Recently, I was able to catch up with a great indie rock band called Me Like Bees for an interview about their new single and music video for “Radio.” The band sounds like a mix between the best parts of Cold War Kids, Jack White projects, and Manchester Orchestra. I asked the band about how they typically do their music writing, what went into the filming of their music videos, as well as a fun question about curating their perfect touring lineup.
So I understand you guys are getting ready to release a song called “Radio.” I just checked out the music video a few minutes ago as well as when the press release came out. Can you tell me how that one kind of came together with the songwriting?
Pete: Yeah, the song is kind of, it’s pretty morbid. I struggle to even tell you what the song is actually about too. Such a feel-good sounding song. But it’s actually about some guy getting stabbed outside my house in my neighborhood. So I don’t know, I’m hesitant to just say, oh, that’s what it’s about. I guess from an overarching theme, it’s about escapism. Using music for us is obviously one one thing, but it was just crazy. It was like a crazy night where I walked upstairs, and I live in this super old house, and it was built in like 1910, and it had this giant window at the top of the stairs. As I’m walking up to the top of the stairs, I look out, it’s nighttime. It’s raining super hard. And there’s like just some guy laying in the street. And then it was literally at the moment I walked up and then just like a cascade of police cars just surrounded them. And yeah, I found that that guy got stabbed to death. So it was just crazy, because I watched the entire scene unfold right there. But it was a really bad neighborhood. And now I would love to say that that was the first time that something like that happened. But I mean, pretty much there was something every single day. And that’s not even exaggerating. I feel like there’s a little bit of hope to it.
And can you talk a little bit about how you guys typically compose your songs, or the overall songwriting process, and how that’s kind of evolved over time?
Pete: Yeah, it mainly starts out with either me, or Luke, having a nugget of an idea, and sometimes we will come with a fully-fledged song. Sometimes it’s just a chord progression, or a melody or something like that and we’ll meet, then we’ll bring into practice and kind of work through it with the rest of the band, and kind of try to find maybe a groove to it. Because, the other two guys are drums and bass. And so kind of trying to find the feel of the song really helps us from the songwriting perspective saying, well, this makes me feel this way. And once we kind of were able to finish it. But yeah, sometimes it’s just fully fledged, and closed out. Luke comes with a lot of those. Where they’re just complete songs and they’re already ready to go.
Nice. So what do you feel are your guys’ strengths as a four-piece unit?
Pete: I think our performances are definitely one, I think that we bring a lot of energy and passion to our performances. And I think that we pride ourselves in really presenting the songs in a real way, that we connect with, and hopefully other people do, as well. But I think our songwriting and performances are both strong suits of our band.
Jake: To piggyback off that…I think, the more we tour, and the longer you’re at it, I guess the thing that I have to remember that it’s different about us is we don’t like to go out and rage after the show. Because you’ll get offered anything on the road, right? And we’re not even like a huge band. And I think it’s one thing that is unique to us, I think if we’re literally there, we literally drove halfway across the country to play this show for you. Not for free beer, not women, not to party. I mean, this is why we do it. And I think that’s what makes the performances so engaging and different. Because I’ve seen bands do that, those kinds of bands don’t care about performance, but that’s why we leave our families. That’s why we are doing what we do. And that’s what I feel is unique, because that’s just us, but you have to remember, that’s why we do it.
That’s cool. So what was each of your guys’s musical upbringing that made you want to become musicians?
Pete: So for me growing up grunge was huge for me. So that’s what got me into it. Dave Grohl was my idol. He still kind of is, as a drummer, and just a musician in general. And I love classic rock. The Beatles and stuff like that. But the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young. That’s what got me into music. So yeah, I think both me and Luke work kind of as the two original band members. Jake has been in since 2016. And the band was kind of started just from a lot of the bands from like the 2000s era rock, like The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Modest Mouse, and The White Stripes. That was all the stuff that was coming out and getting huge while I was in college. And that’s what made me want to drop out and be like, “Oh, I don’t want to do college anymore. I want to go and play this type of music.” And then as soon as I left college, that music just kind of died. <Laughter> And so it kind of went down as far as popularity or whatever. But yeah, a lot of those bands were big influences. I think when I was younger, I mean, I loved bands like Green Day. And Third Eye Blind was probably like the first band that I was into when I was like 10 or 11.
Luke: For me, I mean it was my mom who sang in the choir church and would like to do scales and stuff at home. And as a kid, I could kind of hear it and felt like I understood what was going on. And my dad was a songwriter, but he never played guitar. He literally just writes songs on the back of a cigarette carton, and sings it to his kids when we hang out with him on the weekends. And so I kind of grew up around people who were into music. And yeah, I’d started writing songs at a pretty young age, 10 or 11. And put my own songs together. So that was kind of my background.
Jake: I’ll keep it real brief, because no one likes it. But for me, it’s just I was super into rap, and still am. Hip hop got me into music in general with just the rhythm and flow of it and everything. And so I think that’s, that’s a big part of why I gravitated to like the rhythm side of music, I think is because hip hop’s so rhythm driven. Even in like the vocal delivery, a lot of the time. So that certainly is my background. And I obviously listen to a lot of indie rock. And when I was with my dad, it was John Cougar, The Boss, Rush, Styx, so it was a lot of that stuff, too. But when I started carving out my own taste for myself, it was rap, basically.
Cool. So can you tell me how the live reaction has been to some of the recent material, as well as your past material?
