The Legal Immigrants
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The Legal Immigrants

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Ok, so I have to start by asking about the banner for your Web site: “The Legal Immigrants, Grand Rapids’ finest Rock band.” What makes you the city’s finest?
Joe Bockheim: Ha! Starting with a tough one. It might just be your stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll arrogance. I’m not sure how to necessarily substantiate the claim, but I encourage anyone to find out for themselves.

What do you think about the Grand Rapids music scene right now?
I’m in love with it. Both the bands and the venues. Downtown, Eastown, even the West side if you’re not afraid to get some dirt under your fingernails. The diversity of sound is pretty refreshing, not a lot of bands trying to do the same thing up there. We have acts that are truly original and there is something for everyone.

What other GR bands are you closest to?
In terms of sound nothing immediately comes to mind. I spent a lot of time thinking about that too. “The Moaning Song” kind of has a Four Finger Five vibe, maybe? Somewhere between The Boss Mustangs and Deadwood Stone on “Out of Control.”

Going back to your beginning, you formed The Legal Immigrants in 2009, but I’ve read that you’ve known each other a lot longer than that, going all the way back to high school for some of you. What’s the short history of how The Legal Immigrants all came together?
The Legal Immigrants started with my ol’ high school pals Mike Nawara (drums) and Joe Sommerdyke (lead guitar.) For whatever reason that didn’t work out and it just so happened that a world class guitar player I met when our bands shared a bill was available. Ian came over to our rehearsal space and we recorded a song that night in one take a piece. There isn’t bass on the track because we didn’t have a bassist and the lyrics were all ad-lib. It’s the last cut on the album, and it basically formed the band as we know it. Ian introduced Jeff to the band and he was show ready instantly.

Why did you decide on the name The Legal Immigrants? What does the band name mean to you personally?
I came up with it one day out of thin air. I do get some funny looks sometime though. There isn’t any political undertones [or] anything like that, just a name. I don’t have any emotional tie to the name past it being what we call the band.

You guys take a lot of influence from classic rock musicians, like Led Zeppelin, and more modern artists like Jack White. Why do you feel like you identify more with sort of that classic rock sound?
I think it has something to do with our outfit. We don’t really have all that much on the stage. Tony has a bare bones kit, there are little to no pedals for the guitar players, and many times I sing into a dry mic.

How has your sound changed or just grown over the years since you’ve been a band?
We are in the early stages of recording our follow-up; that will be the best measure of growth. This lineup is only a year and a half old, and we’ve grown a lot closer as friends through the experiences and I think the familiarity will add an element to the next batch of tunes.

You’ve had the chance to perform with some big names, like Blind Melon at the Orbit Room last year, as well as bands like Rusted Root, Sugar Ray and Night Ranger. What has been your most memorable show (good/bad/legendary) and why?
I’m going to take the low road on this one and share a bad experience. We happened to blow an axle near Holland on the way to play in Chicago. So cliché. It was also during the one bad snow storm we had last winter and we were stranded near Holland in a blizzard for a very long time. We did have a friend drop everything he was doing, empty his truck, and take us there to play the last thirty-five minutes before the venue closed, so there was a silver lining.

You’ll be releasing your self-titled album at the Pyramid Scheme on Dec. 22. How long has your album been in the making?
We spent about four months on it in the middle of last winter, then spent about another [year] making it a tangible product.

Where did you record the album and who did you work on it with?
It was recorded in my old neighbor’s basement on Ian’s 16-track recorder. Ian produced the entire album; the guy has skills. Mike Dodge gave us some tips on sound engineering, but besides that it was done completely “in house.” Done “in house,” next to my house.

How far along are you on your second album? Do you hope to release that sometime next year?
The second batch will be an EP. Looking to be five, maybe six tracks. We are in preproduction right now and expect to have it packaged by early spring.

What are your other plans for next year? Any tours or anything else you’d like to do in 2013?
We are looking to establish a bigger presence outside Grand Rapids in 2013. Music festivals will be our primary goal, but we are always open to different ideas on how to expand our reach.

