The band which is based in Woodstock, NY is made up of Sam Quartin [vocals, guitar], Macky Bowman [drums], Nick Casa [guitar], and Kendall Wind [bass.]
Quartin has spoken about how she initially did not have confidence to start a band, but eventually she could no longer curtail her creativity and the band was created after she found some kindred spirits. She met Bowman and Wind via the Rock Academy in Saugerties NY in 2017 and the trio started writing music together. In 2018, Casa joined the band and the Bobby Lees were formed.
The Bobby Lees have released two full length albums ‘Beauty Pageant’  and ‘Skin Suit’ —which was produced by Jon Spencer. ‘Beauty Pageant’ was produced by the band themselves, the vinyl version of this album sold out and has since become a collector’s item.
After Quartin reached out to Vance Powell [Jack White, Chris Stapleton, The Raconteurs] on numerous occasions, he eventually came to a gig that the Bobby Lees played at the Muddy Roots Festival in Tennessee. After the show, Powell hugged Quartin and said “I’m in!”. ‘Bellevue’ was recorded at Sputnik Sound in Nashville with Powell producing.
The Bobby Lees have garnered a list of high-profile fans including Henry Rollins, Iggy Pop, Juliette Lewis and Debbie Harry.
Multi-talented Quartin is also an actress and has appeared in a number of movies, including ‘Body Brokers’ and ‘Tyger Tyger’. She has spoken about her battles with addiction and how she suffered a psychotic breakdown as a result of alcohol abuse. The name of the band comes from a song entitled ‘Bobby Lee’ which appeared on the band’s first album and is reportedly about a ghost who used to visit Quartin.
“I used to live by Bellevue Mental Hospital in New York before I moved to Woodstock and met the band. When I was living there, I was drinking a lot and my mental health got pretty out of control. I was hallucinating without taking any drugs, feeling like I was possessed, and hearing things that weren’t “there”. I sometimes thought I was communicating telepathically with the people in Bellevue, maybe I was….it got pretty intense and my mom was going to send me away to a long term mental hospital, but I got sober instead and I’m really grateful most of that stuff that was too much to handle, went away on its own.”Sam Quartin
The band recently released ‘Ma Likes To Drink’ off the album, check out the video below.
To be clear, the music on ‘Bellevue’ is not the type of music that you can put on in the background. None of these tracks are destined for Spotify’s ‘Housework Hits’ playlist. The music made by the Bobby Lees demands your attention, it picks you up by the scruff of your neck, shakes you and throws you across the room. If you’re looking for some ambient sounds, this album is not for you, but if you want music to move you, to elicit a response and to reach into your soul, then look no further because ‘Bellevue’ will do exactly that.
The title track is the first of the thirteen punk songs on this album which comes in at a little over 30 minutes – it’s guaranteed to knock your Docs off! The lyrics on ‘Bellevue’ and on the rest of the tracks are delivered with a snarl and a sneer that Quartin musters up from the depths of her soul. The band delivers a menacing, merciless and relentless backdrop to her vocals. The lyrics for ‘Ma Likes To Drink’ are particularly harrowing it’s like Quartin captured the pain and fear of psychosis and then spat it out for the world to contemplate.
The tracks ‘Hollywood Junkyard’, ‘Dig Your Hips’ and ‘Be My Enemy’ (an incendiary cover of the Waterboys song) appeared on the ‘Hollywood Junkyard’ EP that was released earlier this year.
‘Hollywood Junkyard’ is a warning about the trappings of fame for which the band has recorded a kick ass video. The video was recorded during the Covid lockdown period.
On ‘Death Train’ the band combines to take the listener on a wild, chugging ride – it’s like being on a speeding rollercoaster at a macabre carnival. ‘Strange Days’ is quite laid back at first, with sparse instrumentation and a light melodic touch but soon the band kicks in and the song builds to an anthemic denouement and then fades out again. ‘Strange Days’ was partially inspired by the work of the author Haruki Murakami.
I found out about him [Murakami] when the Pandemic started, and I’m on book number eight now. I was reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and I watched the film Strange Days, which is kind of about our dependence on technology and how bad it can get. The morning after was the first time I’ve opened my eyes, grabbed a pen, and the whole song wrote itself in a few minutes.”Sam Quartin
‘Greta Van Fake’ originally started off as a riff by Kendall Wind. The lyrics deal with the band’s quest to be authentic and how Quartin was encouraged by a boyfriend to remain in the background. Initially written as a joke, Quartin did not intend it to appear on the album, but Powell liked the song and encouraged the band to record it. The track features some excoriating guitar work as Quartin hisses the lyrics “You think you’re rock ‘n roll / But you’re a joke a wannabe baby!”
‘Bellevue’ is an album that will challenge the listener. The lyrics are nihilistic and deal with dark themes. The music is a full-on punk onslaught that will not be denied.
A fan has commented on YouTube that the Bobby Lees will restore your faith in music and I agree.
Perhaps the last word is best left to Quartin who has spoken about how the songs on the album are ultimately a message of hope, despite the sometimes somber subject matter.
“I named the album Bellevue because when I listen back, I hear someone going through that stuff, who is now able to laugh about it and have fun re-telling the stories. It’s a reminder for me that the most painful and intense things I go through end up being the most rewarding creatively.”Sam Quartin
The album will be available in three vinyl variants, including black, white, and a limited edition Coke Bottle clear. There will also be a limited edition white cassette, a CD digipak and a digital release.
‘Bellevue’ Track List:
Ma Likes To Drink
Dig Your Hips
Have You Seen A Girl
Greta Van Fake
Be My Enemy
Mystery Theme Song
Pre-order ‘Bellevue’ HERE.
Great Interview with Sam Quartin HERE.
Photo Credit: John Swab