Luke: Oh, yeah we’ve had one lengthy tour since the pandemic started and it started to ease up a bit. So we had one 30-day tour, and this was all within the last year. And then lately, it’s been kind of sporadic as we’re trying to get gigs, and put some songs together and stuff like that. But, yeah, they’ve been good. And especially with this one, we’ve been playing this one live, we played it for that 30-day tour. And it was just really fun to see a song that people after the first chorus seem to understand what the song is, you know what I mean? They can almost sing along with it. And we’ve never really had that song where people seem to “click on” for people. They’ve never heard it, because it hasn’t been released yet. I mean, they kind of get it after the first chorus and it’s great to see that reaction when you’re out on the road.
You guys have worked with some veteran producers in the past, like John Feldmann. Can you tell me any lessons learned that you’ve kind of noticed over the years about working with different people on your music?
Pete: Yeah, I think for us and for me personally, it was just really nice to see because he’s a super-focused guy, and he gets things done very, very quickly. So there’s not a whole lot of room for messing up “round one” stuff, but I think one thing that he taught us, which we’ve kind of carried on until now, is to trim the fat. Don’t don’t bore us, get to the chorus, that kind of thing. And so as a musician, you think, “Oh, well, I’ve got to play this four times before the audience is going to be comfortable with that.” But really it’ll be played once. It’ll be enough, the audience will get it, you know what I mean? This six-minute song doesn’t have to be six minutes, it can be three minutes, it’ll be just as good, if not better. And so I think that’s one thing for us. Just kind of trimming off what doesn’t need to be there.
Luke: I think a lot of it was to not be precious with your stuff. I think a good example is when we were playing a song called “There Will Be Time” and there’s a verse that was the fourth verse in the song and I loved it. It even had a Bill Murray reference, and I just thought it was the greatest thing. And he’s <Feldmann> like, “I don’t think it’s working. I think we just cut this one.” I’m trying to explain to him why it’s so important for this first verse, because every songwriter thinks whatever they just wrote is the greatest thing that’s ever been written. But we’re gonna cut it. And then that was it. That was the discussion.
Did it ever see the light of day or become a B-side?
Pete: I mean, the song came out, but sometimes live he’ll <Luke> sing that other verse. But yeah, it’s actually really not that good of a verse. I was like, “Oh, you’re writing that?” I think his words were, “I think it’s a different song. It sounds like a different song, man.” I don’t know if I’m looking at it, even though there’s Luke’s words and it’s really easy to be critical of somebody else’s stuff.
Luke: In the official transcript, state that Luke disagrees.<Laughter>
<Laughter> Yeah, that sums it up. Can you tell me a little bit about your music videos, and what goes into the shoots for the new one for “Radio?” How long does it typically take to finish?
Jake: For “Radio,” and the other ones that we’re kind of working on right now, we served “Radio” as an idea, but at least on some level, make it interesting. And my buddy, he moved back and he used to live in LA, and he worked at Disney. And so he has his film degree and everything, and he just moved back. And that’s been a really good resource for us, just to have someone here, and he’s a fan of the music. I’ve known him since I was five years old. And so he wants to support us however he can. And that’s his talent. And so we kind of showed him the song and he actually shot some footage in the studio anyway, when we were recording it. So he’s been here since the beginning of the song. And we were kind of all saying, well, it could be like a bottle thing where Luke is getting fed up with the police sirens outside if you want to kind of go along with the story of the song. And so yeah, it’s a lot of our discussion, at least right now on the stuff we’re working on, is how do we serve the song visually, without taking away from it? And does it give the song a new life or a new perspective, if you do a certain thing visually? And how do we get something that is hard for us visually too? How do we not be funny, as a default, because I feel like that’s the easy thing. And it can sometimes sell your music short when you’re constantly undercutting it with a joke.
Luke: I think that’s the natural tendency because you want to, because it’s a lot of fun to shoot stuff. It’s more fun to be making fun of yourselves and doing stuff like that. But I think for this one, I think we shot it in about a week total and that includes setting up the bedroom, and getting props, and getting stuff that we needed, and then that thing was probably like four or five days worth of just shooting with one camera. So that was kind of the process with this one. We definitely spent more time on this one than we had in the past. In the past, it was kind of a show up the day of and hopefully it works out to crank it out in a day. Hopefully the storyboard holds together. So I think with this one, we spent a little bit more time, and gave it a little more effort.
Nice. I understand you guys have opened for bands like Silversun Pickups and other bands that are kind of along that same genre line? So, if you were to map out a conceptual tour, and have a couple of different bands that you would either open for or potentially contribute to their show, who do you think they would be?
Luke: That’s a great question. I mean, Manchester Orchestra would be it for me. I mean, I just love them so much.
Jake: I’m super into Bleachers. I think that would be a good show. I am super into Joe Keery from Stranger Things. He has a musical project called Djo. I think that could be a really fun show. A “dream one” would be The Killers. I think it’d be fun, just so I could hurry up and get done and watch them.
Cool. So do you have any last words for your fans, or a quick pitch to somebody who’s never heard your music…why should they check you guys out?
Luke: That’s a great question. I think that we write sincere music. I think we have something to say. And I think everybody likes to sell themselves short in that regard. But I really think that we try to say something with our music, and I think we put everything we have into it. So I think you can see that in art, and if someone’s creating just to create or they poured part of themselves into it. So just to give us a chance in that regard, maybe it’s not exactly your thing, but I think that people connect with “real.” We try to be civil.
Pete: Thanks for having us, and being willing to write about our music, man. Appreciate it!
Absolutely. Hopefully it gets some good exposure for you guys! Have a great evening.