Interview: The Bots Talk About Music, Skateboarding, and Being Brothers

The Lei brothers, Mikaiah and Anaiah, are multi-talented musicians that form the two-man band The Bots. They got their start when they were just 15- and 12-years-old, recording their first album, and now tour the world, performing at the Vans Warped Tour, Afropunk Festival, and Colours of Ostrava, one of the biggest music festivals in the Czech Republic. They’re now getting major attention as Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn referred to them as his current favorite band, and Bad Brains, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Tenacious D have selected them as the opening act at their shows and to accompany them on tours. We caught up with The Bots at The Ace Hotel while they were in town to play New York City’s CMJ Festival to talk to them about their music and what’s next for the band.

Tell us a little bit about who you guys are.
Anaiah: My name is Anaiah. I'm from a band called The Bot. I'm 16 years of age and I’m from Glendale, CA. I’m of Carribean and Taiwanese descent and I’m from the streets (laughs). That’s pretty much it.

Mikaiah: My name is Mikaiah and I'm Anaiah’s older brother. I'm 20-years-old and I play guitar, sing and play the keys in the band. My brother forgot to mention he plays the drums.

How did you guys get into music?
Mikaiah: We’ve always been into music. We grew up listening to a lot of reggae and oldies, all that stuff. There were always instruments around us. One day we went out and bought stuff we were interested in it and just started jamming. There were never any formal lessons. We just did it because we wanted to.

When did you decide to start a band?
Anaiah: Well, my brother was in his freshman year of high school and his friend who played guitar and two other friends started a band without me. For the first two days, I wasn’t in the band. They needed a drummer and I was literally the only drummer on the block and I’m his brother. I didn’t have much say in it the matter. So we started playing music and within the first few weeks everyone else immediately left the band. It’s strange. To start off, it was a five piece band. It became just me and my brother, but we like it like this.

Where does your sound come from?
Mikaiah: We consider ourselves a rock band and we do play some punk. We like to play fast and raw, but we play a mix of punk, rock, folk electronic, and more. We enjoy making music we like to hear, that is what’s important to us.

What bands and artists inspire you, and what artists and things in life inspire your art and creativity?
Anaiah: I like a lot of things. I like Al Green.

Mikaiah: Artists like Arcade Fire, Deer Hunter and Norah Jones. Films inspire me, and skateboarding as well. There’s always something. You’re never short of inspiration when you keep an open mind. Whatever inspires you and pushes you to make music is beautiful.

When did you guys start skateboarding?
Mikaiah: My dad skated in the ‘80s, old-school style. I remember watching the “Dog Town and Z Boys” film and just wanted to skate all the time. Skateboarding inspires me to make music. It kind of goes hand-in-hand—there’s always great music in skate videos.

Anaiah: Our buddy Sam actually just shot for a feature in Transworld about skate and music, so we’ll have a whole section in the next issue. I’m really excited about it. We love being involved in skate community.

All brothers fight. What’s the last thing you guys got into an argument about?
Anaiah: Why he won’t come skate with me anymore. He’s really good, but when we go out, he just sits there and posts up.

What’s next for The Bots? What do you guys have planned for the future?
Anaiah: We just came out with an EP under Fader called Sincerely Sorry. We’re working on an album right now and doing multiple different things like working with Converse. We are very active.

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