The Bots
All I Really Want

With every generation comes a new wave of artists who, while often influenced by their predecessors, push music forward reflecting the collective consciousness of their time. Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei, 21 and 17 respectively, are certainly representatives of this emerging class but, considering how long the duo has been making music as The Bots, they’ve got a solid head start on most of their peers. The LA-bred brothers recorded their first album nearly 6 years ago and have been rocking the festival circuit, starting with appearances on Warped Tour, ever since.

Musically, The Bots brand of rock is certainly a product of some of the great musicians of the past ranging from punk’s roots to contemporary icons in the genre. In fact, they’ve seemingly followed a chronological trajectory of the genre, fusing styles and injecting their unique twist along the way. In mastering the craft of those that came before them, The Bots have truly found their artistic identity and are poised to make an impact with their forthcoming album, Pink Palms, which will be released on October 14th via Fader Label.

We had a chance to catch up with the promising band at this year’s Outside Lands finding the brothers, as we expected, to exude an aura of youthful creativity. Check the conversation below, stream the first single from Pink Palms above and, if you’re digging it, grab the track on iTunes as well.

TMN: When did you first start listening to music and what was the first artist that you really got into?

Mikaiah: Our parents showed us a lot of good oldies and reggae growing up. I was listening to a lot of MTV stuff so that was, at the time, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Avril Lavigne, Green Day

Anaiah: Do you even know a Backstreet Boys album?

Mikaiah: No, but that’s what I listened to!

Anaiah: I liked a lot of Reggae and Punk Rock music.

Mikaiah: Commercial radio and stuff like that was what I was into, but then I grew up. After the punk thing, I was like, okay, this is real cool music. I started weeding through all the other types of music and figuring out what I really liked. As I grew a bit older, I realized I shouldn’t be so worried about what people think if I like Madonna or whatever. I listen to everything now, but back then it was a lot of Reggae and Oldies. When we came to a certain age, our father introduced more 80s hard core. It was a lot of Black Flag. Also, Rock ’n Roll like Ramones and, everything more classic, like Led Zeppelin and ACDC—it was punk and then all the rock bands. That’s when we found out what we really like. We like rock music. Anaiah listens to a bunch of stuff, I listen to a bunch of stuff. We share music and that’s how we keep things interesting in the band itself when writing.

TMN: It’s kind of crazy to think how long you’ve been recording music considering how young you are. 

Mikaiah: It is, isn’t it? Most of my life, I’ve been doing this now. My short 21 years.

TMN: Could you take us back to the first album you wrote together in 2009?

Mikaiah: It was mainly just the songs that we were able to come up with at the time provided as little equipment as we had. We just had a guitar and an amp—no pedals. I was using preset distortion and effects on the amp that I had back then. Later on, we started building and got better gear. Few years later, it became more routine in a way and we got down what we’re doing. I’m not so nervous about things like I used to be.

Anaiah: He used to be a nervous wreck.

Mikaiah: Yeah, I couldn’t perform. At one of our earliest shows, I cried and asked our mom to drive us home because I literally couldn’t perform. And now, it’s my job. I don’t whine. I get up on stage and have my fun. Regardless of if the stage setup is good or the performance itself is good or bad, we still have fun.IMG_0561

TMN: Being brothers must give you a sense of comfort when you’re on stage. What’s that dynamic like having just grown up together from age zero?

Mikaiah: I watched Anaiah from when he was a baby 17 years ago. I have pictures where I’m holding him and he really looks like he didn’t want me to be holding him. We have some very cute baby pictures.

Anaiah: You don’t want to be held by a three year old! You know he was doing some sketchy stuff on the side too. I love hugs, but this guy’s a bit creepy.

Mikaiah: Granted, yes, I get very creepy. It’s 2014. Everybody’s a hipster and nobody’s normal. We live in a society where there’s a lot worse going on. So me giving my brother a hug is the least creepy thing I could do. That’s not the point, though.

It’s very nice performing and being able to look over my shoulder and know my brother is there. There’s nobody else in the band. We often get told that we should have another bass player or key member or whatever.  I like the band just me and Anaiah. Money’s cut in half. I don’t have to worry about some shady dude that’s going to run off with a little extra. I trust my brother. He trusts me. We have a great time making music and performing it together. If nothing’s broken don’t fix it.

TMN: You first started coming up through Warped Tour. Can you talk a little about your experiences there and how they were meaningful to your growth as artists?

Mikaiah: It definitely contributed to where the band is now.  We’re much stronger musicians just in our heads from performing a festival like Warped tour when you’re driving every single day to a new place in 120 degree weather with humidity like nowhere else.  And not knowing if you’re going to make it there on time. But the people were lovely and the food was awesome. They had veggie, vegan and normal selections for everything. So, they had a normal corn dog, a veggie corn dog and a vegan for every meal. It was wonderful catering. The bands were excellent and you make so many nice friends. I met I Set My Friends on Fire, the band, and we became real good friends with them. Hung out with them pretty much every single day on tour. I was on their bus more than I was on ours.

TMN: You were talking a bit about your first time performing and how it was a nervous experience for you. How do you feel like you guys have grown as performers?

