Southern Sounds

Get to Know: Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires

By Jed PortmanMarch 6, 2013

Like so many Southern musicians, Lee Bains learned to sing in church. His grandmother directed church choirs for seven decades, from her senior year of high school until she was almost ninety years old. His grandfather was a tenor who sang solos at the altar on Sundays. “I always loved rock 'n' roll, though,” Bains says. With guidance from his older brothers, the Birmingham native was listening to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, and AC/DC by the time he picked up a guitar at twelve years old.

Today, Bains leads the Alabama barn-burners Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires. Like a harder-driving Alabama Shakes, the Glory Fires play rock music with punk energy and red-clay soul. They draw, too, on the gospel songs of Bains’ childhood—one of which was repurposed into the title track of the band’s 2012 debut, There Is a Bomb in Gilead.

The Glory Fires have just wrapped up a tour and are about to embark on another that will take them from South Carolina through Mississippi and into Texas. We caught Bains for a few minutes between shows to ask…

Why do you think Alabama turns out so many talented musicians?

You know, we have such a rich musical heritage in this state, but also one that’s not so widely known. I think that has actually helped the scene in Alabama. Because if you’re playing music in Alabama, you’re probably from Alabama or have some kind of intimate connection to the state. People don’t really move to Alabama to play music, or certainly not to make money playing music.

How would you describe your music?

I usually just say rock 'n' roll. Alabama rock 'n' roll. We try to keep it honest and rowdy and we play hard, like we mean it.

Tell us about the band's name.

Well, I toured with [Tuscaloosa-based cult favorites] The Dexateens from 2008 until 2010. When that band was coming to an end in 2010, I was having kind of an existential freakout. I was living in this house with, I think, six other guys. Two of the guys had been doing some service work at a men’s shelter called the Jimmie Hale Mission. A few of us decided to put together a gospel bluegrass act and play music at their Sunday services. Just guitar, mandolin, and standup bass. We played a few times before we had to come up with a name. We were living in a neighborhood called Glen Irish at the time, so I said, “What if we were the Glen Irish Glorifiers?” Like an old-school gospel band. One of my friends asked, “Are you saying glorifiers or glory fires?” I liked the second, and the name stuck with me when I started my next band.

What are your favorite tracks on your first album?

Man, I really like the way that “Opelika” turned out on the record, the vibe of it. And I like “Red, Red Dirt of Home.” I think those sound the most organic. We are a lot louder and wilder live than I think came across on most of the record, and we are bearing that in mind going into the next album.

So you have another album coming?

We definitely do, and I have a ton of songs written. We’re playing a handful on this tour, and I would say that we will probably be recording by the spring or summer.