Naked Ambition: The Nude Party

Interview Naked Ambition: The Nude Party

The Catskills sextet might deal in good, old-fashioned rock’n’roll, but amid the late nights and giddy highs we find a band prepared to knuckle down and put in the hours to keep the dream alive.

“I don’t think a rock’n’roll band is ever gonna put out a song that’s as big as ‘WAP’. It’s just not gonna happen. So that’s just never the driving force; if you’re doing it and you think that’s what’s gonna happen, then you’re deluded,” begins Patton Magee, as a rooster makes his presence loudly known at the Catskills ranch The Nude Party are currently holed up rehearsing in. “All the industry’s fucked; there’s no touring, and physical and digital sales are miniscule - I can’t live off that. But it’s never been about the money; it just brings joy into my life. Without it I think I would just be miserable.”

It’s a reasonable assessment that, among all the unstable career choices out there, being in a rock’n’roll group that thrives hardest on the live stage is probably one of 2020’s most ill-advised propositions. And yet, as Patton and his band approach the release of second LP ‘Midnight Manor’, there’s clearly still no place he’d rather be. “We’re so down to rough it and pretty much lose money or break even to go do it, because I mean… it’s just really fun! And that’s been the main thing the whole time,” he grins. “I’d rather come home poor having had a really good time than stay home with loads of money.”

Having caught the attention of the wider music sphere (and, notably, one Alex Turner) with debut album track ‘Chevrolet Van’ - a tongue-in-cheek, country-flecked romp that, appropriately, rolled its eyes at the naysayers harshing their vibe (“You’re gonna wake up someday/ And you’ll wish you’d got a job…”), The Nude Party spent the best part of 2019 living the dream. They toured with Arctic Monkeys and Jack White, travelled across the world playing festivals in Europe and Australia and, after six years of slowly inching their way up the ladder, finally began to reap the rewards.

It would be easy to press the narrative of ‘good-time gang goes wild’ onto the story; today, the singer cheekily regales us with tales of getting busted for robbing the bar at a London show and their standard four-hour sleep ritual (“You’re up until 4am every night and then getting up at 8am the next morning to drive to the next place and load in. When you don’t have any international cell phone service, you have to stay with the touring group, so then you’re forced out as late as the last person because you can’t leave anybody…”). But what really comes out in conversation with the Jim Morrison look-alike frontman is that yes - The Nude Party know how to enjoy themselves. Wouldn’t you, if you were halfway across the world and basically being paid in beers? But more than that, they genuinely give a shit, and their second lands as a testament to a band who’ve put in the hours not just for a big night, but to harness their big moment as well.

“If you don’t have deep joy in the creation and the performance of music then you’ll get weeded out.”

— Patton Magee

Recorded live to tape in a week, ‘Midnight Manor’ - from the Black Lips hoe-down of ‘Pardon Me, Satan’ to the Velvet Underground-circa-’Waiting For The Man’ romp of ‘What’s The Deal?’ - may sound like the liquor-soaked soundtrack to a gleeful seven days of hedonism, but in order to get to that stage of looseness and locking in, the band spent a considerable amount of time doing their homework. “If we were some savants and could take acid and turn out some incredible thing like Jimi Hendrix then that would be the style we’d do it, but we’re not - we’re inspired and we really care and we really feel it, but we’re amateur-ish so our minds have to be there too to make it happen,” Patton explains.

“When you start realising that the recordings you put out are permanent, then you start to really put the time and mental space in to get it the way you want it and really pay attention and give it mindfulness. A song can have so many different lives; you think of any Bob Dylan song and there’s like, 10 versions. A song has an infinite life to it, but when you put it on record for the first time that’s always the version people will think of as THE version.”

THE versions of the tracks that form the band’s second span the kind of spirited stomps that have made a name for the sextet, but this time around there are prettier moments too: recent single ‘Shine Your Light’ brings to mind the warmth of Todd Rundgren’s 1972 classic ‘I Saw The Light’, while the singer earmarks ‘Things Fall Apart’ as his album favourite - “it’s very simple, really soft”. “We’ve dug a bit deeper in ourselves to be more vulnerable,” he continues. “I think it’s taken time to grow into being willing to do that, whereas before there was more of an impetus on rock’n’roll, fun, playing at a show. Now we’ve pushed ourselves to play softly, and play a vulnerable, emotional song.”

Yet, whether they’re letting it all hang out or looking a little further in, The Nude Party are undoubtedly in it for the long haul. You could chalk the assertion up to the realisations of a strange old year, but really it’s something they’ve embodied from the start.

“You need to really want it, and if you don’t want it you’ll get weeded out. If you don’t have deep joy in the creation of it and the performance of music then you’ll eventually cop out because the misery will overshadow everything else,” Patton affirms.

“We stopped playing together during the pandemic for five months which is the longest we’ve ever gone since the band started, and I don’t think I realised how depressed we were all becoming until we started again and a light turned back on. It makes me realise how much playing music together positively affects all of us and how we feel about being alive.”

‘Midnight Manor’ is out now via New West.

As featured in the October 2020 issue of DIY, out now.

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