We’re (Eating Dinner) With The Band

Lindsay Morris, Susan Nieland and Barbara Dayton form Spintnkitn.

Three friends, Lindsay Morris, Susan Nieland and Barbara Dayton—a photographer, a jeweler and a painter, respectively; each wives and mothers of two children—form Spitnkitn, “the least-productive, really good band you’ve never heard of.” At least that’s the way they bill themselves.

In fact, the fifty-somethings are quite productive, getting together most Friday nights to rock out in the Daytons’ garage, despite protests from neighbors.

After rehearsals, Dayton’s husband Peter Dayton, an artist and former punk rocker with La Peste and Peter Dayton Band, would have dinner ready for his family. Inevitably, the women would be invited to chow down, with their husbands joining them.

“Everyone has it in their calendar every Friday,” said Morris. “We hear Peter’s disappointed when we don’t stay for dinner.”

On a recent Friday, the band is rehearsing in a cordoned off part of the garage. The walls are padded with moving blankets, and the windows are blocked with black foam. A pink Hello Kitty guitar rests in the corner, an antique clock sits on top of an amp on the cement floor. It’s a tight fit but the women don’t seem to mind at all. 

They’re preparing for a rare event. They have an actual gig at the Masonic Lodge, above the Whaling Museum, in Sag Harbor in a week.

“This could get messy, so bear with us,” said Morris, lead vocalist, with a Fender electric guitar strapped across her chest. “It’s high, that’s my problem.” 

“I’m like sweating bullets here,” said Nieland, the cool one with a black Fender bass and thick mane of silver hair.

“I don’t feel it coming on,” said Dayton behind a sparkly blue Ludwig drum kit. 

They could be talking about menopause, and they probably do have a song about it, but here they are focused as can be on the task at hand, while still having fun. They’ve been together for over 20 years, ever since their children were toddlers, and know each other like sisters.

Upstairs, the stew has already been prepared for tonight’s dinner, as well as a chocolate cake for their son’s birthday. “He’s coming home tonight,” Peter said. 

Inspired by the band’s hit, “You’re Makin’ Dinner Tonight”, the spouses of spitnkin’s bandmates prepare a post-rehearsal dinner.

Peter is lounging on the couch watching Netflix before guests arrive, surrounded by artwork, guitars and vinyl records. One, “Boston Bootleg Volume 3,” is reminiscent of his own band’s heyday in 1980s Boston.

“I acted as their manager in the beginning. Then they became completely self-sustaining,” he said, with a twinge of sadness, sort of like seeing a child off to college. 

The Daytons, both from Long Island, met at an art gallery in Springs in 1990.

“We used to have a thing, ‘Mrs. and Mr. Dayton,’” Peter said. “I bought her a drum kit 15 years ago and that was the end of that. She loves it.”

Dayton’s musical apprenticeship started in the 4th grade, playing the glockenspiel. She moved onto the flute in 6th grade, taking mandatory piano lessons at the same time, and then guitar.

Still, with all of those instruments, something was missing. “I was always a tapper. Fingers, hands, feet. There was a pattern I’d always play under the kitchen table alternating my heels and toes. Must have driven my parents nuts,” she said later. “Anyway, it finally got to the point, when I was 39, that I had to do something about that.”

Dramatically, she declared she didn’t want to be on her deathbed and not play the drums. “My husband got me a drum set that Christmas and I’ve never looked back.”

“They have a song, ‘You’re Making Dinner Tonight,’” that Lindsay wrote about Steve,” Peter said.

Tonight’s dinner features stew, oysters, clams, beer from Springs Brewery, and more.

As if by cue, Stephen Munshin, Morris’s husband, comes in carrying a six pack of beer from Springs Brewery. “Are the kids jamming?” he asks rhetorically, as dogs Ginger and Percy get up to greet their guest. The lucky pups have had their portraits painted by Dayton, in a makeshift studio adjacent to their rehearsal space.

Munshin also brings oysters and clams he dug out of Three Mile Harbor earlier in the week and shucks them outside on the porch off the kitchen. Morris met Munshin, a partner in True Eats, a food-focused fundraising organization, and the publisher of this magazine, when they worked at a restaurant in Manhattan, before moving to the East End. 

Soon after, Nieland’s husband Ken Sacks arrives. The couple met at college in Denver, Colorado where Nieland grew up in a musical family. Sacks was teaching Philosophy in Manhattan when he got offered a job at the Ross School in East Hampton.

Nieland was crestfallen. “What are the Hamptons?” she recalled later, over coffee at Amber Waves. “I didn’t know anybody. I cried.”

Her loneliness didn’t last long. Appropriately she met Dayton at a music class for parents and children, Music Together, at the Methodist Church in East Hampton. 

Sacks is an accomplished drummer himself and taught Dayton how to do a syncopated beat. 

The spitnkin rockstars pose with their spouses.

“We’re not into it,” Sacks joked when asked about the band. “The egos are out of control. The cost is high. They don’t make money.”

Luckily, Nieland has a day job handcrafting jewelry inspired by the place she has come to love, with local beach stones, brass and leather. 

Munshin pipes in. “We love ‘em. I want them to play more, not just once a year,” he said about their annual charity gig, Battle of the Fantasy Girl Bands to benefit The Neo-Political Cowgirls Dance Theater Collective at the Stephen’s Talkhouse in Amagansett. 

“Rehearsals are fun but what’s the point?” said Munshin. 

Morris met Dayton and Nieland at a mutual friend’s house in Sag Harbor. It didn’t take long before they formed Spitnkitn—on the spot, at a cocktail party. 

Morris’s top rock inspirations are Led Zeppelin, Lucinda Williams and PJ Harvey. “I’ve always wanted to play in a band, but took 40 years to work up the nerve,” she said. “It makes us pleasant to be around.” 

“It’s more like therapy. Women going through bodily changes, parents’ deaths, siblings estranged from each other,” said Nieland. “I can walk in feeling shitty and walk out feeling energetic and improved.”

Dayton agreed. She recently had found out that a father figure in her life had passed away on a day of rehearsals. Needless to say, she wasn’t in the mood to play. “The next thing you know, I’m banging stuff out, and just going for it,” she said. “It takes over.”

Although the strong percussion may ease some tensions on the musician’s end, her neighbors are not always as thrilled, and have been known to barge in on the band’s practice dates. 

“I’m a nerd,” said Dayton. “I checked the decibel levels and we are not breaking rules.” 

Dayton refers to their weekly rehearsal sessions as rock and roll therapy and points to “Walk On,” their song in support of kids expressing themselves freely, inspired by Morris and Munshin’s son. 

“Walk On,” is about boys who dress the way they want to dress,” said Morris. Like most of their songs, it was written at their “office,” Murph’s Backstreet Tavern in Sag Harbor. 

“I’m a nerd,” said Dayton. “I checked the decibel levels and we are not breaking rules.” 

“I could not talk about it, or play it without crying, for the longest time,” she said. 

“We’ve always been right there supporting your kids,” Dayton said to Morris. “And we are right there with you.”

Their children range from ages 18 to 25. As they got older, some lyrics had to change with the times. One line from “You’re Making Dinner Tonight,” changed from “The kids are filthy, their hairs a fright” to “The kids are drinking, they’re out all night.”

Early on, Nieland had fantasies of playing the Crystal Room, an old-school, funky space that advertised Clam Pies on Pantigo Road in East Hampton. “I knocked on the door and the guy laughed in my face and slammed the door.”

Back in the garage, Morris asks her bandmates, “Do I start?”

“I don’t know…” said Dayton and they all burst out laughing.  

“1,2,3…You know I love you honey,” Morris sings.