Interview: We Speak To Sam Quartin of the Bobby Lees


Bobby Lees

Backseat Mafia recently reviewed the new album called ‘Bellevue’ by the Bobby Lees and we loved it.

Thanks for the interview-I really loved the new album.
Thanks!

Can you tell me a bit about the band members and the instruments that you all play?
Our drummer’s name is Macky, Kendall plays bass, Nick is lead guitar and I sing and play guitar.

How long have you been together and how did the band form?
We’ve been together since 2017 – we formed in Woodstock NY a year after I moved there from the city.

The band has received support from some high-profile artists such as Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry. Can you tell us who your major musical influences have been?
I love Jack White, Howlin Wolf, Patsy Cline, Patti Smith, Captain Beefheart, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Elvis, The Hives – Macky recently introduced me to Toots and The Maytals. Some of his favorites are Fishbone, PJ Harvey, The Specials, Deftones, DEVO.

Did you feel any pressure producing the new album given that you were working with (the legendary) Vance Powell and the kudos that you received from those well-known artists?
I was nervous and excited to work with Vance, but we didn’t think about any of that other stuff, we just had these songs we wanted to record.

What was it like working with Powell?
He was amazing with us, extremely generous. He helped us get out of our own way and try new things. It was very fun.

I read that you didn’t have the confidence to make music/start a band until you met Macky and Kendall at the Rock Academy, what was it about meeting them that gave you confidence and got the band going?
I heard about a book called The Artist Way by Julia Cameron – I read that, and that’s what forced me to start playing in front of people. It has all these great exercises to help you just try, and not judge what you’re doing, just to do it. Then after I finished the book I aligned with them. I was still very nervous to play them stuff I wrote, it took a couple years for me to get comfortable, and now its very easy to share anything with them.

You have a career as an actress that I believe you have put on hold now, can you tell us about the similarities and differences between being the front woman of a band and being an actor?
I’m not sure how to answer that. There’s aspects of both that I love and there are parts of both I’m not into, but Today I’d say I’m grateful when I get to do either.

Your past diagnosis with an alcohol-induced psychotic event is well documented. Is it true that the name of the band came to you during a hallucination?

No, not during a hallucination. That stuff lasted 9 months, but after it passed, I was in my apartment one night and felt like some old man was in my house, I couldn’t see him but I felt some kind of weird presence while I was learning a Bo Diddley song on guitar, so I named him Bobby Lee and wrote that song that night. When we booked our first show, we needed a name and no one came up with anything so we just called it THE BOBBY LEES temporarily, I thought someone would come up with something cooler, but nobody ever did, so it’s still our name.

Your lyrics are very frank and you have been open with your battles with mental illness, have you encountered any stigma as a result of your diagnosis?

No. I don’t really think of it as a diagnosis, I dont think we really understand why those things happen, if they’re real or not etc. I think part of what happened was real and I needed to have my reality challenged to work through some stuff, and then parts of it were just madness, but who knows why or what was really going on. I’m just grateful it passed and I’m now able to make something out of the experience.

Can you tell us about how your songs are written? In a recent interview you overviewed how ‘Greta Van Fake’ was written and that it actually started out as a bit of a joke.
Most songs come from a simple idea I have, a couple chords and some words/melody, and then Kendall flushes them out, finds other parts, Nick adds his stuff, Macky adds his, and then we all kinda feel it out until it feels done.

I love the covers that the band does. In the past you have covered ‘Blank Generation’ and ‘I’m a Man’ on the new album you have included a cover of the Waterboys’ ‘Be My Enemy’. Can you tell us how you chose to cover this song?

Someone told me about that song and I read the lyrics and felt really connected to them, so I wanted to give it a try.

What is next for the band? Will you be touring and if so, are there any plans to come to Australia?
We would LOVE to come to Australia. No plans as of yet, but we hope to get there soon. We have some US shows in the next couple months and It’s looking like we’ll be back in UK/EU next summer.

And on that note, I have to ask, are there any Australian bands that the Bobby Lees admire or find inspirational?
We love King Gizzard. I also love The Chats. We’ve played with them a couple times now, once in the US and once in the Netherlands. I love The Birthday Party, their live album 81-82 is one of my favorites.

Photo Credit John Swab

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