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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is Born to Rock

The founding members of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have been playing together since their East Bay high school days.


Drummer Leah Shapiro, vocalist and guitarist Peter Hayes, and bassist Robert Levon Been.

Photo by Tessa Angus

How many friends do you still have from high school? Maybe quite a few. But how many do you tour the world and play loud, fuzzy, fantastic rock ‘n’ roll with? Bet that list got a lot shorter.

That’s not the case with Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been, who’ve been making music together since their high school days in Lafayette. Hayes and Been are founding members of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, a rock trio—including drummer Leah Shapiro—that has been on a seemingly endless worldwide tour since the band’s debut album dropped in 2001. Their eighth release, Wrong Creatures, hits stores on January 12.

Hayes was a student at Acalanes High when he bonded with Been over music. Been, the son of the late Michael Been of the 1980s band The Call, says that Hayes became a surrogate brother.

“I don’t know [if] a lot of people know, but at high school, Peter was having a lot of trouble at home and was living in a van,” Been told the British music magazine Q in a 2013 interview. “So when I started playing guitar with Pete, he would end up parking in the driveway. We’d go to school, play at night, and he’d crash in our driveway, and so my father ended up taking him in, and he became part of the family. It’s where he’s lived ever since.”Been and Hayes share songwriting duties.

The friends formed Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in 1998, ​but they were originally called The Elements. When they learned another band already had that name, they chose their current moniker after Marlon Brando’s ​biker gang in The Wild One. Inspired by their love of bands like Led Zeppelin, Sonic Youth, and The Jesus and Mary Chain, Hayes and Been developed their signature post-punk, garage-rock sound. They spent this past November and December playing in Europe and Mexico before returning to North America for a 30-city tour, which runs through February.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club will play at the Fox Theater in Oakland on February 22. Grab some tickets, and bring your best friend from high school with you. blackrebelmotorcycleclub.com.


Check out these other great East Bay concerts.

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