Interview: The Bots Frontman Mikaiah Lei on New Album, Growing Musically

Mikaiah Lei, frontman of The Bots, put out a self-released album with his brother, drummer Anaiah Lei, when he was 15 years old and Anaiah was 12. Before they made their second album, 2014’s Pink Palms, theyd already played festivals in the U.S. and Europe, accumulating rave reviews.  

As a young man, growing up with all those perks, it would have been easy to overindulge,” Lei says. Luckily, I had my friends and family to keep me grounded. Musically, it was a blessing to be surrounded by so many pros at such a young age. It really informed my musical understanding and ability.”  

Lei’s music combines aspects of punk, blues, folk, and indie rock, with hints of electronica, to create the energetic pop sound of 2 Seater. Big Indie Records released the album on September 8.  

Now 28, Lei wrote the songs between the ages of 19 and 22, as he was becoming a seasoned pro and a young man.  

The older songs were revisited in the studio with my producer, Adrian Quesada, and my new drummer, Alex Vincent,” Lei says. I demo my songs on a little Tascam eight-track recorder, so I don’t get carried away by an infinite amount of tracks and options. When we record them, the songs need to be catchy, or memorable in some way. They have to have heart or make you feel something. Not every song needs to be a pop song to be great. If you write it with true love and passion for the craft, it will show. 

We recorded [2 Seater] live in-studio, usually tracking drums and guitar, or drums and bass, together,” Lei continues. Alex plays a lot of instruments, so we do overdubs—either one at a time or together—depending on the instruments we’re playing. We recorded during the pandemic, but only had four people in the studio—myself, Alex, Adrian, and Aaron, the engineer. We all tested and wore masks. We got to try a bunch of new stuff I’ve never done in a studio before. We played a majority of the songs without cymbals and played a couple of tunes with chopsticks instead of drumsticks.”  

Lei says his growth as a guitarist and performer wasnt consciously thought out.  

Like many aspiring guitar players, I picked up a few power chords from punk songs and tried my best to emulate that sound,” he says. I slowly figured out what style of music I wanted to make, and tried finding my voice, which is hard to do when going through puberty. I got to a point where I started playing local clubs and bar gigs. In the summer of 2011, I got invited to join the Vans Warped Tour, and things just progressed naturally from there. Eventually, I want to be able to make whatever kind of music I want and not find myself limited or restricted by genre or style. 

Watch the video for “See It” here:

For more from The Bots, find them on Instagram and Facebook.

Photo courtesy of The Bots and Camille Bagnani

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