JOPLIN, Mo. —
I was north helping an old friend park his tired soul
And while a song to help his belle along was due
My town down south cut in with its own tune
Luke Sheafer went from one tragedy to another on May 22. The day the tornado hit, he was in Kansas City mourning the loss of his stepfather, who passed away the day before. As much as he wanted to stay with family for the funeral, Joplin called -- despite all the phones being out.
“He couldn’t get through to anyone,” said Asher Poindexter, friend and bandmate of Sheafer. “So he said to his family that he knew they needed him, but there were bigger things going on in his hometown.”
Sheafer missed his stepfather’s funeral, made it back to Joplin and found his hometown in a mess, Poindexter said.
Bared its snout, the sky opened its mouth and showed its teeth
I heard you heard your house get chewed through from underneath
Everyone was screaming Loup! Le Loup! Le Loup! Le Loup!
Like many artists, Sheafer and his bandmates in Me Like Bees used their art to deal with the tragedy. The band recently released “Naked Trees,” a new song meant to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity. Listeners can download it for free, but they can make a donation if they choose to, Poindexter said.
“If we’re giving it away, we might as well ask for a donation and raise money for Habitat for Humanity,” he said. “People give what they can as they work to rebuild Joplin. Artists have an art they can use to help in a time of need.”
“Naked Trees” is a perfect driving song -- upbeat but not too hectic, anthemic but not overpowering. It features a contrast of styles that is a trademark of the band’s songwriting -- prancing indie-pop quickly becomes powerful rock, and just as quickly reverts to a chorus of whistles.
Poindexter, bassist for the band, said the song was coming together a few weeks before the tornado. He, vocalist Sheafer, guitarist Pete Burton and drummer Tim Cote had the basic structure of the song, but no lyrics.
Inspiration found the band after the tornado. Sheafer’s drive back to Joplin gave him the foundation.
Though the song’s title talks about the bark-stripped trees everywhere in the damage zone (and how later they grew close-knit, leafy branches from their splinters), the song talks more about a certain strong-lunged wolf, reminiscent of a little pig-eating, fairy tale villain.
“That was the driving force to keep going toward finishing the song,” Poindexter said. “It allowed us to finish the strongest song we’ve written yet. Lyrically and artistically, we thought, ‘Hey, we gotta record this and give it away.’”
Studio time is tough to come by, especially for a band that’s only a couple of years old. But a little bit of luck dropped in the band’s lap. “One of our guys entered our name in a raffle drawing at a benefit show,” Poindexter said. “We won a half-price prize from (Zombie Life Studios in Joplin).”
Don’t feel guilt for troubled skies
For by the hair of our collective chin
Lord knows it wasn’t we who let it in
Poindexter said completing the song has started something bigger: the completion of the band’s first full-length album.
“We thought that we could keep releasing singles,” Poindexter said. “And we might release some more. But our main focus is on a full-length album.” Inspired by Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand, Me Like Bees features an alternative rock sound with a strong beat.
“We like to make songs with a sort of dance rhythm, with funky bass lines and dance beats on the drums,” Poindexter said. “But we still direct songs with indie alt-rock guitar riffs and vocal patterns.”
The band has toured extensively across the Midwest, as far as Denver and Pueblo, Colo., and in northern Texas. They are regulars at nightspots in Joplin, Springfield, Tulsa, Kansas City and Wichita.
The band’s self-titled EP was released earlier this year, and is available on iTunes and other digital music platforms. And work continues -- the band has about half of its album written now. The spark from “Naked Trees” has turned into a fire, Poindexter said.
Some songs are simple rock songs, others feature the “asymmetrical, quirky” sound they are honing. Picking their favorite songs that fit together in a concise way is challenging.
“We want to do a collection of our strongest material,” he said. “It heightens our artistic senses, so we decided to keep this going. This is a strong song that we like, and we can continue with that mold.”
I know it seems for miles the world’s at end
But even in all this are naked trees greening again
Want to hear?
“Naked Trees” can be downloaded at http://melikebees.bandcamp.com/track/naked-trees. The song can be downloaded for free, but donations will go toward Habitat for Humanity.