Some bands can go out and perform, and some bands just absolutely fucking bring it. The Skins are the latter. A packed Knitting Factory was able to experience it firsthand on Friday night, as the band had the opening slot for Andrew WK. Their thirty-minute set was filled with drum and bass lines fit for hip-hop, guitar riffs and solos fit for a Zeppelin and Sabbath, and the incredibly charismatic Bayli McKeithan leading the way as the soul-filled front woman of the group.
If you’ve never seem them you’ll quickly learn the band’s attitude and swagger to go along with the immense talent to back it all up makes them a perfect New York band. Of all the acts I’ve seen since coming to NYC three years ago I don’t think there’s a better act that fits more perfectly into the NYC music scene than The Skins. They’re a highly reactive mixture of musical influences in a city full of melted pieces of its own, and they’ve seemed to carry that mixture of hip-hop and rock that Rage Against The Machine and early RHCP had and have flawlessly brought it to 2014 with electrifying execution.
Always the kind of group to make a statement, Bayli made her appearance on stage donning a multi-colored tie dye-esque dress with the appropriate floral leis to go along with it. As she lead the band through songs off their first album, there was no doubt that everyone in the room was immediately drawn to the bands energy with each song.
The chemistry and musical connection throughout the set was no more evident than in Daisy Spencer and Russell Chell trading of guitar solos and leads, as their rock sound is a perfect topping to Bayli’s little sister Kaya’s bass lines, who showed she’s a force to be reckoned with when she handed her sister the bass to take vocal lead on their cover of Kanye’s ‘Monster’. The band closed out with ‘Summertime’ off their 2012 EP, and with that the madness had ended. I HAD to go backstage and talk with the band about what I had just witnessed and fortunately they still had the energy to be in a fun and playful mood as we packed into their dressing room to talk about their style of music.
P&W: You guys totally fucking killed it tonight. Where does the Skins fire come from? How’d you get that sound?
Bayli: We started out with a classic rock foundation. It was mostly just rock and heavy shit like Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Jane’s Addiction. Now we’re really listening to R&B, hip-hop…
Kaya: TRAP MUSIC!
Bayli: Oh yeah. So now you see we’ve got that hip-hop foundation and a lot of our covers are actually rap songs. We’re still have that very heavy rock foundation and a lot of songs we played tonight are one’s we’ve had for a while, but in the past few months we’ve done a lot of R&B style songs. Our future shit will probably have a lot of that new sound in it as well. For now we take a lot of performance and musical chops from rock and soul legends. 90s are our jam though! 90s gangster rap!
Russell: 90s everything.
P&W: You can hear so much soul in your vocal lines but you’ve also got that perfect mixture of the two genres down so well, very similar to the way Rage Against The Machine or very early Red Hot Chili Peppers use to have.
Bayli: We keep getting that comparison! It’s heavy but it still has those rhythmic and hip-hop tempos. We love those guys.
Russell: We’re apparently hitting the nail on the head with that one.
P&W: The guitarists in the band bring that hard rock vibe, but you, Kaya, and Reef bring the style of music from the other end of the spectrum, so how does the songwriting process work in the band?
Bayli: It always varies. A lot of time Kaya will bring a bass riff or Daisy and Spencer will bring a guitar riff. I like it when they write the music so I can just bring my lyrics and throw the melody over it. It’s very collaborative. Since we’ve been co-writing we’ll get people going “Can I get a singer or guitarist to work with?” but we like having everyone’s input on song ideas. We think the sound is more eclectic that way.
P&W: Have you guys toured a lot outside of the city?
Daisy: We actually have a lot for not being too established.
Bayli: We’ve gone to Paris twice, at the very beginning of our touring career. We’ve done North America with the east and west coast a few times.
P&W: You’re music is so perfect for NYC and Brooklyn, but do you see a difference in crowd response in different areas of the country?
Reef: In Paris and on the west coast, everyone turnt it up! Portland, Oakland, Vancouver, those cities went wild.
Bayli: Chicago was wild too.
Kaya: I feel in NYC, a lot of people are trying to look cool, and act all hipster like “Yo look at me I’m wearing sunglasses inside.” So sometimes they’re worried about not wanting to mosh, or let loose, but we’re up there having fun and doing whatever, so we want our audiences doing the same thing.
P&W: Because you have such a defining NYC sound, do you think your sound would be different not living in NYC?
Daisy: I think if we all got together and made a band in a different state, we all always talk about how our parents’ musical tastes really influenced who we are as musicians. NYC definitely kept building and forming us, but we love Zeppelin and all that because our parents instilled it in us. However I don’t think Bayli would be able to wear what she wore on stage tonight if we were from D.C.
P&W: But that on stage attire is part of the package.
Bayli: Totally. Being in a city where everything is so culturally diverse really reflects on who we are as a band and our sound. It’s such a super expressive or mashup.
P&W: Are you currently working on new material?
Bayli: Oh yeah, we have been for at least a year
Russell: We have a lot of new stuff, especially within the past month we’ve written like twenty new things.
Bayli: We’re working with American Records, which is Rick Rubin’s label. He’s been helping us develop and really mentoring us writing-wise and helping us develop our sound so much more. We’re very eager to put out new music but we’ve also been focusing on developing the sound to make sure it’s really good by the time it comes out.
P&W: Is Rick producing a lot of these new song ideas?
Bayli: Our next project, which is probably going to be smaller, probably an EP, he’s not producing that. However for our full-length debut album, he’ll probably be producing that, so we hear. But it’s so cool having his say and his help.
P&W: Do you really try to make a statement with each performance, or do you not worry about that so much and just let the music and chemistry take care of the rest?
Reef: I think it’s both. We’re all so good at what each of us do, our default is us going out and just being to nonchalant anyway.
Bayli: We’re confident in what we do, but we want our audience to be impressed.
Article by: Tom Shackleford