This article was originally published in the November/December 2015 issue of Our Town Magazine.
Story and photos by Gabrielle Calise
The Gainesville rock band may have only existed since this January, but the chemistry that comes with being old friends gives them the sound of a group that’s been together for far longer.
Singer and guitarist Mark Archer has known fiddle player Andrew Cook since 2001 and has been playing music with bassist Haze Brown for the past two decades.
At the beginning of 2015, the friends joined together with drummer Damian Caraballo to form The Thin Skins. In just a handful of weeks, the band came up with a few songs before before debuting at Loosey’s in downtown Gainesville.
“The first gig we had, we only practiced three times before,” said Archer. “But we killed it.”
Since then, The Thin Skins have been playing shows in Gainesville about once a month. Even though each band member has experience on the road, the group has yet to go on tour.
“It’s harder when you’re grown up,” said drummer Damian Caraballo.
As much as each member enjoys playing live music, other priorities have to come first. Members of the group work day jobs ranging from making tempeh to doing IT for charter schools to working as a USDA entomology agent.
Family commitments are even more important than work. The band recently put music on hold during the summer after Caraballo had a baby and Archer got married.
After the break, The Thin Skins bounced back to perform a free show at Loosey’s in September. The band also played a set on Halloween at First Magnitude Brewery during The Fest, Gainesville’s annual three-day punk rock festival.
Next, the band hopes to hit the studio to record new music. The Thin Skins only have a handful of songs uploaded to their Bandcamp page right now, but that may change soon. Archer said he hopes to pump out enough tracks for a full-length album, hopefully within the next six months.
“The last few months have sparked creativity,” he said.
Archer is the one behind most of the songwriting. He relies on a voice recorder to capture the ideas that pop into his head at inopportune times.
“Seven times out of ten, it’s either in the car or waking up in the middle of the night,” he said. “I’ll just whisper it quiet enough so that my wife doesn’t hear it into my little voice recorder.”
Archer develops the lyrics and builds the songs around his recorded melodies before bringing his ideas to the band.
“With these guys, it’s just so easy,” he said.
Each member brings years of experience playing in different bands around town. But the ease that comes with being in The Thin Skins comes from the chemistry that these old friends have had for much longer.
“These guys are my best friends and they’re so much fun to play with,” Brown said.
The Thin Skins is a different project from anything that the members have been in before. The band’s goal is more realistic this time, and the members are focusing on just having a good time doing what they enjoy.
“We’re just doing it because we love playing music together,” Caraballo said. “There’s no delusions of grandeur.”
The Thin Skins have a lot of fun when they play for other people, and it shows in their energetic live performances. Their genre is hard to pin down; Members of the band describe it as simply Gainesville rock n roll, but folk and blues elements permeate their songs.
“We don’t sound like anything I’ve known,” Archer said.
Even on the Sunday night of their show at Loosey’s in September, the group was able to draw an enthusiastic crowd. The Thin Skins started by playing fast and heavy. Cook’s fiddle cut in, sweet and sharp, past feet-stomping rhythms and Archer’s raw vocals. Even as they debut a brand new song that’s only been practiced a handful of times, The Thin Skins pull it off like a group that’s been together for far longer.
“We’re just old friends, we know how to play music with each other,” Archer said. “We’re just in it because we like it.”
“Not like,” Brown corrected him. “We love it.”
Author’s note: St. Augustine readers, The Thin Skins will be swinging through your neck of the woods on December 11. Check out the Facebook event here.
Do you play music in a band in Gainesville? Can you sing, whistle, play the ukulele or yodel? I probably want to feature you on Swamp Sounds. Email me at email@example.com or slide into my Twitter DMs @gabriellecalise.