If you’re 30 or over, you probably think music has seen its best days.
You may believe that the glory days of true musicianship forged by 70s rock or 80s punk or 90s hip-hop have long passed. After all, it is 2012, the age of fast-food technology, fast-food information, fast-food music. And fast food.
But there’s a group of five, budding, local musicians called “The Skins,” prepared to make you a believer again.
The Skins are three siblings from Bed-Stuy-- percussionist Reef, 13, bassist Kaya, 17, vocalist Bayli, 18-- and two guitar players, Daisy, 18, of Manhattan and Russell, 20, of New Jersey.
The Skins bring a refreshingly new sound to rock-funk-and-hip hop that not only is building a fan base of hordes of teenyboppers, but also grabbing the attention of a few old-school music heads as well.
And it makes sense, considering their influences: They were nursed on the milk of Metallica, weaned on the wordplay of Wu-Tang and raised on the guitar riffs of Rush.
“I didn’t even like music before I heard Led Zeppelin,” said Reef, the band’s 13-year-old drummer. Now, since his father— a former drummer, hip hop emcee and extreme music head himself—introduced Reef to the sounds of metal, he follows and studies other drummers like Travis Barker of Blink-182, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, Neil Peart of Rush and Lars Ulrich of Metallica fame.
“After Led Zeppelin, music came alive for me,” he said. His music tastes also expanded. Reef now lists the Roots, Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr among the groups he admires and follows.
The Skins have only been gigging together a little more than a year. A chance meeting between Bayli and Daisy at the Paul Green School of Rock in Midtown Manhattan led to the two becoming friends and eventually just “rocking out together” in Bayli’s Bed-Stuy basement (with Reef on drums). Soon Bayli’s sister, Kaya, joined them at their impromptu rock sessions playing her bass guitar.
The synergy was instantaneous. Once they realized they had something special, Daisy brought in another School of Rock classmate, Russ, a second guitarist, and voilà: rock band complete.
“We chose the name 'The Skins,' because we thought it was a really sassy and colorful and can mean anything for so many people,” said Bayli. “Our mother is British, and in London, a ‘skin’ was a name for someone you find really attractive -- like, guys would say, ‘oh, she’s cute, she’s a skin.’”
The Skins usually play all of their own original music—mostly punk/rock/hip hop-- but they will sometimes do covers, just to be playful. At a recent performance in Bed-Stuy, they covered Beyoncé’s “Bootylicious,” but put their own rock spin on it, complete with grungy guitar riffs, courtesy Daisy and Russ, and a rousing drum solo, á le Reef.
“We have a really interesting way of writing music,” said Daisy, who learned to play the guitar after her father—also a guitar player—gifted her his 1965 Gibson Melody Maker when she was very young. “With us, it’s usually me and Russ will think of a riff. We bring it to the group, and then everybody adds what they feel.
“Russ is the only one who really reads music, so we, like, just write it down on a sheet of paper-- chorus-verse-chorus… It’s really basic and sounds simple, but it works for us.”
Still barely cultivated, the band’s energy, chemistry, esthetic and talent already shine evident. The Skins just finished their first U.S. tour, June 18 – June 29, as the opening act for The Heavy, a popular British rock band mostly known for its 2009 hit “How You Like Me Now?”
“They were the nicest band ever,” blurted Russ excited. “That tour was the tour of stuff that never happens to anyone on tour… Like, they let us use all of their gear; they adjusted their set time so that more people would be there to see us play. They were just great the whole time.”
“Yeah, the tour was amazing,” said Kaya. “That was the best week of my life so far. It was so great traveling places we've never been with such a great band like The Heavy.”
“I always thought, as a band we were gonna make good music,” said Bayli. “But I never thought I could actually do this as a profession and, like, make money from being a musician. But it’s becoming clearer and clearer that it could actually happen for us.”
Reef added, “At school, the kids watch our videos on the Internet, and then come up to me and say, ‘Yo, you can play the drums, man. You can really play the drums.”
“Yeah, random people started coming up to me at school and saying, ‘Oh my god, I love the Skins.’ Like random people, and it’s really weird, I get embarrassed,” Bayli said.
But this is their new life as mini-rock stars, and they wouldn’t trade it for a moment.
“If I hadn’t picked up bass, I probably would have gone to school as an English major,” said Kaya. “But making music is definitely what I want to do as a career. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
The Skins perform next at the Afro Punk Battle of the Bands on July 25, at Free Candy, for a chance to play at the Afro Punk Festival in August. The band just released today their latest video for their single "Killer." Go here to see their brand-new video.