The further you dive into the music business, the less romantic it becomes. “Success” doesn’t mean much if you’re not paying the bills, after all.
The Nude Party is a rare band in that the group includes commentary about the music business in their songs. Alongside the optimistic country-garage mix of “Feels Alright,” the blistering Western “Wild Coyote” and the interesting mix of rock that is spread through the rest of their catalog, the band has tracks like “Nashville Record Co.,” which references the greediness of the music biz: “They don’t come to make sense, they come to take dollars / Need a guitar player, handsome but none too smart.” The chorus of the band’s most-streamed song, “Chevrolet Van,” reflects the public’s perception of being in a band: “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.”
The six-piece band provides a high-energy and enjoyable set, which you catch when they perform at The Alibi in Palm Springs on Friday, June 17.
During a recent phone interview with guitarist and frontman Patton Magee, he talked about how the pandemic “went in phases” for the band.
“There was a period of time when I was just really worried about losing my livelihood; then there was a period of time when I felt that it was kind of nice, because otherwise, we would have just been touring infinitely,” said Magee. “We were doing, like, 150 to 200 days a year out, which was a lot, and that halted entirely, so in some ways, hitting the brakes was kind of stimulating, because sometimes, the most interesting thing you can do is something different than what you’ve been doing. Now that we’re back at it, it feels great. It feels like that break allowed us to refresh what it is that we’re doing, and almost approach it from a different angle. We’re more performative, and we sort of revamped our show, and we really strung it all together to make it as big and cinematic as we can.”
One of the things that allowed The Nude Party to refresh themselves was their recording/performance studio.
“We all collected a lot of unemployment money, because we were unemployed, and we built a studio in our barn,” said Magee. “We recorded in that studio, which was a different experience than anything we’d ever done before. We just finished that record, and it’s getting mixed right now. … (The studio has) a full PA system; we can rehearse like it’s a show just like The Rolling Stones do. Musically, here, everything is a lot more clear, and I think that everyone’s musicality has really improved. In some ways, that whole COVID crisis opened up some new doors.”
I asked Magee to talk about the sound of the upcoming record, and, well, he sort of declined.
“I’ve never read words about music that made me want to hear it, so describing music, to me, almost always feels futile,” said Magee. “I don’t really know how to describe it musically, but I would say that we got to take the time to really find it, and get all the sounds we wanted, and put songs together with a much-clearer ear for the parts. We have so much more space and time. I feel like in the past, we’ve had to rush through records. You practice songs, tour them, perform them in a studio live, and then you collect it, but this time, we’ve taken an opposite approach, where we wrote songs, arranged them, recorded them and then built on them. I don’t want to say how much better it is, because I don’t want to denigrate the previous two records, but I’m really excited about what this process unlocked.”
The band’s current live set features some new material, as well as a lot of songs from their 2020 release, Midnight Manor.
“We haven’t deeply toured (Midnight Manor) yet, so we’re still sort of touring that material when we come around in June, along with older stuff and some covers, but we’re working in some of the new songs,” Magee said. “We had to spend some more time actually re-learning the new songs.”
The Nude Party’s touring schedule before the pandemic was intense; the band members have viewed their live shows as their main attraction.
“Touring is always going to be, like, our main bread and butter, and it’s always been that way,” Magee said. “We’re approving of that, because I think we’re a really good live band, and that’s what we excel at and work at. I think for that period of time, before the pandemic, we were being worked too hard for too little payoff—to maybe benefit people who weren’t doing that work. Now we’ve reshuffled the deck and reset the structure of what we’re doing. Now, we can still do a lot of shows and be a touring band—but do less shows and have it be better for us monetarily. … Eight shows in a row with not a single day off, and a six-hour drive between each one, really fucks you up. … We’ve kind of learned that ‘no’ is a pretty important word to get familiar with as a musician.”
I was curious to hear how Magee felt about the ways in which contemporary musicians are making a living.
“Some bands won’t be able to sell very many tickets at a show and don’t have very many listeners, but they can post a TikTok—and then a million people will watch it and like it,” Magee said. “In some ways, it looks like the more successful you are on social media, that automatically translates into the other forms of musical success. I think there’s a little bit of truth to that, because if you have a viral TikTok song, that is going to be helpful for you—but I think it also gives this double impression that you can sell out shows and do big tours. Working and touring as much as we have, and putting out records and developing fans, I think we do better by action, and not by signaling ourselves in social media. That being said, it is useful. … It just gives wrong ideas about how successful someone really is.”
You probably won’t be seeing The Nude Party engaging in whatever the latest TikTok trend is anytime soon.
“I cringe at a lot of the TikTok stuff, to tell you the truth,” Magee said. “Part of me thinks I should try to do that, or engender some greater following online or something like that, but I’m too averse to the cringe to really put myself out there. Also, we’re shadow-banned on TikTok, because somehow, our band name got flagged as being inappropriate. That’s not in our favor whatsoever, because if we post anything, it won’t show up for anybody.”
With a name like The Nude Party—which came from when the band used to jam in the nude—the TikTok issues are not the first time their name has caused them problems.
“There was a long period of time where, like, we were getting a lot of weird sexual messages from men in India,” said Magee. “They would send us pictures of their erections, and just really inappropriate things. I think they thought there was some kind of orgy organization they could join or something—but that was a boost for us early on social media, because we had hundreds of extra followers. That bolstered us in the bar scene. Little did anyone know they were just a bunch of perverts.”
The Nude Party will perform with Ceramic Animal at 8 p.m., Friday, June 17, at The Alibi Palm Springs, 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Tickets are $20 in advance. For more information, visit www.thealibipalmsprings.com.