Mikaiah: There’s nothing that can embarrass me anymore. I used to worry about things like “What if I’ve got something in my teeth or what if my hair looks funny or what if my pants didn’t fit right.” The small things. Or “what kind of guitar is the other guy playing? does it look cooler than what I’m holding?” Stupid things. Now, I could fall and hit my face on the ground and I’m still okay.

Anaiah: I’ve seen this guy do some pretty messed up stuff on stage. I do some jacked up stuff too, though. It’s all part of the job, you know. You’ve gotta put on a performance.

Mikaiah: Yeah, we do some pretty weird stuff nowadays. We’ve gotten really into it in the last 3 years.

A lot of bands perform, but there’s no performance. That’s what I feel is missing. What we try to do is give a performance every single time. Back in those days when I wouldn’t be able to go on stage because I was so scared, I barely could hold a guitar and stand up at the same time let alone dance around and play the same songs. After I got really confident, the last few years have been excellent. We just got really loose. Once we got decent enough at instruments, we just took the stage performance to another level. Like, “how much crap can I get away with on stage?” 

Anaiah: If I want to go on naked, I can go on naked. We played on a boat in France and I played in a t-shirt and boxers. Because it was burning hot so I was like, “I’m not going to wear pants today.”

Mikaiah: The only thing we haven’t done is perform shirtless yet. We joked with Nick Zinner (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs) about how Dave Navarro (of Jane’s Addiction) never ever wears a shirt. Think about one performance for Jane’s Addiction where he was wearing a shirt. It doesn’t exist. He’s always come on shirtless. I want to pull that off one day but I’m a bit worried that if I walk out shirtless people are just going to turn around and walk away being like, “I don’t want to see this band.”

TMN: You are coming up, and growing up, in a really unique time as far as the music industry with the Internet. What is that like?

Mikaiah: Yeah, I think about how lucky we are to live in the time that we do provided social media the way it is. It allows a band to put their music on the Internet and almost see fame over night if you do it right and the right people see it.

Anaiah: Websites like YouTube let you put everything out to the world.

Mikaiah: But that’s also the bad thing. You could put everything out. So, the worst stuff makes it out there as well as the best stuff and there’s a lot of things to weed through before you find out what’s really good.

Anaiah: Yeah, even for ourselves. If we put out something bad, enough people know about our band that if we put out something there’s going to be a bunch of people who might save that file. Then they’ll have it forever and put it out. We can’t do anything about it so you’ve got to watch what you put out at as well.

TMN: When you started out, your sound was far more punk leaning but since that time you’ve expanded to sound more bluesy sounds kind of like The Black Keys or The White Stripes. It’s really interesting to hear how you’ve melded those together. Can you talk a bit about that growth and where that came from?

Mikaiah: That was kind of what I had planned for the band. We started off with so little to use in our hands and it was just making music with the instruments we had provided. As time went by, we were able to find other groups that we liked and got inspired by that. I’d watch The White Strips videos, of course, and see Jack White using a Digitech whammy pedal and a big muff then be like, “I’m going to buy those.” I went and bought them and am like, “still doesn’t sound like Jack White.” I was trying too hard to sound like other people and achieve that sound.


We were like, “we should just do what we want to do. What music do we want to make?” That’s it.

Mikaiah: People always want to categorize and say we’re a punk band, or this kind of band or that, whatever. I just take us as a rock band. We play everything rock whether it be faster music or slower music. We like it the way that it is because it’s just us two. It’s easy to produce that sound, sonically. Whether it be more lower dynamics with simple clean guitar and drums, or if it’s a guitar with a looped riff and I’m doing something over it. There’s different ways of building and developing tunes, which is nice. That’s kind of what we were looking to do all along. Once I started buying more guitars and effects, it became a method of thinking about other ways of producing music that we wanted to hear. It’s still relevant, current and people can enjoy it but something meaningful to us that we enjoy playing every single night. When I bought a synth that also opened up a lot of doors to take the band as far as we can with two people.

TMN: Talk a little about the upcoming album.

Anaiah: Its called Pink Palms. It’s coming out October 14th and we’ve been recording it for the last year actually since November 2013. Its eleven songs. We did all the artwork. Mikaiah did everything photography-wise besides a couple things in there.

Mikaiah: There is one picture that was taken of us so I couldn’t take it myself, but everything else— front and back, inserts and the actual record.

Anaiah: Justin Warfield and Nick Zinner produced it. We recorded it in Hollywood, my hometown. We also went to El Paso, Texas to record a bit of it. So, Nick and Justin really helped us. We collaborated on songs with them. It’s a really diverse album. I’m so excited for it to come out because people don’t really know what is in store.

Mikaiah: I like to think it’s the Bots 2.0. I hope people like it as much as we like it.

Anaiah: Now you’re making it sounds like a robot. The Bots Two Point O.

Mikaiah: Compared to our last album, dynamically, sonically the album is a produced album. You can tell and it’s not like a produced album in the corny, cheesy way like we sold out. It’s just taking our band to a better level where we kind of needed to be.

Photo Credit: Mike Lei

Related items::

The Bots