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INTERVIEW: The Last Bees

Hi Ian, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Very good, thank you! It’s finally just about summer in Wisconsin.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Can’t Wait”?

Why, yes! It was the first song I wrote for my new band, The Last Bees. It helped map out how I wanted this new group to sound. It’s got a retro-rock feel, I’m sure you can tell. I’m glad to see it’s being received well on Spotify!

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Yes- I was inspired by Greta Van Fleet and the throwback thing they had going. I thought, wow, this is being received well- maybe there’s some nostalgia in the air and people are craving to hear recordings that are more organic. I took it as a challenge to write my own “I Want to Hold Your Hand” because that’s a sound I love and I felt I could cop more easily. That’s how “Can’t Wait” came out.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

Me and my buddy Brad shot the video at the Freemasons Lodge in Waukesha, WI. It’s a cool, old historic building- hence the picture of George Washington you can see in the background!

The dining hall downstairs has a nice big open space that lent itself well to filming. I lugged my equipment down there and we just had at it. Thankfully my drumming didn’t rattle any pictures off the wall 🙂

The single comes off your new self-titled EP – why naming the record after the band?

I wanted to keep the branding of this new project simple and obvious. There’s enough clues about what the music might sound like from the band name and the cover image- I think there was enough to reflect on without a title. The music has a honey-like sweetness to it so it works. Plus, with the closing track being called “The Final Sting” it made sense to call the EP “The Last Bees.”

How was the recording and writing process?

It was good fun and happened fairly quickly. I wrote the songs in my living room in a big red chair with my acoustic guitar, scrap paper and pen- then I went down to my basement studio to record them! Since I played all the instruments I had to build up the tracks gradually- usually starting with drums, then bass, then rhythm guitars, and building from there. I wrote “True or False” with Grammy winner Jim Peterik, co-writer of the mega-hit “Eye of the Tiger”.

How has Led Zeppelin and Beatles influenced your writing?

Led Zeppelin is great because they were another example of an artist who could produce themselves. They were very self-aware. Jimmy Page knew how to make those songs shine. The Beatles influence is obvious in the music, but they were the whole reason I started writing and playing music in the first place. When I saw the Beatles Anthology as a kid, I was hooked! For me, they continue to be the high bar that you try to reach for.

What role does Milwaukee play in your music?

Growing up near Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, I had a unique opportunity to take in all kinds of music. That definitely suited me well. I won the Pepsi Summerfest Talent Search, which lead to other connections. I think one of the best things about living here is the people are generally nice and want to help you out if they can. It’s that mid-western charm. I think there’s a healthy sense of music community in Milwaukee that keeps growing.

What aspect of the 70s did you get to explore on this record?

I think it was more the 60’s than 70’s- but I got to explore many aspects from each. For starters, using all real instruments and all real performances and staying away from any looping or programming. I also indulged a bit in the big reverb that those early 60’s records had, on the vocals in particular. Also, I made this EP fairly quickly- which was another thing they did back then more frequently. You had to put out music more often to stay relevant- so it had a sense of immediacy to it. You wrote a song, then you took it to the studio. You didn’t write 30 more songs, then do demos, then do pre-production, etc- you just went for it. I enjoyed that aspect of making this EP because that’s how I did it too.

What is it about this particular decade that you find so fascinating?

Who knows why we like what we like, you know? As a person, perhaps its because I grew up singing along to the oldies station with my dad any time the two of us were driving somewhere in his car. Those memories are etched into me and I think it was the first good music I was exposed to. It served me well as a songwriter to immerse myself in the classic oldies catalog of songs that have stood the test of time. As a songwriter, I think I value the melody and sense of craft from that time period- melodies that arched, soared and ached- less predictable song structures where you had to fit several little parts in only 2 minutes or so- bridges that always took the song to somewhere new.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I always like to have my antennae up so to speak, ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes its books I read, stories I hear- and often times its personal experience too. Jim Peterik, the Grammy winning songwriter I mentioned before, encouraged me to write more acerbic, mean lyrics like Lennon might in the early Beatles days, and that’s what helped us set the tone for “True or False.” On a song like “Crusade” I’m reflecting on how happy I am with my fiance now, but on a song like “The Final Sting” I’m drawing on experiences where things didn’t go so well in romance. So it comes from anywhere. But I always strive to go from the personal to the universal with my lyrics.

Any plans to hit the road?

Absolutely! We had a great time at SXSW earlier this year, and now were playing dates across Wisconsin and Illinois. More to come- please visit www.thelastbees.com for updates.

What else is happening next in The Last Bees world?

More surprises for our current single, “True or False”- so keep an eye peeled for those. And of course, lots of writing and gigging!

Listen here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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