Interview: The Bobby Lees
It’s the coolest, if I was a teenager, I would be like, wow! We’re all fans of Ipecac so it's a dream come true to releasing the album on the label.
The Bobby Lees have just brought out their latest album Bellevue, their first on on Ipecac Records and it’s a collection of ferociously loud, raw and high energy punky garage rock hybrid songs, with a knack for crucial elements of melody and catchiness. Gavin Brown caught up with The Bobby Lees drummer Macky Bowman to hear all about Bellevue and the band’s new material as well as their recent European tour and having Henry Rollins as a fan of the group and their music.
E&D: Ahead of your new album, The Bobby Lees released the Monkey Mind and Hollywood Junkyard EPs earlier this year. How has the reaction to the new material been?
Macky: Everyone I’ve talked to said they liked them. Maybe they’re just lying to my face to try to get in my good graces! But no, everyone I’ve talked to said they really like it. It’s exciting and everything that I’ve seen people say online has been relatively positive aside for the few comments here and there. That’s a pretty good ratio, I’d say.
E&D: You have also released the video for the album track ‘Ma Likes To Drink’. How was it from making that video and can you tell us a bit about it?
Macky: What’s really funny about that video is we showed up that day to shoot the ‘Dig Your Hips’ video, with John Swab, the director, and at the time, we were still kind of holding out because we needed one more video and we didn’t know what to do. We don’t have the money for this, and we don’t have the time so we show up that day, and he said, I had this amazing thought when I woke up, so you can shoot this down if you want but all of you guys totally naked around Sam. One shot, super easy, let’s do it. We were all really confused, like, What are you talking about? He said, it’s gonna be dope. Just think about it, and by lunchtime, we were like, why not? Let’s do it. As soon as we were done shooting the ‘Dig Your Hips’ video, which took all morning and part of the afternoon. We just rearranged where the camera was in the room and doctored the shot and stripped down and did that video. It turned out to be the favourite video from all that we that we made.
E&D: Your new album Bellevue is out now too, are you happy to get that out as well?
Macky: More than I could possibly be! We’ve been touring the Skin Suit material for a long time, extra longer than we could even plan to, and then even after we had recorded the new album, we sat on it for a year. We’re all super proud of it, and so we’re just excited to finally be able to not only release new stuff and have people hear new stuff, but also change the set up so that when we are touring for however long at a time, it’s not the same songs that we’ve been playing.
E&D: Was all this new material recorded at the same time and how did the studio sessions go?
Macky: We recorded one week with this producer Vance Powell to test it out, see if we liked the workflow, and it sounded good and all that sort of stuff. We did a week and we did four songs and they all came out really, really great. I think one of those songs was ‘Monkey Mind’ actually. Then we went back for another week, two months later in October 2020. The first week was August of 2020, then October of 2020 and recorded almost all the rest of the songs and then in November of 2021 Oh, my God, we’ve been sitting on it for two years! December of 2021, we finally got around, went back and finally finished everything recorded now we’re finally getting to release it.
E&D: How was it working with with Vance Powell on the material?
Macky: It was amazing actually, because it was so different from our previous experiences with working with different people. It’s especially interesting, in retrospect, to look at the difference between the way someone like Vance works he’s a very, I don’t know if it’s the right way to say it, but a by the books, producer. It feels very much like you’re working with a producer versus working with someone like Jon Spencer for the album before who was also great, but working with him felt very much like working with a musician who is producing you, and working with Vance felt very much like a producer producing you. There’s pros and cons to both and they’re both amazing but it was really cool to get this newer experience with Vance. He took extra pains to make sure it was a very comfortable environment for everyone to get the best performance out of them possible.
E&D: Would you work again with him in the future?
Macky: I would not at all be opposed to working with him again in the future. At this point, I don’t even know what the future holds so I can’t even begin to speculate about that but I totally be open to working with him again.
E&D: This is your first music on new label Ipecac. How have things been on the label and how did you come to be signed to them?
Macky: It’s actually a really cool story. The label that we did Skin Suit on, they have a close relationship with Henry Rollins and after we recorded the new stuff, they actually showed him the new record early and he loved it. He actually also has a close relationship with Ipecac and he brought it to them and from that point on, they were interested. It’s the coolest, if I was a teenager, I would be like, wow! We’re all fans of Ipecac so it’s a dream come true to releasing the album on the label.
E&D: As well as Henry Rollins, you’ve also had plaudits from Debbie Harry, how much of a thrill is it to have these iconic musicians loving the music of The Bobby Lees?
