Mass Appeal Issue #53 is fresh off the presses, so we figured we’d start blessing you with some gems from inside the magazine. First up is Brooklyn-based rock band The Skins. They’re young, they’re cool, and most of all: they f*cking rock. If you’re sleeping on The Skins, stop hitting the snooze button, and check out our interview with the band the below.
Entering their basement rehearsal space nestled in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, you can immediately see what The Skins are all about. The stacks of classic records, ranging from Led Zeppelin to Herbie Hancock, shed light on the group’s musical influences, while the hanging fluorescent beads remind you of the youthfulness that the band expresses. Comprised of three siblings, Bayli (19), Kaya (17) and Reef Mckeithan (14), along with battling ax players Russell Chell (20) and Daisy Spencer (19), you can also feel the strong family vibe that resonates from the soul, rock and hip hop-fusing band. Screaming guitar solos, vocals that sound like Robert Plant and Aretha Franklin joined forces and a vibrant youthful energy is what makes The Skins next up in our eyes.
Mass Appeal: Let’s start with how you all met, besides from the three of you being siblings.
Bayli: We all kind of met at Paul Green’s School of Rock — which is a real thing. We all took lessons there, like guitar. bass, drums, etc. We met there when we were much younger and when we grew out of the School of Rock thing. Reef, Kaya and I would always just jam, but we never really thought that we’d start a band. We put up a few videos of us doing a “Gimme Shelter” cover in the basement and Daisy saw it.
Daisy: I was like, “Oh my god!”
B: And then she was like “Can I come jam?” So she came and jammed and it was awesome!
Reef: Yeah, we were also in this thing called The School of Rock All-Stars and Russell went to a different School of Rock. The All-Stars were like the best kids from all The School of Rocks coming together and playing, so that’s how we met Russell. We called him up.
D: I was like, “Russell, get your ass to New York City.”
RM: … And he was like, “right away” [laughs].
B: From there our first jam session together was absolutely amazing — from there, The Skins happened.
MA: Besides Russell being from New Jersey, the rest of you grew up in New York City. Can you talk about the positives that come out of growing up in the city?
B: Well, when we were younger, we sort of moved around a lot. Reef probably won’t remember because he was way younger, but we were born in Long Island and raised there as little kids. We moved to Roosevelt Island, then we finally moved to Brooklyn. But where our personalities actually were formed, I would say, was definitely Brooklyn.
Kaya: The pros of growing up in the city I would say are being creative definitely, and being a fast walker [laughs].
RM: Word. You definitely learn how to shake people.
K: And just being social. I think it’s really about being social and talking because really you can’t go outside your house without saying anything to someone.
It’s obviously going to be different than living in a place like Indiana, where it’s country and you’re in isolation. Shout out to Michael Jackson, though!
RM: I would just like to make it known that I wasn’t born on Long Island. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. Just wanted to make that clear [group laughs].
B: I think the diversity is the main thing. You’re exposed to so many different types of people that it’s easy to be social around any type of person, any type of artist, anyone with a different nationality, and so on. It’s really unexpected, I guess, for some people; not for us, but people are always like, “You’re from Bed-Stuy and you play rock music?” and we’re like, (group says in unison) “Yeah.”
MA: Being that you guys are young and your influences range from jazz to classic rock, are your parents responsible for a lot of your musical influences?
D: Yeah, my dad was always playing classic rock albums, but he’s actually really up to speed with new music also, so he’s always showing me new stuff. He’s the one that showed me Macklemore and all these new things, but he’s the one that got me into rock music definitely — because I do not listen to the same music as my mom.
K: What type of music does your mom listen to?
D: She listens to, like … I don’t know actually. Oh wait, she listens to like Christmas music [group laughs].
B: That’s actually so poppin’ because Christmas albums are amazing. We will make one in the future.
K: I like Christmas and Christmas songs [laughs].
RM: I mean my dad showed me Led Zeppelin and so, yeah.
B: Yeah, dad showed Reef Led Zeppelin before us. Reef knew more about different types of music other than pop before I did, at least. Then, through him and my dad I found Zeppelin and was like, “Oh my god, I need to be like all of those men without the genitals and all that [laughs].” That’s why I wanted to learn how to play guitar, because of Jimmy Page. That’s what I did in The School of Rock. I didn’t take vocal lessons because I wanted to expand my musical abilities.
K: I was the last to like rock music. I just remember listening to “The Lemon Song;” I don’t know why they keep playing it.
B: “The Lemon Song” is the livest!
K: They would just always be playing it and I just didn’t understand because I was always into like Beyonce and stuff, but then I really started to like rock. I actually did two shows at The School of Rock. I did the Rolling Stones show and I did Queen. After
I did Queen, I was like, ” Yooooo, this is soooo dope!”
MA: Besides the influence on different types of music from your parents, which type of music did you discover on your own that might influence you today?
RM: Everything except for rock, hip hop and R&B. So I had to pick up jazz by myself, which was interesting because you don’t really know what you’re looking for. I kind of listened to the commercial, traditional artists like John Coltrane and things. Then I eventually found related artists that were doing different things, and that’s what introduced me to fusion.
B: Honestly, in a lot of my interviews I mention that I listen to Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and everyone that you might expect me to say based on my voice or something. But really I listen to a lot of indie, slow, almost hipster rock and I listen to a lot of jazz from the ‘30s and ‘40s, not to mention I love Amy Winehouse.
K: I just pick up a lot of my music from Reef; he’s a big influence, and Russ too. With those two, I hear stuff that I’ve never heard before. I just creep on Reef’s Spotify.
RM: He has a playlist that’s called “Everlasting,” that’s there in case something happens like the world is ending. There’s like almost seven thousand songs.
B: The cool thing too is that since we all listen to so many different types of music, we’re always sharing music with each other, and it keeps our minds open when we’re writing songs.
MA: As you guys are in the process of creating and recording your first full-length album, how do you think your sound is progressing?
D: We’re definitely getting more “hip hoppy,” I think. We’ve always maintained within the realm of rock and we’re definitely meant for a big, loud room, but we’re definitely incorporating different styles.
B: I’m learning how to find different melodies that are sort of like a rap melody but over like a really hardcore rocking song that we wrote, or maybe it’s a low-key, groovy song and I write classic rock vocals. I don’t know, but I think we’re learning how to mesh them all together.
RC: That and I think we all kind of keep up on what’s happening at the moment and we fuse that in so that anybody can relate to it and it has more appeal.
B: We want our music to be universal, but I always think there will be that rock foundation. We have so many fans that don’t listen to rock; we know they don’t listen to rock, or friends that we’ve sort of converted into loving our stuff. Of course, it’s because they’re our friends but I believe, at least partially, [it’s] because they actually like the music. I think it’s cool when we go somewhere and we know all these people listen to straight-up hip hop. Like when we play some of the shows we do in Brooklyn, we know a lot of these people are only listening to things like 2 Chainz right now, but by the end of the show they love what we play.
We spent a day with The Skins for our interview series Video Print, watch the video here.