The Bobby Lees: Garage Rock Needs a Passport and a Go-Bag
Written by Joshua Reedy on July 30, 2020
The Bobby Lees are an uncompromising garage-rock/punk band from Woodstock, New York. In a recent socially distant interview, the band wrote in to describe their recording process, their new upcoming record, and some interesting encounters at shows.
RRX: Obviously, everyone is still struggling in the time of COVID-19. For the past three issues, I’ve done interviews while bands are stuck in quarantine. What have you guys been doing to combat this and stay creative and positive towards your local underground scene?
SQ: We quarantined together the first couple weeks so we wrote a bunch of new stuff. Took lots of walks, cooked, puzzles, stayed pretty positive. We’re now trying to set up some outdoor shows at drive-ins/social distance shows with our friends’ bands so hopefully we can get those going soon.
MB: Drawing still lifes while sitting on the toilet so as to keep my mind sharp while supporting the scene of the underground septic tank beneath my house.
NC: I’m nothing but a shell of a human now (Nicks having a tough time right now)
RRX: I notice you guys have very recently released a new track. What’s recording like for you guys? What are some challenges you face putting out content?
SQ: TIME!! We always want more time but we haven’t been able to afford that yet in the studio. We had to rush, get all the songs recorded in a couple days and mixed in a couple days, that was a challenge. I’m hoping that for the next record we can get an extra few days.
MB: The main challenge is how expensive recording is. I can’t speak for the others, but I’d say the other largest hurdle of recording is being forced to stare headlong at my lack of prodigious skill in the face of my inaccurately preconceived talent.
KW: We record on tape playing live so it’s usually a quick process where each song gets only two to three takes before we move on. We worked with Jon Spencer of the Blues Explosion on our new record, and he opened our eyes to lots of different recording techniques, as well as experimenting with new instruments and sounds. His input enhanced the songs a lot. The biggest challenge with new content is exposure.
RRX: I see you have an album planned for release later this month, is there anything you want to say or promote about your upcoming release?
MB: Buy it. You will get limitless sex and money.
NC: please just try it out, everything hurts right now and it would really help if you’d give it a try
RRX: Listening to your latest single, I hear a lot of early 70’s punk/blues influence along with elements of garage rock. Parts of the song remind me of the Dead Kennedys fused with some early 2000’s rock. Is this a fair assessment/what would you say are some of your biggest influences?
SQ: My favorites are Little Richard, Bo Diddley, The Gories, James Brown, Patsy Cline, Elvis, I also really like the 2000’s bands like the White Stripes, The Hives, My Chemical Romance is one of my all-time favorites, the rest of the band makes fun of me for it.
KW: Garage rock seems to be the most accurate genre for us, but it’s hard to say because I’ve never had an easy time describing the sound/influence.
RRX: I heard you semi-recently signed to Alive Naturalsound Records; congrats! What’s it like actually being signed and how has it affected your music?
SQ: It’s been nice ‘cause they can get our music to places we weren’t able to with our first record, like all over Europe and stuff. It’s also nice to have someone help with costs and printing of records etc. I don’t think it’s affected our music? They signed us when we had already finished recording this album, they heard it and wanted to put it out.
KW: There’s some good and bad. It has helped a lot with exposure, as well as having more people to consult with about business decisions. But because more people are involved, you have to learn to compromise and listen to different opinions. Alive loved the record when they first heard it so our music has not been affected which is great.
RRX: What are your hopes for the future? Obviously it’s hard to make plans in a time like this, but do you guys have any big future tour plans to promote your new material?
MB: Make enough money playing music so we can support ourselves solely by playing yet more music.
SQ: Playing shows again! We had over 60 US tour dates booked for this spring/summer and our first European tour booked in France, Belgium and UK, all that got cancelled, so at this point just hoping to play shows again, rebuild the tours. For the US it’s just us doing it, so it was like six months of work, hoping it will be a little easier the second time around.
RRX: I heard that you guys are from Woodstock, which is a nice town. Describe the local scene out there and some of your favorite venues.
SQ: The Colony in Woodstock, BSP in Kingston, and right now they’re rebuilding a place called the Bearsville Theater which will host bigger shows. One of my favorite places here was a Chinese restaurant that had a stage, they’d let bands play while people ate Chinese food. That was our first show, but the restaurant/venue closed last year.
RRX: Are there any other local bands that you guys have bonded with over your career? Is there anyone you want to give a shoutout to?
SQ: My favorite local band is Hairbag, they’re just the nicest dudes. In Ohio – Rat Motel and Radattack, In Detroit – The Stools, those are my favorites so far.
MB: There are some fantastic bands up here, but if I had to pick the bands that we’ve played with that I listen to most…it’d probably have to be either Rat Motel or Bundy and the Spins both from Ohio.
NC: HAIRBAG HAIRBAG HAIRBAG
RRX: Sometimes, it feels as though there is a cynical mindset surrounding the survival of a genre like punk-rock or garage-rock, with some people going as far as to say these genres are dead. What are your feelings about these sentiments? Do you feel that punk is thriving currently?
SQ: Definitely. I think anyone that says it’s dead isn’t very alive themselves. It’s nine plus out there if you wanna look for it – The Stools from Detroit are a pretty amazing new punk blues band I found last year, they have a live album/tape where the MC is about to announce them and he says “I hear a lot of people say, ‘rock and roll is dead man’, you know what I tell them? I tell them to FUCK OFF. Come up and smell The Stools!”
MB: I think that people are too caught up with the aesthetic of any given genre while not caring so much about the context that it’s made in. Garage rock will always be a thing because people will always have garages and rudimentary musical ideas that can flourish into something beautiful. The entire point of punk rock is to rebel against some kind of societal norm that you think deserves to be deconstructed. Therefore punk will always exist in some form or another, it just won’t look or sound like the Sex Pistols or the Ramones because the Sex Pistols and the Ramones already came along and made that aesthetic badass enough to be mainstream. I know that excludes us from the genre of punk, but that doesn’t really bother me all that much.
RRX: What role do you believe politics play in modern punk/garage rock? What is your opinion on music having a message?
MB: I suppose to continue the last piece of guff that I said, the entire point of punk is to be political. Music that masquerades as punk that lacks any kind of message contextual or otherwise is not punk.
NC: I swear to god if another thing gets wrapped up in politics I’ll start the revolution myself. I DONT CARE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT AMERICA OR POLITICS JUST FORGET ABOUT LIFE FOR AN HOUR AND DANCE
SQ: I don’t really care if there’s a message or not, it’s more if I believe the music or the person singing. If it feels honest and real, or like it has some pulse or electricity to it, I’m usually into it.
RRX: Describe the funniest show you guys have ever played (a standout, weird/funny moment from a show).
SQ: probably our first ever show at the Chinese restaurant. Only one person showed up. He sat at the bar eating noodles and watching us.
KW: When we played in Canton, OH, there was a teenage girl that carried around a really big stick all night and was dancing with it in the audience like she was a part of some sort of ritual. It was very bizarre.