Michigan rock and rollers, the Legal Immigrants, aren’t immigrants at all, and their Allman Brothers Band meets Flat Duo Jets sound isn’t all that legal, either. In fact, they sound downright unlawful.
With two full-length albums tucked neatly in their discography, 2014’s “Drugs to Roses” and 2016’s “Panacea,” the Legal Immigrants are a whirlwind of genre-phobic crunch. Led by Frontman Joe “Boots” Bockheim with Ben Taber on lead guitar, Kevin Kitsch on bass and Marcus James on drums, the band comes to this year’s Common Ground Music Festival.
City Pulse talks to Bockheim about plans for a new record, Common Ground and more.
How did the Legal Immigrants get their start?
I got out of college and wanted to start a band. A guy I went to school with was a guitar player and I met the original drummer. That was like, gosh, 9 years ago, and I’ve gone through about 14 people since.
You’re the only consistent member?
Yeah, I am the only one that’s played every single show.
Your latest album, “Panacea,” is your second album. What kind of release did you want “Panacea” to be in relation to “Drugs to Roses,” your first full-length?
We wanted to show growth. Going into “Panacea,” we had never had any keys on a record, let alone an acoustic guitar. We’re just kind of finding more sounds but also playing less at the same time.
“Panacea” came out about a year ago, any plans to celebrate its first birthday?
We’re going to celebrate by getting a new record going. We’re heading into the studio toward the end of July with about 15 new tracks. We’re going to going to try to knock it out as fast as we can. “Panacea” took about 2 weeks, but we’re going to try to get this in a few days.
What does the band’s writing process look like?
I’m the main songwriter structure wise, but we all have our tunes and we all just sort of carve them out. Typically, I come up with a chord structure and a melody and then Ben and Kevin butcher it to shit and a song pops out. But It’s not about me, it’s about the best songs. If somebody else writes the 10 best songs, those are the ones that make the record, not the songs that I write. I have no pride about songwriting, I just want to create the best music possible.
You guys have played extensively around Michigan, do you have any favorite venues in the state?
In Grand Rapids, we really love the Pyramid Scheme, they’re always really good to us. Anywhere in Detroit, too. PJ’s Lager House is really sweet, Old Miami is fabulous. In Lansing, we’ve played some cool shows at Mac’s. But we don’t pick favorites, I base places on the crowds. We could play in the coolest place on the planet, but if you’ve just got 5 people there sitting on their hands how much fun are you really going to have?
What are you looking forward to about Common Ground?
Here Come the Mummies, I’ve heard great things about them. They’re definitely who I’m looking forward to seeing most. Bust festivals are always enjoyable. People are a lot more relaxed and they’re not late to the shows. And it’ll be right after the Fourth of July, and playing outside is always a bonus. It’s a little easier to perform when all the stars align like that. It’s not some dingy club in the middle of February with 8 inches of snow outside trying to get people to come out.
What’s on the horizon for the Legal Immigrants?
Just the new record and touring it hard.
We just linked up with some management for the first time. It’s got me hopeful for the next year. We’re looking forward to getting a new record under our belts and pushing it as far as we can go.
— DYLAN TARR
The Legal Immigrants 5:00 - 5:45 p.m. Saturday, July 8 $89 + Fee Adado Riverfront Park 300 N. Grand Ave., Lansing MI, 48933 (517) 267-1502 commongroundfest.com