’s been evangelising about them for years, and industry stalwarts from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Refused have invited them on tour. We chatted with the Leis about their nomadic lifestyle, recording the EP, and their dream FADER collaboration. And special bonus, below is the video premiere of The Bots performing their track, “Ethiopia.”
You guys recorded your first album when you were both 15 and 12. How did you get into punk at such an early age?
Mikaiah Lei: We were just playing music at a younger age. My father got us into rock n roll music and the punk scene. He had a passion for that kind of music. We until that age where it just clicked where we realised wanted to make music. Rock music is fun, fast, easy. Especially when we started off, we’d just plug in and play a couple riffs and make something crazy. We’ve evolved since then and learned how to play better. We’ve gained knowledge and resources and interpreted it into our music, integrating it into to the band. We’ve developed our music since we started and it’s been very fun and satisfying along the way.
Sincerely Sorry is your first EP. Was the experience different from recording albums?
Anaiah Lei: It was different. For one, we recorded it in West London, in White City, at Damon Albarn’s studio. We weren’t really recording for the purposes of putting it onto an EP. Just wanted to lay it down and it ended up becoming a release.
ML: It was more for us. Stephen [Sedgwick] produced it. It was a collaborative effort. We recorded in a very lovely studio, really lavish and awesome. Him and Anaiah and I arranged the songs the way we wanted them. We got to the point where we experimented with a bunch of weird stuff. It was different process before.
The EP is your first release for FADER Label. Was that exciting for you?
ML: It was awesome. It was kinda like a special thing because the EP got put out on a label we really like. I’m glad that we released with FADER.
AL: It would be cool to collaborate with [labelmate] Yuna. She’s really awesome. And Matt & Kim are interesting too. Collaboration came up in conversation.
There seems to be a resurgence of heavier music in LA at the moment, particularly with Trash Talk’s rise to fame. Do you feel the city is a conducive environment to punk?
ML: It’s more available, I suppose. It’s really open to faster rock music, experimental stuff, collaborative music, hip-hop or hard rock. Even in the electronic scene, people make ridiculous stuff.
Your tour schedule seems practically endless. Is it hard to keep up with real life, like school and friends, when you’re always on the road?
AL: I didn’t go to school. I’m 17 right now, about to finish, but I do online school, like homeschooling. I go to this weird private school. As long as I have an internet connection I can get on it. Travelling and doing shows can be hard because you get real occupied.
ML: You need stamina. Travelling is hard. You never know what time you’ll get, you never know what equipment might show up, and what time the shows start.
In between all the touring, do you think there’ll be another Bots release this year?
ML: We’re working for an album. We might put out an EP. We’re doing a lot of shows out here in the US- Coachella, Sasquatch, a bunch of shows after that. Working on the album, putting out more videos. We’re working hard right now, so there’s definitely a lot of stuff to look forward to.
Photo by Kelsey Hart.