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Don’t Look Back In Negativity

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The Bots: Don’t Look Back In Negativity

Emily Zemler on December 2, 2021

For Mikaiah Lei, the songwriter and musician behind Los Angeles rock band The Bots, the past few years have been an opportunity to revisit— and learn from—past creations. For the group’s new album 2 Seater, which was recently released on Big Indie Records, the 28-year-old Lei recorded 10 tracks that were originally crafted when he was still in his early twenties.

“These songs were written over the past seven years,” Lei explains. “A lot of this music I meant to put out much sooner, but life got it in the way and things just got pushed back. Revisiting them after all this time was sort of therapeutic—a lot of these songs were created in a moment of deep passion. I was having these really intense feelings. I’ve gotten to a place where I can look back without feeling all of this negativity.”

He adds, “‘Looking Back’ and ‘Tattle Tell’ felt the most transformative for me. I felt very strongly about the demo versions of those particular songs, and I really wanted to recreate, or super exceed, what I had laid down originally. For ‘Looking Back,’ I had it in my head that I wanted to make a song without any drums, but ended up changing my mind when the producer suggested making it sound like the drums were being played in another room for the outro.”

To record the album, The Bots, co-founded by Lei and his brother Anaiah, teamed up with Adrian Quesada of Black Pumas. The band drove down to Austin last September to lay down the songs with Quesada over the course of 16 days. “Adrian taught us so much,” Lei reflects. “I learned about so many new recording techniques. We drummed with chopsticks and no cymbals, and we played with really old analog keys and gear, etc. Adrian’s influences and touch is all over the album.”

Although it’s been seven years since The Bots’ last album, 2014’s Pink Palms, Lei has continued making music. The time between records has given him space and perspective—and he found even more perspective while bringing 2 Seater to life. “I learned that I need to give my songs more space, which depends on the kind of track you’re going for, of course,” Lei says. “I found myself referencing a lot of other songs that I wanted to achieve elements of in my own music, but discovered it wouldn’t work for the type of tracks that I laid down.”

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