I was more than pleasantly surprised after attending the Whalebone Showcase this past Friday at Sole East in Montauk. All three musical acts left the crowd moving and shaking while sipping Montauk Brews under the setting sun, encompassed by the beautiful backdrop that could not have been a better fit for such a fair.
As the popularity of Montauk increases, so does the caliber of musical talent we are able to experience. Fresh, upcoming musicians are able to be enjoyed in a much more intimate environment than what is offered 100 miles west. After the showcase, I was able to have a conversation with Bayli Mckeithan, front girl of Harlem-based group, The Skins.
With the ages of the band members range in age from 15 to 22 years old, these young talents are no strangers to the performing arts, and have built up quite the resume. They have more musical experience than most artists their age and it shows. Having attended the real life “School Of Rock” in Brooklyn they have created a style of sound that is both versatile and dynamic.
From the energy of their electric live performance to their range of musical abilities (freestyle rapping, trading instruments mid-show, and sampling from a variety of different genres), these kids managed to get the attention of Adrian Grenier, founder of Wreck Room Records, 4 years ago and have been landing big gigs ever since. We managed to escape to their hotel room to talk.
Bayli: Yo we got the true Montauk experience!
Chloe: Yeah! That’s awesome! So you are all siblings in the band? I didn’t even realize until I met your dad.
B: Oh my gosh, my crazy — yes. We love our parents. They’re actually the best, and the reason, obviously, that we’re like musicians.
C: Are your parents musicians too?
B: No, they’re just like crazy New Yorkers. Well, actually, our mom’s from London. They’re just crazy city hippy people who are just creative in their own right, you know? And my mom, well my siblings and I, yes, it’s amazing playing with them, but…we all went to the same music school, which is called “School of Rock”. It’s a real thing! I swear to God! Like, so that’s where our love of rock, heavy, loud shit comes from. As the years have gone by we’ve developed our sound a little bit more ’cause we used to be straight up like Zepplin/Black Sabbath. We love it, but now we’re developing, meeting amazing people and trying to be musicians as our careers, so…
C: What music has influenced you guys over the years?
B: We love Tame [Impala] and James Blake and like all these people! There’s so many people that we love – we love trap music and Travis Scott and all that. Since we have new love for different types of music, we incorporate it more into our sound now. We have more of an eclectic thing going on now, more so than just blues, like one of our songs, “Ocean” that we played – I don’t know if you remember…
C: Yeah, no, I remember what you said, you were like, “We’re by the ocean so we gotta…”
B: Yeah exactly! That was one of our first songs. It makes us feel so good to play it, but we have brand new ones, like the one we opened with, or like the one with rapping — we just started doing that in the past year.
C: I think really that’s a game changer, to be honest.
B: For real?
C: I saw it and was like, “damn.” And you just grabbed the bass and start playing.
B: Yeah, and also, just switching instruments and all this stuff — because, out of everything, we are obviously musicians and entertainers, but more than being in the studio recording or having people praise and be like, “you’re such rock stars”, we like performing. That’s like the only thing that we genuinely care about.
C: Oh, absolutely. It’s almost a lost art, and that’s what makes people believers!
B: If people are not into it, we don’t blame them, you know? Not everyone is gonna love our stuff but the reason why we are so energetic and bouncy and happy on stage — we just want people to feel that lucid, free and happy. It’s just the most fun thing for us, so that’s why we always stayed open minded with writing and developing sound. And we’ve been working with — do you know Rick Rubin?
B: Yeah! So we’ve been working with that bearded man, who’s obviously a legend, and he’s really like —
B: We started working with him on his label because we trusted his… what’s the word? It’s more than an opinion, we trust his — he has so much knowledge about longevity as a musician and having success.
C: I think it’s tough now. Now you guys have to be your own managers and you can’t really have holes in that. You have to be knowledgable.
B: Theres almost no room. Being a musician is always fun. We’re always like, “we’re so lucky.” We have crazy opportunities all the time. We’re young, and we’ve been doing it for, let’s say 4 years now, and we just started doing it, not knowing much, just doing it. Rick… we wanted to work with him because of all the knowledge that he has to share and give us. He’s helped our sound and we are still in the middle of like fucking around, playing around and experimenting with stuff. It’s been nice, we’ve learned so much in the last year or two.
