Interviews: Bobby Lees’ Sam Quartin talks the band’s new album, Little Richard, and schizophrenia
The Bobby Lees just released a new album! It’s called Bellevue and it’s about guitarist/vocalist Sam Quartin who has a nine-month nervous breakdown! It’s a very tough thing but.. it’s also ROCKS. As Quartin leans into the heavier side of things, there’s kick after riff kick! What do you do when an album literally blows your mind but it’s really fun to listen to? ! Read below to find out!
Tell us about seeing Little Richard live! How was it and how important was this show in your life? I was a small child, but I remember being blown away by his energy. Like he was a rocket that I wanted to ride. I remember his electric beam eyes, and I remember he reminded me of my grandmother because they both wore lots of face makeup. I had never seen anyone give so much – I think that must have had an effect on me. I pray before I go on stage, and his name usually comes back “in the name of…Little Richard, I pray for the courage to give that kind of energy.”
You said the album is influenced by the most painful things you’ve been through, as those have resulted in creative accomplishments. What is the painful or difficult event that you went through and that influenced this album? I had a nervous breakdown that lasted nine months. It was definitely the scariest thing I’ve experienced, but now that the years have passed, it’s pretty fun to look back and get some creative stuff out of it. Some of the things don’t feel psychotic to me anymore, they feel more like extreme spiritual awakening, but I had a really bad drinking problem at the time it happened. Once I got sober the voices and hallucinations stopped so I haven’t had a drink since. Getting sober has also been difficult, but it has been worth it so far.
What influenced your guitar technique? Did you study other musicians or just develop your own thing? I don’t think I have a technique, ha. I can only play on the E chord and I only know the basic chords, so I guess those limitations create the blueprint for our songs. I learned a Bo Diddley song on guitar that had 2 chords and that’s when I started writing music for the band.
Is ‘Bellevue’ a reference to the famous psychiatric hospital? Yeah I lived near there when I had my 9 month episode or whatever you want to call it. I thought I communicated with the people in there telepathically, haha. My mother had chosen a long-term mental institution to send me to outside of New York, but I quit drinking and got better quickly and was never sent there.
In another interview, I was recently told that it means BELLE VUE in French. The good thing is !
Who is the monkey in the monkey’s mind and what is his problem? It’s just my brain.
“Be My Enemy” has the line “don’t you want to be my enemy, I’ll be your enemy too!” Is conflict good? I think it’s good to stay true to yourself by any means necessary and only do what feels right. I think you’re bound to make an enemy or two if you live like this. I certainly have. It took me a while to find the courage and the self-respect to stick with it, and be OK with the fact that not everyone likes me or understands me.
You have just returned from a major European tour! What fun things have you done? Oh man, that one was tough haha. We had amazing gigs – Dublin, Belgium Stock Festival, KLIKO fest. I had the best ice cream I have ever tasted in Holland, that was a highlight for me. We did a few rides, we met some nice people and I had a great bike ride in Holland. I’m like an old lady so my idea of a good time may be different from yours.
In previous interviews, you said you had schizophrenic episodes. If you don’t mind, what does it sound like and how has it affected your music? (For example, this question was at the heart of Nick Blinko’s 37th album, Pope Adrian). I’ve never done acid, but from what I’ve heard it’s like that? Except it never ends. And I wasn’t on any drugs, it just happened. Some things were very cool, concepts and new ways of thinking, and some parts were a real nightmare. At times I thought I was being followed by the government, I thought I was hired to be an assassin, I thought I was communicating with aliens, Jim Morrison, all the schizo stuff 1010 haha… I’m lucky I didn’t accidentally have him kill me or anyone else. The band started right after everything calmed down, so I only really wrote this post, with those experiences swirling around in my head. I now gravitate towards alternate reality literature. I love author Murakami, I’m on his 10th book now – I started it last year, and I love Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Neil Gaiman, etc. I’m open to new suggestions if you have any!
Everyone talks about the fact that you’re all from Woodstock, New York. Did Woodstock affect your sound/art, or is the location arbitrary? I am not sure! I tried to start a band when I was living in Brooklyn and I was never able to line up with the right people, but as soon as I moved to Woodstock, it happened. Maybe the trees have magical powers here.
You’re working with Vance Powell on this record, he’s Jack White’s guy! What was it like working with Vance as a producer? Vance is an amazing guy. We are very lucky to have been able to work with him. His Sputnik Sound studio has such a good feeling, it was the first time I felt comfortable in a recording space. We love Vance! And Mike Fahey, his assistant!
Anything else you would like readers to know? If there’s anyone who wants to start a band but feels like they suck/don’t know how – I read this book called The Artist Way by Julia Cameron and it changed my life – the group showed up right after I finished, it was pretty amazing. Before that I felt paralyzed with fear and not good enough, it helped me overcome myself and try.
Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing our group and BELLEVUE around you! I hope to meet you at a show!