Mikaiah Lei had a whole lot of growing up to do in the past seven years. In the years since The Bots’ 2014 debut, Pink Palms, the band’s frontman channeled the heartache of a breakup and other life changes into song and coming into a new age on 2 Seater.
Produced by Black Pumas’ Adrian Quesada, the 10 tracks of 2 Seater, written predominantly when Lei was between 19 and 22 years old, document his transition into adulthood, and the mess left behind.
“Being a young man at that age, traveling the world essentially getting to do whatever you want, you can lose your head,” Lei tells American Songwriter. “It was just recuperating and reevaluating things, reacquainting myself with my friends at home. I wish I could have stayed busy consistently throughout these past years but life happens.”
Releasing The Bots’ first two albums in his early 20s, Lei, now 28, probes a different sonic space, capturing a more elevated, effervescent guitar pop. 2 Seater shifts from the more garage-punk of Pink Palms, and jumps through the journal of Lei’s growing pains from crunchier “2U” and “DYKMN (Sound the Same)” and an indie blast of “Girl Problems,” an exploratory dip into girl friends’ recollections of surviving the catty and “mean girls” and into a brief pause with stripped back “Looking Back.”
“I have a deep appreciation for artists who are storytellers because I don’t write lyrics like that,” says Lei. “I’m trying to better myself constantly and I’m always looking to other things for inspiration.”
Written over the course of the seven years since Pink Palms, Lei says 2 Seater is the album he needed to make right now.
“It showcases the maturity that I was aiming for at the time,” he says. “When I was writing the songs I wanted ones where I wasn’t necessarily having to scream over people trying to sing on top of these things and create more memorable melodies and hooks. There was a lot of emotion that was coming out, more passion, longing, wanting, and a lust-for-life vibe. It romanticizes everything. I think that’s one of the core elements that run through all the songs.”
He adds, “It has that eager feeling that encapsulates a bunch of things I was trying to find through expressing myself with the songs.”
Writing now is different for Lei, who still keeps a running list of song titles. “I just pick out catchphrases and pick words that are in my life, word combinations or word associations that I create threaded in different subject matter,” says Lei. “It’s easy to write the same kind of poetry. I love artists that are capable of writing from totally different perspectives, these great big stories where everything is linear. I get inspired by everything. I like movies. I write about stories that I hear from talking to people or just life experiences.”
Now, there’s new life beyond 2 Seater, and more for Lei to expand upon… in song.
“We’re gonna keep on keep the ball rolling,” says Lei. “I don’t want to wait another seven years.”