Woodstock, in New York State, is noted for the legendary rock festival that bears its name, but it’s also the home of The Bobby Lees, a band that’s developed a unique fusion of blues and in-your-face rock. Most of the band—drummer Macky Bowman, lead guitarist Nick Casa, and bass player Kendall Wood—graduated from high school last year. Bandleader Sam Quartin is a few years older.
“I always wanted to have a band, but I was too scared to sing or play in front of anyone,” Quartin says. “I couldn’t sing without crying. I thought I sucked too much to share what I’d written, so I left New York and moved up to Woodstock. Somebody told me to read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It suggested trying things and not judging yourself, so I started playing around town and met Kendall, Macky, and Nick. A couple of months later, we recorded our first album, Beauty Pageant.”
Beauty Pageant is a bracing blast of punk-infused blues, but it does nothing to prepare you for the intensity of Skin Suit, the band’s second outing, which comes out July 17. With the help of Jon Spencer from The Blues Explosion, they’ve crafted a blistering blues/rock hybrid of epic proportions. Quartin’s unruly vocals are supported by the band’s wall of noise and Spencer’s sonic explorations. It’s hard to believe music this loud and intense was made by a quartet.
“We recorded everything live,” she says. “The drums were isolated, but we could still see Macky. Nick, me, and Kendall were in one big room together. On a few songs, I recorded the vocals in a booth, and some songs we just used the live scratch track. Jon got us to do stuff we wouldn’t have thought to do. I get intimidated when there’s too many choices, so it was amazing to have someone who knows what the fuck they’re doing when it comes to the technical shit. Vocally, he’d have me try stuff I don’t normally do.”
Quartin’s vocals have an impressive, somewhat disturbing sound, a visceral yelp of raw pain and anger. On many tracks, it seems as if she’s descending into chaos.
“We tested the songs at shows to get a better feel for them, but vocally, I try to not have anything planned,” she says. “I change things up every time I sing. I like music that sounds like it’s a matter of life or death when it’s playing. Like the person singing has no choice but to get it out.”
Skin Suit is available for pre-order now; pick up a copy here.