Because why would a band who played all their early gigs naked possibly have any good tour stories…?
What if The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones started jamming together in a barn sometime around the early 70s? And what if everyone was naked? The Nude Party arrived in 2018 sounding like something out of indie rock fan fiction – the perfect marriage of influence and oddness and some of the best bare-boned riffs in 50 years.
By the time the band’s second album, Midnight Manor, turned up in 2020 everyone had taken notice. A support slot for The Arctic Monkeys helped (Alex Turner is a huge fan), as did gigs with The Lemonheads, Jack White and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard. But the music itself did most of the talking – packing another record with seamless, timeless garage blues-rock that set The Nude Party on a pedestal few others had tried climbing in years.
“I don’t think you can just shirk everything that’s going on in the world to make a record,” says frontman Patton Magee, talking about the band’s biggest and best new album from a café in Queens. “I don’t think that’s real and I don’t think that works. When I was a kid, my dad would get real upset with me for being too negative. And I would see him Googling ‘overly pessimistic children’, before threatening to send me to military school. I don’t know what it was, but I had a super angsty, negative disposition. And then one time, I paid $400 to a chiropractic shaman to do a spirit healing on me. To this day, I genuinely don’t know if he actually did anything. But it was a really weird experience, and I definitely do feel an underlying optimism now. Sometimes I think, if I can just get a little more miserable, then I can hit the part where things are funny. Right? And that’s the best part.”
That, too, is right where Rides On sits – an album that sees 2023 and raises it a 1971 – an ode to making the most of it. With The Nude Party now set for a London show at Oslo on June 3, we caught up with Magee to talk gig history, stage nerves and, of course, gratuitous nudity.
The one that made you want to play music
“The first show I ever saw was at the Canyons ski resort in Park City, Utah, where I was living in middle school. And it was just a cover band. They was called The Disco Drippers or something, right? I’d never seen live music before so it was just mind-blowing to me. I remember them doing ‘Dancing Queen’, and I remember just kind of feeling amazed that they could get up there and do that. I also couldn’t understand how they possibly remembered all these notes. I just couldn’t believe it really. And then as I started to wrap my head around the idea of these chord patterns that repeat themselves, it all started to slowly make sense.”
“We didn’t start on stages. We started at house parties. I think the first show that we ever did was in the house that we were all living in. The band lived together in our sophomore year of college, and we had like five songs. The songs were basically just five riffs that got loud and quiet and loud and quiet over again for an infinite amount of time. I didn’t play guitar then so I was just singing, but we managed to make those five songs last about 45 minutes.
“We’d been practising, and we finally decided that we wanted to play a show, but we had no idea how to do it. So we just threw a party in our own house. It was an open invite and we got absolutely wrecked and played in the living room. It was super fun, tons of college kids came. And then the police arrived. The cops slammed Zach [‘Don’ Merrill], our keyboard player, on the ground and that became a running joke. Every time the cops get involved now they always go for the keyboard player! I’ve seen Don get slammed to the ground on, like, three different occasions!
“We also started playing naked around that time too. People started calling us ‘The Naked Party Band’, so we just altered it to ‘The Nude Party’ to, you know, sound a little more mature.”
“Well, we’ve played Bonnaroo. I think we closed out the Thursday night in 2019. Back in 2013, me and Shaun [Couture] and Don went to Bonnaroo together and we didn’t even have enough money to pay for our tickets. We ended up volunteering in the catering tent, filling up the salad bar, just to get in. We ended up all dropping acid before watching Jack White, and it was probably the best show I’ve ever seen. Jack was on fire. His hour and a half set ended up lasting three hours because nobody would leave. I couldn’t believe that. Just seeing somebody turn on that many people with rock and roll, in the 21st century, it was incredible.
“But then, four or five years later, we got to play Bonnaroo ourselves. It was the Thursday night and we came on right after the Country Jamboree band, and they’d had Old Crow Medicine Show close their set with ‘Wagon Wheel’ and ‘Old Town Road’. I’m standing behind the curtain thinking… what the f*ck?! We’re following the most popular song in the world?! But we came out and the tent was overflowing with thousands of Bonnaroo kids. And it all just sort of washed over me that four years earlier I was standing in that crowd. Seeing it from the other angle was so emotional. It felt like the best festival show we ever played.”
“This one is lot more competitive… It’s a tight race at the bottom. I’d say that the worst show we ever played was when we were still in school. We got offered to do a Florida tour with a much bigger band, so I went to my professors and asked if I could get my absences excused for this huge opportunity, offering to write my essays remotely, and they said no. They told me that if I wanted to be a student, I needed to show up to class. So I went to Florida…
“So we’re on tour with this big band, and in between those shows we kind of have to fill our own dates. So I booked us some other gigs, DIY style. One night we’re at this massive arena show in Tallahassee, and the next night we were in St. Augustine to play a dive-bar called Shanghai Nobby’s. And it was probably the biggest across-the-board nightmare of a show that you can possibly imagine.
“When we got there, the marquee just said ‘PATTON’ instead of ‘The Nude Party’, because I was the one that called and booked the show. He literally just put my first name there. So that was a good start. Also there’s no one there. Like, the lights are off. It’s locked. I’m trying to call this guy he’s not answering. Finally, this dude shows up – this goofy fella in a full leather trench coat with sunglasses on – and he’s like, ‘yeah, sorry, the owner’s busy and I don’t have a key to get in’. So he checks the doors, finds an open window and just jumps in to unlock it from the inside. He turns on the lights, and start setting up on the stage, but when people start showing up they all start hanging around outside.
“What in the f*ck is going on here? The weird guy then admits that he’s double booked us with a ‘folk punk night’, and that he’s going to have us playing inside while the folk punk kids stand around a speaker outside. For some reason, we start playing. And there is absolutely nobody at this place. But we just got lit and just played anyway. We had nothing better to do that night. By the end, the owner was just feeding us liquor and we just left our instruments and went down to the beach to go skinny dipping in the ocean.
“The next thing I know, we’re back at the place where we were staying and my clothes were all gone. My wallet and my phone and my ID and my credit cards and my money were all gone. We had to finish that whole tour with nothing.”
“Zero. That’s probably as low as it goes. Thankfully it’s been a while since that happened, but when it did it was pretty miserable. I would sometimes book us at a club or a house venue and expect that the owner is going to do promotion. But sometimes they just… didn’t. It happened to us a few times. You just kind of play to the sound guy, have a little band practise, and then you go grovelling to the bar staff to see if anyone will let you stay at their house.”
“I remember when we first started I was talking to our booking agent, and she was like, ‘Give me your dream scenario’. And I said, ‘We could open for Jack White’. And then we did. It’s hard to think of anything bigger than that, but I think maybe the biggest shows we ever played were with the Arctic Monkeys on their Tranquillity Base tour on the East Coast.
“The one in Raleigh, North Carolina at Red Hat Amphitheater, was the only time I got properly nervous. I have slight nerves, but I’m pretty confident about what we do. And I’m not such a perfectionist that I worry about getting something wrong – we’re not an orchestra. But I do remember being backstage at Red Hat with Arctic Monkeys and kind of looking out into that crowd. All my friends were there too, because we were in North Carolina.
“When you’re in that situation you just have to take a shot of tequila and do some jumping jacks. I learned that from Jack White. I’ve seen him right before he plays, in the greenroom, and he’s jumping around and yelling and getting his heartrate going. Just building a sense of excitement in yourself so that you can come out with it. You don’t want to be sitting down before a show. Fear and excitement are basically the same thing. I’m pretty sure that physiologically there’s no difference. At the end of the day, it’s all just energy.”