Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires rise from the ashes of The Dexateens
By Steve Wildsmith (email@example.com)
When Southern rockers The Dexateens came grinding to a halt back in 2010, Lee Bains found himself adrift.
He’d shuttered his old outfit, Arkadelphia, to play guitar for the band. He’d thrown himself into it with gusto, drawing on the group’s energy and giving it everything he had. And when it ended, he wasn’t sure what to do next.
“I loved playing with The Dexateens, and when that came to an end, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he told The Daily Times this week. “I was really just kind of lost. I’d been talking to a major label in Los Angeles about doing this recording project thing, and while that was financially promising in certain ways, creatively I didn’t feel good about it.
“So I walked away from that, and then The Dexateens petered out, and I hadn’t had my own band or played my own songs for a couple of years at that point.”
So he turned to the only outlet a musician knows for solace: songwriting. They came pouring out, and once he settled back in Birmingham, Ala., he called up his old Arkadelphia bandmate Justin Colburn, and the two started putting together a new project: Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires.
It’s an apt name for the sort of gritty, desperate rock ‘n’ roll Bains and his bandmates have created on their debut album, “There Is a Bomb in Gilead.” The title comes from a misheard gospel lyric from Bains’ childhood, and while “balm” may sound more soothing to some, “bomb” is exactly what this record is. The songs begin with the simmering hiss of a grenade fuse before exploding in ways that define what life is like in the modern South: Tough, mean and unforgiving.
That’s not to say “Bomb” is a metal album; far from it. There’s a steady-as-she-goes sensibility to the tracks that took Bains a bit to wrap his head around.
“When we first got together, our buddy Tim Kerr came from Austin to sort of encourage us, and as we were going through these songs, he kept telling us I was doing things, and that we as a band were doing things, that sounded like The Dexateens,” Bains said. “He kept asking, ‘How do YOU do it?’ And I think a lot of that had to do with focusing more on the pocket.
“With The Dexateens, we would pretty much go out and blaze through the song at warp speed. With this band, Tim was sort of saying that our power wasn’t going to come from that; it was going to come in part from the groove, from being in the pocket. And in playing together, I want it to feel good rhythmically and have that laid-back sort of behind-the-beat feel.”
The Glory Fires have already made waves around the Southeast, both for the music the band makes and for the state the guys call home. They’ve appeared with The Alabama Shakes, and like the Drive-By Truckers before them, they’re helping call attention to a region that’s often overlooked for its contributions to rock ‘n’ roll.
“I definitely look to a place for inspiration and setting,” Bains said. “In Arkadelphia, pretty much all the songs on that album were intentionally about Birmingham. I’m still drawn to doing that, and a lot of it has to do with the literature I’m into: Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner; people who very consciously dwelt in their own place.
“This is the only place I can truly understand, and it’s where I belong. I can’t speak to New York City, but I can speak to Central Alabama, and I feel like that’s definitely influenced my writing.”