If you could play with any other band, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Nickelback. More as a public service than anything. That would be where we would make the greatest positive impact on the world. Based on personal interest and rock ‘n’ roll greatness, it would have to be Led Zeppelin. I’m not sure how any four people were able to create something as powerful as what they did.

Last but not least, who do you consider to be some of Grand Rapids’ other finest rock bands?
They aren’t necessarily “rock,” but I really like what Delilah DeWylde and The Lost Boys are doing. The Crane Wives, Alexis, Chicago Drive, and Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys are all quality acts. - Recoil Magazine


Joe Bockheim had a major musical epiphany in the ninth grade as he rode the bus to school.

"I don't really know how I got to the ninth grade without knowing who Led Zeppelin was, but the bus driver was a rocker and she had a Led Zeppelin IV tape and I still remember 'Black Dog' coming on and my whole world changed," Bockheim said.

Naturally, when it came time to form his own project, Bockheim decided he was going to play rock 'n' roll in its purest form.

This mentality shows through crystal clear in the music of Grand Rapids' The Legal Immigrants, which features Bockheim on rhythm guitar and vocals in addition to ex-Rattle Candy guitarist Ian Dodge (lead guitar), Jeff Armstrong (bass) and Tony Lubenow (drums).

The group, which has operated with the current line-up for about a year and a half, will release its self-titled full-length album on Dec. 22 at The Pyramid Scheme with Streetwalking Cheetahs, Chicago Drive and Gunnar from Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys.

Even the band's recording method is straight up rock 'n' roll.

"At the house I used to live in, I had a neighbor across the street," Bockheim said. "I'm a pretty neighborly guy and I struck up a conversation with him. He was a single guy, a retired GM employee. He had no wife and no kids. He had a '69 Corvette and fishing boat. Every day, literally all he did was go to the YMCA to work out in the morning, come home and drink Busch Light."

It was a perfect match for The Legal Immigrants. The band's new bud supplied the room, the guys brought in the recording gear and went to work.

"He even fed us the whole way," Bockheim said. "It was like a full service studio."

Bockheim and Co. had the luxury of tackling the project at their own pace, throwing on an improvised number as a final track, just for fun.

"I'm sure we did some things wrong, but we learned a lot," Bockheim said. "The next batch will always sound better. Some of these tracks we recorded three or four times. We didn't put anything on the record that we weren't comfortable with." - Revue


This rock quartet from Grand Rapids has put together what you could consider a throwback album to the blues bases hard rock sounds of the '60s and '70s filtered through the '90s, then run back through a Jimi Hendrix and Creedence box. Upon further inspection, the boys in the band really sell it, and the love for the music is apparent not only in the cohesive and catchy songwriting, but the capable and interesting musicianship. There are some guitar solos on here that are definitely worth checking out, and the singer is a top-notch unpretentious rock 'n' roller. Go to thelegalimmigrants.com to check it out. - Recoil Magazine


Discography

"The Legal Immigrants" -2012

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Bio

The Legal Immigrants have been together since 2009 and are comprised of four band members. Joe Bockheim, on vocals and guitar, is the main songwriter of the band. His influences range from Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to Jack White, Beck, and David Bowie. Trevor Reidsma, on lead guitar brings in classic leads a la Keith Richards, with a twang of the more "out there" styles such as Frank Zappa. The rhythm section of the band is represented by Tony Lubenow on drums and Stefan Schwartz on bass. These two have significant experience playing together in a variety of styles, and lay down a great foundation on which the rest of the band is built.

Since the formation of the band, TLI have played with the likes of (in no particular order) Blind Melon, Rusted Root, Sugar Ray, Night Ranger, Jefferson Starship, and many more. The band has also been traveling to Detroit and Chicago for several performances; notably, a rooftop show outside Wrigley Field, and performing with Michael Schenker at Harpos in Detroit. Locally, the band has performed at Founders Brewing Company, The Orbit Room, The Intersection, and the Pyramid Scheme.

The Legal Immigrants have a very independent attitude, and rely heavily on their ambition, work ethic, and professionalism to lead them in the right direction. The Legal Immigrants were created out of a passionate love for music, and its four members work tirelessly to share their creation with the world.