Macky: It’s just really cool. Henry Rollins helping us out is amazing and that’s more than than I could ever hope for. It’s just on a different level, the validation from people who you respect so much is a nice reminder to keep going, and keep that PMA in check.
E&D: For yourself who’s been the biggest influence on your drumming style?
Macky: Oh, I could name 1500 different people. Let’s see. I’m a really big fan of Fish from Fishbone. He’s a really big influence on me. Rob Ellis, PJ Harvey’s drummer is a big influence on me. Elvin Jones is a big one. Obviously, I don’t want to sound like a loser or don’t know what I’m talking about or anything but Buddy Rich is up there. He’s a really big inspiration. Stephen Perkins from Janes Addiction, I love him. That’s just a few of them.
E&D: Who is the biggest influence on the sound of The Bobby Lees?
Macky: What I’m actually really proud of, just us as a group is that it’s what all my favourite all my favourite bands are like, where it’s some overlap at the sound of the band is an amalgamation of all of our favourite stuff and we all like different stuff. I really like stuff like I already mentioned. Nick is a really big fan of lots of different stuff he loves, Afro Cuban All Stars, that’s a big one, and the Allman Brothers. He really likes Megadeth too. Sam really likes Bo Diddley. Muddy Waters, and Kendall really loves film scores and composers like Hans Zimmer and Joe Hisaishi.
E&D: How did you European tour over the summer go and what were some of the highlights?
Macky: It was great. The European tour over the summer was awesome for a lot of reasons, but I think what’s interesting is as a band, as a group, in the dynamic, finally after all these years of essentially living on the road together, then butting heads and whatever. We’re finally at a really good and healthy place in the band dynamic. Not that we were in an unhealthy place before but we’re in a really good place now, I think. As a group, it was probably the best tour we’ve ever had. That being said, externally, it was probably the most difficult tour we’ve ever done. It was five straight weeks of nonstop touring, it was five weeks with like, six days off so it was super intense and there were a few whatever shows but more totally amazing shows. I think what we were all super surprised by was the UK because everyone in the rest of Europe was kind of like, don’t go to the UK. It’s like America over there in terms of hospitality but we were like, you know, we’re used to America, so we were wondering what’s this gonna be like? We got there and it was amazing. Everyone was super nice and the hospitality was great. The shows were amazing, so we’re just super thankful for that.
E&D: Have you got more shows planned now that the new album is out?
Macky: We only have have four more shows left for the rest of the year, and then we’re planning on hitting the road next year to for the album.
E&D: What are some of the gigs that stick out in your head over the years, you must have done quite a few but which ones stick in your head as the most memorable?
Macky: The most memorable? Man, that’s such a good question. Some of the most memorable, definitely off the top of my head, just because it’s so recently is the Europe tour. We played this place called Quito Fest in Haarlem in the Netherlands, that was like one of the best shows we’ve ever played, genuinely, it was amazing. Everyone was just super energetic and knew the words. It was a big event so there were stagehands that were helping set up and break down, which felt like a very professional thing, which we’re still not totally used to! That was amazing and Shock Fest was really funny, because it was a super amazing, huge crowd, all of whom were lovely people, 1500 people, but it felt like they were all on stage, It felt kind of like but they all really liked it, it was just funny. Dublin, Ireland was amazing. They knew all the words for some reason, My last one that I’ll say was memorable off the top of my head. In August 2021, we played this really shitty tour, all the shows of which are forever burned into my brain. It was one of the shorter tours we’ve ever done but we all remember it as being one of the most difficult spans of 10 days of our lives, it was powerfully awful. You remember the Spinal Tap show at Shank Hall, the place from Spinal Tap. It was there and everything that could have possibly gone wrong that day, went wrong. It’s not the fault of the people who work there. They were all very, very lovely but there was,I think, 11 people in the room, three of which were members of the opening band and four of which were men in the bar, so it was like no one was there. The fucking Stonehenge was hanging right above my head like it was just a bad omen. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Kendall lost her stuff and couldn’t figure out where it was. Sam broke the strings on her guitar and then she broke strings on the backup guitar, so Sam didn’t have a guitar for the show. Nick was out of tune, I had let someone borrow my drum kit the night before and I played it and somehow the floor tom was tuned up higher than the snare drum, so it sounded like the snare drum from St Anger! It was so funny that we were at the place where Spinal Tap plays, and it was just the total Spinal Tap event without anyone spontaneously combusting!