The Nude Party
The Nude Party Takes Off
“I’ve always thought rock ‘n’ roll was the coolest thing,” testifies Patton Magee, rolling a Danish Export tobacco cigarette on the concrete patio of the Clermont Lounge sometime around 1 in the morning one recent night. “It’s definitely not the most popular style of music right now… But, enough people like it. And even young people that come and see us like us a lot. And that’s really enough for me.”
It’s reassuring to hear such seemingly outdated sentiments coming from the mouth of a 23-year-old in 2018. It doesn’t hurt that the band he’s in, The Nude Party, are so darned…uplifting, in myriad ways. They’re just totally groovy, and natural, and fun, and kinda funny, too, in a dopey deadpan way that I can’t help but find adorable. And they rock, unselfconsciously, the way young men used to rock before cable TV and social media and nonstop stimulation made everyone so cluttered and jaded. They totally won me over the first time I saw them, which was last year sometime when they opened for The Mystery Lights at 529. After experiencing them for the third time a month ago at Aisle 5 with Sunflower Bean (a show that had just wrapped up before we reconvened at the Clermont), the notion struck me that if pressed to describe them using the lazy method of juxtaposing other bands, it’d be something like if The Doors got The Monkees high as a hazy kite and then they all jammed all night on Stones and Velvet Underground songs. Or maybe the other way around. You could even, in a stretch, interpret the cover art to their self-titled debut album (just out on New West Records) as a sunshine-pop-art homage to Loaded’s squalid subway station stairwell. In any event, they’ve personally branded what they do “Rock ‘n’ Roll Boner Pop,” and how can you not approve of that?
So yeah, there actually were nude parties in the beginning. But probably not a lot of boners. The story goes that when the guys were first getting together, tackling cover songs and trying out their own stuff while learning their way around their instruments, they’d play parties where… well, where pretty much everyone would end up taking off their clothes.
“It was always us that started it. And then it was other people that joined in,” Magee clarifies. “It wasn’t even sexual. Actually, it was asexual. It was just fun and liberating, and weird and shocking. We just liked how people reacted. People fuckin’ ate it up. A lot of people loved it and went crazy and got naked, and it was just super fun. And some people would get – particularly fratty dudes, like, machismo guys – were the only ones that ever got upset. And it’s fun to piss them off! ‘Cause, fuck those people!”
In case you’re wondering, they don’t really pull those shenanigans anymore. “After a while, after like a couple years…it started to attract people who were looking for some kind of orgiastic thing. Particularly creepy dudes that thought they could just go and there’d be naked girls, and they could do whatever. And that was when it just stopped being fun for us. So we just stopped doing it.” But the band name stuck.
This was all taking place in Boone, North Carolina, where they were attending Appalachian State University. The path that led Magee there was somewhat convoluted, as his family moved a lot – from Houston, to San Francisco, to Chapel Hill, to Park City, Utah.
“Every, like, four years, my dad wants a new job. By new job, I mean new career,” Patton explains. “He was a Marine, then he was a lawyer, then he was an investment banker for this Swiss bank, and then he was a business owner, and now he’s an author. And inventor, too! He’s got a product called Fix-A-Latch. He just invented it, and he’s been producing it himself with all these machines he created. As of recently you can get it at any Home Depot or Lowe’s in the United States. And New Zealand, too. He’s doing incredibly well. I’m so proud of him. In three years he went from an idea to every major hardware store in the country.”
After a few years in Utah, his family moved back to North Carolina, but Patton stayed and moved in with a friend’s family. By the time he graduated high school, because of his parents’ relocation he could get in-state tuition in North Carolina. “I had been told by the guy that I used to buy weed from in Salt Lake City that Boone was really cool,” he says. “And purely on Toshi’s recommendation, I just applied to App State and got in.”
He didn’t know anyone at first, but before long he befriended Connor Mikita, The Nude Party’s drummer.
