On one of the last, sickeningly hot days of June, Numb Bats are a little on edge. The punk trio are still deciding on a set list for their gig at the Echo in Los Angeles while also trying to wrap up an EP and prep for an extensive Midwestern tour in mid-July.
"We're so excited," says the band's bassist, Sophie Opich. "But [we're] tense."
We're in drummer Mo Neuharth's dimly lit basement, which may be the size of a shoebox, but the red room serves as a perfectly intimate rehearsal space for the band, which includes guitarist Emily Hobeheidar. The band self-describes as "grunge pop," a mix of proto-punk akin to the raw power of the Fugs or the Monks while retaining some melodic accessibility via Karen O or, yeah, even Nirvana.
Last year saw Numb Bats' debut, Gentle Horror, nine short and sweet garage rock punches. Their upcoming Bees and Trees EP takes the band in a different direction. The six tracks are more complex, with more instrumentals spiraling into drone territory, but songs like "Runnin'" incorporate Numb Bats' usual stripped-down approach.
As it did with the band's last record, Lolipop Records will handle the cassette release for Bees and Trees, which the band's friend Eamon Ford recorded and mixed. "The writing process was so much longer than we've ever done. It would take us like two to three months to finish one song," Neuharth says.
Oddly enough, the song titles, like "Rainbow" and "U R A Winner," sound as if they come from "part of a Candy Land game or something," as the band puts it. But there's still plenty of punk attitude on these songs. With that chorus "you're so pretty" thrown around, "Candy Cane" has a sarcastic, Mean Girls vibe.
"You have to listen to the album to hear what we're angry about," Opich says.
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Numb Bats mentions having resonated with the recent Kurt Cobain documentary, Montage of Heck, and how playing in living rooms at house shows is something they're all too familiar with. However, Neuharth adds, "I feel like house shows in Phoenix are nonexistent right now, but we're playing a decent amount on tour."
This tour is daunting for the band, even if they had a blast last year when they swooped up through California to Washington, then back down through Idaho and Utah. Some scrapbook memories include getting Mexican food with Tucson's Prom Body in Salt Lake City and playing in a Halloween-themed house in Seattle.
"Last tour was kind of like dipping our toes in the pond, and this one we're going balls-deep," Hobeheidar says. "We're renting a van, and we had to save money up to do that."
Their travels will take them as far east as Detroit, while hitting up other places like San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, and St. Louis, a total of 30 shows in 36 days.
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"Mo is like the queen of doing DIY tour," Opich says. "We're excited for every single [gig] in a different way."
The band is humbled by the outreach of fans both on last summer's tour and RSVP'ing for the upcoming gigs.
"It's like a cool kind of pressure it puts on us . . . It's just cool that people keep showing up," Opich says. "We just get dorky about it. Like, if we see someone in the crowd who is singing the lyrics, that just blows my mind."
Correction: This article originally stated that Numb Bats recorded and mixed their own album. This has been corrected.