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CrossroadsKC Interview with Me Like Bees

Me Like Bees is a Joplin-based band. Guitarist/vocalist Luke Shaefer recently discussed coming from a musical family, why he loves playing KC and his songwriting process. Me Like Bees are playing the Crossroads Music Festival on September 6th!

Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?

I do come from a fairly musical family. My dad wrote songs all the time when I was a child, and my mom sang at church. My three sisters and I were in choir growing up, but I didn’t pick up guitar until college. I have a lot of extended family on both sides that also play instruments or sing.

What was your first musical memory?

My first musical memory is hearing my mother practice scales to a cassette tape in the kitchen while she was cooking. I was probably two or three.

How did Me Like Bees first get started?

This band was formed when Pete and our original drummer Jared and out original bass player Asher decided to scrap the project they already had going and asked me to start a new band as the singer and principle songwriter. Our music took a lot of different forms early and we went through a couple of lineup changes to arrive at our sound today.

How do you go about creating songs in Me Like Bees?

There are basically three ways songs originate in our band. The better part of our songs started with our guitarist Pete putting together parts and melodies in his own time. Some start with myself putting together parts and melodies, and some come from messing around as a group in practice and recording the idea.

How often do you find yourself writing songs?

Not often enough, but more so lately than in the past couple years since we recorded our first album. We are now in full swing as far as the writing process goes.

What inspires you lyrically?

I’m really bad at remembering or taking notes on where I get ideas from. I can say that I am almost entirely unoriginal, but I think that everything is a derivative of something. A close friend of mine, who I think is probably the best musician I’ve ever heard, once told me “good musicians imitate, great musicians steal.” If you spent all of your time trying to say something original you’d probably never finish anything. As long as you believe in what you’re saying, who cares if you came up with the original idea. Odds are that whoever you heard it from was inspired by somebody else and so on and so forth all the way back to Adam.

You’re playing CrossroadsKC this year. What do you enjoy most about playing Kansas City?

I think Kansas City is coming into its own culturally. It has top notch, humble people working behind the scenes putting together events and concerts that are as good as anywhere and all they do afterward is start planning for the next one. It’s really exciting to see this city become a cultural hub of the Midwest. Aside from that, I’m a Chiefs, Royals, and Sporting fan, so it’s nice being around people who care about Kansas City sports. Playing in St. Louis has it’s challenges. God help me if we ever play in Denver.

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?

I don’t have a concise quote that I live by or anything. I do try to focus on not being a jerk. Always give homeless people something, even if it’s just the time of day. When people say they don’t want to help homeless people because it’s their own fault for being in that position, I think they’re ignoring all of the times they were in need and had someone reach out to them and help them. We are inherently selfish, and I think we’ve got to put that aside as individuals and value people as people no matter what their position in life may be.

What advice would you give to musicians just starting out? 

Learn to self-critique. You have to learn to hear your music as though you were a music reviewer or a label rep. Understand that in terms of the market, you aren’t just competing with the other bands in your city. You’re competing against Modest Mouse, Akon, the Biebs, that new Christopher Nolan movie, the play that just opened up down the road, and any other way someone could spend their disposable income. The bar is high. Remember that when you sit down to write, and beat that song to death before you call it done, because your product has to compete in a rough and highly competitive market.

Be deliberate. Not just on the music side of things, but especially on that ugly business side of things. And if you aren’t good at the business side of things, have the humility to recognize it and have someone else do it for you.

McClain Johnson

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