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All Hail the Hive:
Me Like Bees Is Still Buzzing with Community After 15 Years

Story: Lauren Textor 

PHOTOS: dylan overhouse

Even bands that have toured all over the U.S. are bound by hometown pride. 


Luke Sheafer is the lead vocalist of Me Like Bees, an indie rock band embedded in the community of Joplin, Missouri. 


In 2011, Joplin was devastated by a massive, multi-vortex tornado that claimed more than 150 lives. Two years later, the band released the single “Naked Trees” about the melancholy aftermath: “And so now you can’t sleep when you hear rain / your mind keeps bracing for that howl again.” Sales benefitted Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to rebuild the city. 


Over a decade later, the pain from the tragedy has ebbed and the details have become fuzzier to Sheafer. Though he still writes lyrics about sorrow, pain and loss, his perspective has changed.


“I'm very open about going to therapy,” he said. “I take medication that helps me with my mental health, and I'm married to a wonderful person who makes life full. As a young man, not being intentional about my mental health—I was using music more as a crutch. Now, it's just another outlet. Sometimes it makes it harder to articulate certain things because you feel like you've processed them more healthily. You're going to write about it, but you don't feel it so viscerally. It's not crushing you as you're trying to write about it.”


Since the tornado, Me Like Bees have only renewed their commitment to their city. Sheafer recently finished a seven-year term on Joplin’s Citizens Advisory Committee and assisted as a worker for April’s municipal elections. He owns and manages the building that houses Bearded Lady Coffee Roasters and Frosted Cakerie, which his wife runs. 

Like Sheafer, lead guitarist Pete Burton, drummer Ben Davis and bass player Jake Bennett are dedicated to Joplin for its simple lifestyle, inexpensive living and what Sheafer describes as its “strange cross-section of culture.”


“People call it flyover country, but we know that's not the case,” he laughed. “They’re just behind the curve. I do make fun of people on the West Coast, like, ‘Bro, let me tell you. I don't spend any time in traffic. Can you imagine a world where you're not stuck in traffic for three hours a day? I live in that world.’”

Joplin has offered the band some surprising opportunities for a city with a population of less than 55,000. Fellow Joplinite Chris Ingle of Never Shout Never asked Me Like Bees to join his label, Loveway Records, in 2012. Later that year, the bands toured together, and in 2013, Me Like Bees celebrated their first full-length album, The Ides. 


In 2018, the band released an EP inspired by the work of a friend, local comic book writer and artist Jeremy Haun. Five tracks were released simultaneously with Haun’s The Realm, Vol. 1. The EP draws upon the pre-released artwork of the dark fantasy series.


Sheafer recalls that the lyrical content of Songs from the Realm was based on feeling more than narrative; drawings and character sketches were all they had to go on. 


“We were writing it blind,” he said.

The band leaned into using acoustics—instruments that could, theoretically, be played in a post-apocalyptic world. They wrote most of the lyrics on tour and recorded once they returned home. 


If only writing was always so easy. 


In a 2015 interview with the Cleveland Scene, Sheafer referred to the ticking clock of a band’s lifetime. 


“If you're not U2, the Rolling Stones, you're most likely gonna be doing something else in 10 years,” he said.

As Sheafer reflects on that interview now, he says he vaguely remembers giving that quote and believing it.

Today, Me Like Bees are enjoying more business and financial success than ever, although streamers like Spotify only pay musicians a fraction of a cent per stream.


“If you look at those metrics, then, yeah, I definitely should be doing something else in 10 years,” Sheafer said. “But my head always goes back to the idea that in 10 years, I'm still going to have melodies and lyrics pop into my head, and I'm still going to be sitting down to write them. If I have an audience still, why wouldn't I be playing shows? It'd be torturous to give up music. I know anybody can say that, but it wasn't money or playing shows that got me started. I didn't know what I was doing. I was, like, 10 years old. I didn't have any ambitions. I didn't even know how to play guitar. But it's like this was going to happen.”


Streaming practices are just one example of how the world is changing. It’s paramount for Me Like Bees to have a team to pay attention to trends—because Sheafer won’t. 


“If you spend all of your time trying to figure out how to go viral on TikTok, then you're not going to write anything that you care about,” he said. 


He’s also concerned about how artificial intelligence will shape creative industries and produce content that will make people dependent on technology. But Sheafer believes that at some point, the pendulum will swing the other way. 


“I think people will crave ‘real’ and as long as there are people making real things, then we're all going to be just fine.”


If their track record of perseverance is anything to go by, Me Like Bees will be around to see that happen. There’s no guarantee with creative pursuits, but for this band, that’s half the fun. 


“There's no foundation,” Sheafer said. “You feel like you're doing it for the first time again.” 

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