Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires have been called the “future of rock and roll.” It’s easy to see why. They blend Southern styles of rock, blues and country music with a punk aesthetic that tackles some of the South’s toughest topics.
On this week’s episode of the Reckon Interview, we discuss how Bains’ Birmingham roots influenced his lyrics, including his grandmother’s memories of Bull Connor and his own memories of Eric Robert Rudolph. We dive into the stereotypes the Glory Fires have faced as a Southern rock band, and why the man who once sang about nailing his feet to the south side of Birmingham, eventually moved to Atlanta.
And of course, whether or not Atlanta is the South at all.
They’ll be performing at the Druid City Music Festival in Tuscaloosa on August 24, so get to know Bains before heading down to see the show.
Here are a few excerpts from the episode to get you started.
Lee Bains III on the South
One writer who really resonated with me a lot and who just kind of blew my mind was Edward Said and his book “Orientalism.” He talks about in this book, essentially, like the creation of the “Orient,” and the way that the idea of the East or the Orient, really says a lot more about the “West” and the way that the “West” thinks about itself in the world, rather than an actual place in the Eastern Hemisphere or whatever. That process of like, “us versus them” and othering, the binary plays out, not just in the West’s understanding of the rest of the world, but also of themselves and the way that it sort of erases borders and boundaries and the way that it solidifies others. And the way that it erases nuance and influence and all that.
So I was reading a lot of him [in college], and it got me thinking about the South and the way that the South is characterized in national media and international media, you know just English-speaking media in general, I guess. And the way that Southerners are not only thought about by folks not from the South, but the way that we then imbibe those notions and think about ourselves. For me, the way that kind of manifest is a lot of times in these false binaries…
… one of the things I love about playing in a band is you are going all these places that you wouldn’t go like on vacation. If you had a long weekend, you wouldn’t necessarily spend it in like Beaumont, Texas, or in Augusta, Georgia or somewhere like that. But the more we travel around the more [we’re] seeing that there are many Souths, you know… and I could tell that even just growing up in Birmingham. There are many Birminghams. Many versions of the South as it kind of filters through Birmingham. But beyond that, it’s a really rich collection and layered group of cultures and people.
Lee Bains III on protest music and immigration
The reason that I think the immigration question is so important and like… and living in Atlanta has made this more apparent to me. But if we Southerners love the South — and we love this place, and the cultures here — if we don’t welcome newcomers, if we don’t welcome change, then we’re dead in the water. You know what I mean?
Those… those things that we claim to love, the best attributes of those things are going to die. Because people are moving here whether you like it or not. And it’s like, you can either invite them in and build solidarity and build culture with those folks ,and community with those folks, or you can bunker up and waste away.
So that’s part of it, is this like cultural love for the South and its peoples, you know? And the other part is the fact that there’s been a long history in the South of exploiting labor. It goes back to slavery ,and in Birmingham it goes back to Jim Crow and convict lease labor and… And right now, just as recently freed black folks were used as a whipping boy for the difficulties of white working-class people, it’s like, now, immigrants are being posed as the same thing. And when you look back at the periods where working class folks in Alabama got a leg up, it’s the periods where people formed bonds of solidarity with one another instead of blaming each other, you know what I mean?
And so I guess that’s the reason ultimately. It’s the reason I think that it’s so important to welcome immigrants, and, through a legal proceeding to include them in our country, and give them the same protection under the law and hold them accountable to the same laws. That’s what lifts all of us up and that just seems to… and the reason I want that is because I love this place, you know what I mean? And I love us.
For stories about the weirdest encounters the Glory Fires have had as a “Southern” rock band, listen to the full episode here.