Rise Up

Bay Li of The Skins Has an Encouraging Message to Share for Young Activists

The lead singer of the Skins chatted with us about rebel youth, music and activism.

by Aaron Barksdale
Aug 30 2017, 10:45pm

Photo by Aaron Barksdale

Young fans expect their artists to be just as socially conscious as they are. If MTV is still a litmus test for youth culture, just look at the new category from the Video Music Awards last weekend for "Best Fight Against the System," which honors artists who take a stance on social justice issues. For Brooklyn-based funk-rock band the Skins, infusing their music with activist lyrics is just a part of their creative process.

On August 26 the band performed at Afropunk, a music festival that celebrates art, music and the accomplishments of people of color. The festival started as a DIY event for quirky black kids, but over the last 12 years has grown into an international social movement. It combines both activism and entertainment, which makes it the perfect venue for a band like the Skins.

"Everything that's happening socially and politically goes right into the emotion behind the song and the concept behind the songs "

In their song "Stampede," off of the most recent album Still Sleep, the lyrics appear to describe a victim of police brutality. In the first verse, Bay Li sings, "Brown skin, thick hair, bodies with bullet holes." Then, in the chorus, the song evokes an image of a protest turned violent. Bay Li's voice belts out, "They want a stampede. Tell me why you wanna start a war. We wanna be free. Don't you know what we're fighting for?"

"Everything that's happening socially and politically goes right into the emotion behind the song and the concept behind the songs— it goes hand-in-hand to me," lead singer of the Skins, Bay Li told VICE Impact.

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The group members range in age from 17 to 24 made of up three siblings Bay Li (singer), Kaya Nico (vocals, bass), and Reef Cole (drums)—and fellow bandmates Daisy Spencer (guitar) and Russ Chell (guitar, synth). It's hard to define the band's sound or their demographic. They ooze of millennial appeal with their head-banging stage presence and all inclusive message of diversity. In fact, they're so inspired by various movements it's hard for any of them to choose one cause to solely champion.

"Well my band is really at the center of intersectionality," Bay Li said. "We have females, we have gender non-binary members, we have black women, black men as well as being queer."

The 23-year-old lead-singer mentioned that the group is a huge supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter and environmental advocacy because these are the issues that affect their band members personally. The band's support of so many different social justice plights make it difficult to pigeonhole their activism, but they don't need to label themselves and their fans aren't pressuring them to choose one either.

"We're as millennial as they come. We're not this, we're not that-- we're everything, we love everything. We're into everything, and we support any and everything positive that has a really great message of love and self-expression," Bay Li said.

"Don't let anyone put their fear or negativity on you being yourself."

When it comes to the future of activism Bay Li had empowering words for young people looking to influence change: "Young kids are politically energized and that gives me so much hope," she said. "I would tell them to keep going, especially young girls. Don't let anyone put their fear or negativity on you being yourself."

Keep up on the latest with the Skins by following them on social media for updates about touring and new music. Also, learn more about ways that you can get involved in your community.

music festivals
youth activism
Bay Li
The Skins