“He didn’t play drums [yet], I just played a bit of guitar, but there was this weird practice room that we found in one of the other dorms that just had a drum set in it, with a guitar and an amp. And we would go in there after class, ‘cause we had the same major for a while – we would just go to class, and then on the way back we would just go to this jam spot and he would learn drums and I would just play guitar. That was the initial basis of our friendship. And then, some of his other friends from where he grew up in Lake Norman came up to App State, and we just started a band.” Those friends being bassist Alec Castillo, guitarist Shaun Couture and keyboardist Don Merrill, all close in age to Magee and Mikita.
“We didn’t play instruments, we just wanted to play music. We wanted to learn how to do it. So we all just got together and got some instruments, and figured it out along the way.”
Of course, we can’t leave out my personal favorite member of The Nude Party: percussionist Austin Brose, who rocks a mustache and a long stringy mullet like nobody I’ve ever seen, and just does not give a fuck. His onstage enthusiasm is infectious, his expressions priceless. He’s like the Joel Gion of the lineup, seemingly doing the least yet without him the band would sacrifice a huge chunk of its appeal.
“The funny thing is, he is, by a good margin, the most trained musician out of any of us!” Magee is quick to point out. “It doesn’t look like much, and some people don’t consider it much, but when it’s not there versus when it is there, you realize how fucking integral he is. He’s absolutely indispensible. He’s not like some tack-on member or something. He’s all in it.”
As for being inspired by music made before they were born, Magee swears it wasn’t their parents’ record collections that did it.
“In high school, the different music that I heard…my favorite stuff, the stuff that always hit me the deepest, was the rock ‘n’ roll that I heard. Especially ’70s rock ‘n’ roll. And so, when we started, we were just playing like Creedence Clearwater Revival covers, and Doors covers, Stones covers. And it was sort of a process of ‘imitate until you have the ability to create.’ We started writing songs pretty immediately. They were just really bad. It was, like, one riff that we would play for, like, soooo long. And it wouldn’t be structured, so we’d play at parties and every song would be essentially one riff. And we’d just kinda watch each other for, like, when to go down, and then when to really bring it up. So it was just like party music for a while… I think that was the thing we excelled at early that we never grew out of, or even care to grow out of. It’s just music that hopefully gets people off. Particularly in a live setting. That’s our bread and butter.”
If want a perfect entry point for hipping yourself to the ragged splendor that is The Nude Party, skip to the third song on their album, “Chevrolet Van.” (You can go back and listen to the rest of the songs later. Believe me, you’ll want to. As a sorta local aside, it was produced by the Black Lips’ current drummer Oakley Munson, in whose house in the Catskills the guys in The Nude Party all reside now.)
“Chevrolet Van” could easily pass for one of the Rolling Stones’ country-rock piss-takes. It’s also the catchiest finger-snapper on the record, and quite amusing to boot, with a chorus (first sung as if from a relative, then the second time from a stranger) that advises the boys, “You’ll never make enough money/ And no one cares about the things you say/ You’re gonna wake up someday/ And you’ll wish you got a job!”
For now, at least, Magee and his buds in the band are ignoring such voices of reason.
“Personally, my relatives have been really supportive,” assures Magee. “None of the people that love me and are related to me have ever cared to try to push me to do something else. I think they just know that I wouldn’t listen anyway, maybe. But, [the song] is less about a specific person saying it – it’s more of a general idea that a lot of people have and don’t voice. But we’re aware of it. We’re self-aware enough to know that rock ‘n’ roll, you know, there’s not necessarily going to be a lot of money. There might, and it would be great if there was, but it’s far from a sure thing. And so it’s sort of a way of bringing ourselves back down to earth, to sing that song at the end of every show. It feels right to me, ‘cause it puts me back in a perspective of where we are and what we’re doing.”
Bottom line being: if it’s fun and you’re being fulfilled by it, then it’s worthwhile.
“Yeah. I mean, it’s beyond fun. It’s like… it’s hard to explain it, but it’s just like the thing that I’ve gotta do. It’s the thing that I naturally do,” he says. “It’s the only thing worth doing, really.”
Photo by Sacha Lecca.