The members of The Nude Party were hanging out with their families in North Carolina, eating, drinking and enjoying a day off from the breakneck pace of touring, when singer Patton Magee’s phone rang. The voice on the other end had a seemingly random question: “Do you like Arctic Monkeys?”
Sure, Magee said. But this wasn’t an annoying survey commissioned by the British Foundation for Indie Rock; the caller was from The Nude Party’s management team, and she wanted to know if Magee and his bandmates wanted to open for the Monkeys. The first show was the next day. Luckily they had their equipment, and the brief break from the road was effectively over.
“It was insane, man,” Magee says of the first night opening for the UK stars. “I had never looked upon that many people except on television. I felt like I was going to throw up every five seconds.”
The story is a typical one for The Nude Party. From the outside, they seem to have arrived on the scene overnight, with Rolling Stone features, buzzy South By Southwest Sets and gigs with the the likes of the aforementioned Arctic Monkeys, Cold War Kids, Black Lips and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. But on the inside, it’s been a slow and steady build since Magee, Austin Brose, Connor Mikita, Alec Castillo, Shaun Couture and Don Merril started playing as the naked house band at a notorious party house at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
The pace and trajectory of the band’s expansion to a larger audience has been just right, the way Magee sees it.
“Some bands’ first recordings go viral and they get a record deal, and it’s really difficult to jump right into the big game,” says Magee in a recent phone interview. “I feel now we’re getting into the big game, and it’s a natural progression.”
In July, The Nude Party released its self-titled debut album on New West Records (Ben Folds, John Hiatt, Sara Watkins, Justin Townes Earl) and is touring all over in support of it, including a Sunday, Sept. 9 show at Karl Hall in Wilkes-Barre. Philadelphia fans can catch them on Oct. 1 at Johnny Brenda’s.
After developing a following at App State — the college many Northeastern Pennsylvanians will know for its football team taking Penn State to overtime last Saturday — the band accepted an invitation from friend and Black Lips drummer Oakley Munson to move into his home in the Catskills, where they’d pay “reasonable rent,” help take care of the place and form a bit of a musical commune, as Magee explains it. About two and a half hours from New York City, the location offers The Nude Party a relatively short drive to and from Manhattan or Brooklyn and other East Coast population centers for gigs but enough separation from the urban jungle to hunker down on their craft.
The debut record, produced by Munson, is a product of several years of material the band had been writing as they were busy playing out and trying to finish school. Eventually they whittled them down to the 11 tracks on the album, a collection of songs that might evoke to some listeners everything from The Kinks to modern Americana. (The band’s common influences when they first got together, Magee says, included classic rock like Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors and The Rolling Stones.)
Asked the criteria for selecting what tunes made it onto the album, Magee says, “We had been playing some of them for so long, if we didn’t record them now, we’d never record them.” The fact that these songs were road tested helped. Sometimes you record a song then find better ways to play it on stage, he notes; for this album, that process was reversed.
The rest of the year will mean more shows for The Nude Party, with swings down South and into the Midwest, a set at the Austin City Limits festival next month and a whopping seven shows in their native North Carolina, including an Oct. 25 homecoming gig at the Boone Saloon. In the spring, the band hopes to head to Europe for more shows, Magee says.
The Nude Party will perform Sunday, Sept. 9, at Karl Hall (57B North Main St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa., 18702). Doors 6:30 p.m., show 7:30 p.m. All-ages, BYOB.
Photos by Sacha Lecca