Q&A: The Bobby Lees

[Photo courtesy of Speakeasy PR]

By Julia Weber, Features Editor

Macky Spider Bowman is the drummer for Lobsterfest headlining punk band THE BOBBY LEES. Ahead of Lobsterfest, I called him to talk about headlining the festival, what he’s been listening to lately, the importance of routine and, of course, the power of smell.

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Julia: I’m curious about the writing and recording process for your new album Bellevue. What were you finding inspiration in, and what was driving the process of writing and recording the album?

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Macky: Well, this might sound a little bit cynical, but there was a certain aspect of writing this album that was less purely creatively driven and partially just driven by a ‘we need more songs for an album.’ Our last album, Skin Suit, that was all songs that we had already naturally written over the course of whatever whatever. But this one, we put a lot of effort into getting in contact with this producer Vance Powell, and he was like, ‘we can make the album. You guys have a full album ready?’ And we were like, ‘yes, totally,’ and then we were like, ‘we do not have a full album together.’ So it was kind of like there was a mixture. We would get together every few days and write for a few hours to try to get as many songs out as we could and there was a lot of stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor so to speak. But, I’m really happy with how this came out. What I will say about it, even though you didn’t ask, I’ll just keep going here.

Julia: Go for it.

Macky: I was really happy with how this one turned out because more so than the last album, this one felt very cohesive to me from a writing perspective, which I think comes out of the – I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a crunch or anything like that – but the hurried sort of external factors that were influencing the writing. It’s all written in such close proximity and with such a clear goal in mind that it all feels like it flows into itself much better than other projects.

Julia: My next question is kind of related to what you were just talking about, but your new album comes two years after your last album Skin Suit. What was the pacing like for your newest album after Skin Suit?

Macky: This one was interesting because we recorded Skin Suit in I think 2019 and it didn’t get released until 2020, which sounds weird because the last four years have been such a blur for me. Getting to tour all that material kind of was a really weird process. … That was the first time we’d written in, I want to say two years, because we stopped writing stuff for the last album in 2019. The thing that was really interesting was how it took so long to get everything just right for this album release. We were kind of sitting on this album. It took us three sessions. We recorded it in three sessions over the course of a year and a half. We’d been sitting on a majority of the material in the recordings for a really long time before we got to release it. All that time had been just touring the old material, so I think by the time we finally released it, we were all so excited and ready to move on to something to something new because we had just gotten so complacent, so set in with the last material and we couldn’t play any of the new stuff until we released the album. We’re all very excited to move on. New era. We’re like Naruto Shippuden. There was a lot of filler, but now we just do the tournament arc. We’re back in.

Julia: Favorite album of all time. Go.

Macky: Favorite album of all time – that’s a really tough question! I would have said Ritual De Lo Habitual by Jane’s Addiction. That one stays near the top. I don’t know, man. Sheesh. Probably another one that I would list up there is maybe Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come soundtrack. That’s a really good album. Oh, I don’t know. Toss up between the first and second The Specials albums. … the first DEVO album. That’s a big one. Shout out Ohio.

Julia: Shout out Ohio.

Macky: Huge shout out Ohio. Too Much Pressure [by] The Selecter maybe.

Julia: That’s a good range. Lots of good music. On a different note, you’re getting ready to embark on a pretty lengthy and intense international tour. Can you tell me about how you’re feeling gearing up for this?

Macky: I’m feeling pretty good to be honest. I remember last. Last year, we toured so much and the first half of the year. It’s so much that by you know, I think by the time we were done in like August, I was just totally burned out. We’d just gotten off six weeks in Europe and I was just like a pancake. I was totally flat. I looked like the villain from Who Framed Roger Rabbit after he gets flattened by the steamroller. And I had to blow on my thumb. But yeah, and then we had a bunch of stuff planned for the fall, but most of it, except for two or three one off, fly out shows got canceled. So most of fall, all of winter, I’ve kind of been recuperating, focusing on other stuff, and also getting back ready to tour. So I’m now very excited to go on tour and, also, we really ran ourselves ragged with our touring last year. It was a lot. So this year, we’ve had a little bit more of a concerted effort and I’ll go for however long they need me to, but it is a nice consolation that this year is more effort into planning a tour that will let us all keep our sanity a little bit more.

Julia: Yeah, that’s always a plus. Is there anything specific that you do to prepare for tour?

Macky: There is stuff that I should do that I don’t always do that I’m trying to be better about this time. There will be times when I will be focusing on other stuff, like I’ve been painting a lot more recently. I’ve been trying to improve as a visual artist a lot more recently, and I think what happens is when I do too much of one thing, I let the other thing atrophy. I’ve been focusing a lot on that and I haven’t been practicing as much as I should be, especially leading up to the tour. I think over the next few days, I’m going to try to shake the rust off a little bit. I also like to try to stay more physically active. I try to take a four mile walk every day regardless, but I think I’m going to try to add to that and try to do more calisthenic workouts just so that my heart doesn’t explode in the middle of playing because I am really out of shape. And then I have to play a set, especially a set with our band, with such high energy. I’ll get through it but just barely. And then I’ll be really winded so I’m going to try to maybe get in shape a little bit.

Julia: Who are some of the artists that inspire THE BOBBY LEES and inspire you personally?

Macky: What’s cool about our band is we all have such radically different music tastes. … I listed a bunch of stuff that I like. Kendall really likes funny stuff and in the best way possible. Love Kendall. She really likes film scores. … Just a really funny mishmash of things, like we all do. I think me and hers’ biggest overlap is we both love Joe Hisaishi who does the Studio Ghibli movies.

Julia: I also love the Studio Ghibli movies.

Macky: I mean, who doesn’t? They’re so magical, they’re so whimsical and awe-inspiring. I love them. Nick likes a whole slew of other stuff. He really likes Biggie Smalls. He really likes Afro-Cuban All Stars, Buena Vista Social Club, and he’s hesitant to admit it but Megadeth. Sam really loves Bo Diddley. She’s a really big Jack White fan, all stuff like that. Little Richard, all stuff that’s really moving, that’s what I would describe her music taste as.

Julia: That’s a huge array of things. Where do you find inspiration outside of music, whether it’s outside forms of media, or I know you mentioned people within your painting – are there things that you’re drawn to that are non-music, non-media in terms of inspiration?

Macky: Smells. … It’s weird but I think part of staying sane is getting to, especially in the springtime, getting to walk, like take a four mile walk and just smell the air, even the bad – even, like, when someone left a bear poop, like a bear ate someone’s garbage and then pooped – it’s all this interesting array of things. I have this really, really specific memory of my dad telling me when I was younger something that stuck with me my entire life. … He said something about smell being the thing that the human brain catalogs the most intensely. He was like, ‘long after I’m gone, you’ll remember my smell,’ and I said ‘wow, that’s really interesting.’ I guess that’s always stuck with me.

Julia: How old were you when he said this?

Macky: I’m gonna say this was between March 20 and March 29 of 2007.

Julia: That is so much more specific than I was expecting.

Macky: Yeah, I was five. … It’s wisdom like that that makes me love my dad. … That’s one of my favorite tidbits. It’s really stuck with me.

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