C: That’s one of the most important things — the learning aspect. What would you say some of your biggest challenges in that aspect are?
B: It’s so easy. Not even, as a musician, or having any skill you’re like, “oh, I’ve mastered this.” Obviously, we don’t necessarily have that thought… but we’ve been doing it since we were 10, you know?
Rick’s challenged us, and not just Rick, but all these people — working with other producers and co-writers. Being able to collaborate with people has challenged us so much, and helped us so much. We’ve come out stronger. Our versatility is true versatility now, you know? It’s just been dope for us… I know this is probably side-bar…
C: No! I’m listening! That’s exciting!
B: We’re just really happy to play music.
C: Enjoy it! Enjoy every moment of it. Not many people get to… I saw Adrian and I said, “Oh my God, these guys are great, how’d you find them?” And he was like, “Oh, they found me.”
B: We live in the same neighborhood, like Bed-Stuey/Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. We had just become a band, and our other manager, Johanna, she’s like our day-to-day — I was singing back-ups in her band and her and [Adrian] were friends. Ok. So that’s how I met Adrian for the first time, this was before The Skins came together. And I had met him and we jammed together.
I was 16 or something… and then I, actually me and Jo, sang back-up for one of his band shows, one of his shows that Honey Brothers had, his old band. So that’s when I met him and then my band started and he started Wreck Room, which he calls a “musical incubator” because it’s not like a like a label or anything. He has any artist, mostly indie, that he sees fit or that he likes or that he thinks has talent, and they shoot a video, they record you in a day and they shoot a video in a day. That’s how we met. So basically, maybe our first or second or third song ever written, I had met A before and then Jo was friends so Jo kinda suggested to him, “oh you’re starting this thing, I have a good band that could do one of your first videos.”
We did the first Wreck Room video ever, maybe not the first, but the first one that he really pushed. Then we needed a manager so we were like, “Jo will you manage us?”. I was like16/17, my brother was 12! He’s 16 right now! We were all so young — this was like 4 years ago. I guess he saw potential. He had never managed a band, neither of our managers have ever really managed a band but um…
C: It sounds like you love working with him.
B: We love him! It’s also because, it’s his birthday today and he’s super happy and we’re happy that he’s happy and stress-free and stuff so obviously it was super fun and chill to play out here.
C: He seems really nice.
B: He’s been so helpful! We always talk about how we’re all learning, and obviously we can always be doing better.
C: Do you have any exciting shows coming up or any album releases?
B: Yes! We don’t know when our release is, but we’ve been getting closer and closer, so that’s why we’re happy because it’s been literally years of development. This Sunday we have a show at Cameo Gallery which is a small but really important free show by Afropunk.
C: Yes, the festival! I’m photographing it!
B: Dude! Yo! We’re fucking killing! Yes!
C: Lauren Hill, can we jam out to Ms. Lauren Hill?
B: Ok so you’re photographing the real Afropunk. We’re not actually playing until July 31st before the actual festival — they are having like a warm up show at Lincoln Center.
C: Oh, I’m coming, I’ll be there, I’ll email you guys.
B: We are so excited, and it’s free! The Afropunk thing we will be at but we’re just not performing on those stages…this is different, like Afropunk presents the Lincoln Center. It’s kinda like summer stage in Brooklyn —it’s a big outdoor stage and field.
C: Are you guys playing with the same group that you guys just played with now?
B: Yes, all 5 of us and… Lion Babe. Have you heard of them?
C: Yes, so excited!
B: I love Jillian she’s amazing. And Lucas, they’re both so awesome I want to write a song with them. So, it’s gonna be us, Lion Babe, and this… I don’t know if they’re British, but they are kinda more classic rock. They’re called Vintage Trouble. We played one of the Afropunks like a year or two ago they are very dope. So it’s gonna be us and those three bands.
C: I’m so excited for you!
B: It’s gonna be dope because it’s Lincoln center which is weird and like classical, but it’s big. It’s like playing Carnegie Hall kinda!
C: It is, it is! Lincoln center is huge, especially with classical music.
B: So we’re trying to funk it up. We are trying to funk it up.
C: Hell yeah.
B: So, please, I’ll remind you about that date. It’s free for all people!
Stay in the loop with The Skins, below.