Two-piece brother garage punk band The Bots dressed for a slumber party – a very loud slumber party – for their Sunday opening set at Outside Lands.
Drummer Anaiah Lei (17) wore an oversize black T-shirt, but his brother, 21-year-old guitarist-vocalist Mikaiah, was decked in a two-piece salmon-colored pajama set, which happened to match his pink shoes and flowered pink head covering.
“It’s a loud outfit,” Mikaiah later said, in a brief chat behind the scenes during the festival. “It’s pretty ostentatious. We have to wear stuff that makes us feel comfortable and fun to wear on stage, just to mix it up for us.”
The Glendale, Calif., duo has been at for nearly a quarter of their lives. What started as a high school band (Mikaiah was 15; Anaiah just 12), with other friends, is now a loud, boisterous duo that has shared the stage with the likes of Blur, the Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bad Brains. They’ve already released one full-length album and two EPs. Their next album, Pink Palms (Oct. 14 on FADER Label), was co-produced by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner.
“I’m quite comfortable with what we do now,” Mikaiah said. “It’s not a big deal. I used to get quite nervous before getting to the stage. (Now) it’s just natural. It’s our job. It’s coming to work.”
The Bay Bridged: Did you have a job before this?
Mikaiah: I worked at an Old Navy very briefly. I got fired within two days. And then I worked at Petco.”
TBB: How did you meet Nick of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs?
Anaiah: Damon Albarn (of Blur and the Gorillaz) invited us onto a train that he bought that traveled around the U.K., and Nick was one of the musicians that was on that train.
Mikaiah: We were hanging out on the train. I saw him two seats down and said “hi.” I said, “I had a song that me and Anaiah wrote that I want you to play guitar on.” That’s how it started. We jammed with him a little bit and became friends. Then later, he asked us to open for his band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s been a fun trip since then. We’ve recorded a little bit with him.”
Anaiah: I Snapchat him once in a while. We’ll talk. It’s cool.
TBB: Tell me more about this train.
Mikaiah: It’s called the Africa Express.
Anaiah: It’s a tour that Damon Albarn does. It’s usually in Africa, he invites a lot of Western musicians. This is the first time he used the train. He usually just goes to Africa and travels around. He brings musicians from around the world. This time, he bought a train. The route was … London, at Kings Cross Station, and it went through England – it went up to Bristol, Manchester; we went to Wales.
TBB: So you just jammed with each other?
Mikaiah: We jammed with each other, and we played for people. We’d be on the train, it would pull up at a random station, the doors would open, and we would be like, “Hey! Let’s play for people on the platform.”
Anaiah: They announced what stations we were going to play at, but it seemed like it was impromptu.
Mikaiah: And then we would show up every single night at a proper venue and perform the songs we played on the train. It was so legit. Everyone was a professional musician. So you learned a song in a day, and then you played it. Sometimes we’d go to a park in a group of five or six. People really didn’t know that that was happening. That was the craziest thing I’ve ever done.
TBB: What were you doing in England at that time?
Anaiah: We were on tour at the time, and we had just opened up for Blur. That’s where (Albarn) came up to us. He invited us to his studio.
Mikaiah: His studio would make you jealous. He owns everything there is to own, music-wise.
TBB: Let’s switch it up a bit. Listening to the White Stripes inspired you to form this band?
Mikaiah: Very true. There’s not many two-piece bands that were doing it the way the White Stripes were. It allowed us to continue (after a few other band members dropped out). It made it a possibility. ‘Oh my God, two people could do this. I could do it. … To write music with two people and make it sound substantial… like a four-piece band…
Anaiah: There’s a lot of two-piece bands that ended up getting more members. The White Stripes; they played it –
Mikaiah: – until they were done.
Anaiah: We keep it true to a two-piece because we can, and they inspired us.