Interview: The Nude Party’s Patton Magee on the new album, the pandemic and Bob Dylan

The release of the Nude Party’s eagerly anticipated second album ‘Midnight Manor’ comes two years after the success of their critically acclaimed self-titled debut. The new record doesn’t stray too far from the template of their debut. It is slightly more polished and incorporates even more influences into an already potent mix of garage -rock, psychedelia, pop, folk and country. A brilliantly balanced combination of intelligent songwriting and youthful energy, it is set to further broaden the band’s enthusiastic fanbase. Widely regarded as one of the best live bands on the circuit, the only sadness is that The Nude Party can’t currently tour to support it. AUK caught up with the band’s guitarist/vocalist and songwriter Patton Magee to discuss the new album and working through the pandemic.

Firstly, how are you? How have you been coping with the pandemic and particularly all the difficulties that you will have experienced as a working musician?
I’m doing OK. I think there was a period of time at the beginning where we were of the mindset that we would just continue doing what we were doing, just thinking that when things get back to normal we’ll do this and that. Then there was a period of depression and now we’re in a period of adaptation, thinking OK things are different, so what are we going to do differently?

Has it been a creative time? You are known for your heavy touring schedule. With that not being possible have you been able to turn your attention to other things?
I think so, for me personally I’ve been learning to play a few other instruments; the harmonica and the piano and I’ve been writing a lot of songs. We haven’t been making another studio album, but I think everyone has just been exploring creative pursuits. Shaun [Couture – lead guitarist] has been learning how to score films, taking old historic video films, and scrapping the audio and then redoing it from scratch. Alex [Castillo] and Connor [Mikita], the bass player and drummer have been designing a lot of merchandise – shirts and stuff. Everyone’s creatively stimulating themselves in ways other than just making music.

Lots of artists seem to have made covers albums during lockdown, is that something that has tempted you?
No, that sounds cool actually, but no. What we have been doing is revisiting some of our own songs and creating new versions of them, sort of like Bob Dylan would always do, which I’ve always admired so much.

So, you’re a big Bob Dylan fan?

Your own sound has so many different influences that you can pick out, I was going to ask who had influenced you, obviously Dylan is one, are there others?
Yeah, I think Dylan and I think Lou Reed. Sonically, even a little bit of ELO and even sometimes a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd in some of the guitar playing, and The Kinks in a cheeky show tunes kind of way.

There are some great names there. For anyone that isn’t familiar with you, how would you describe yourself as a band and the music that you play?
Oh, I’d say we’re just a rock ‘n’ roll band, less rock and more roll!

You are signed to New West, which is a label that is synonymous with the americana genre. How did that come about, because you are not an out-and-out americana act?
I think that at the time we signed they had signed a few newer acts that were not either vintage acts or americana acts. They signed Ron Gallo, Caroline Rose and All Them Witches, more rock ‘n’ roll and newer sounds. We were under the impression that they were breaking into a new direction and that we were going to be part of it.

You are a young band with lots of older influences, so who is your audience? Who comes to your shows?
It’s a pretty big mix actually. It’s kinda funny, we’ll get like college-aged girls that come with their dads and they both like our band. We get a good amount of college-age and 18-25 year-olds with older folks who probably liked some of the bands that we listen to.

I was fortunate enough to see your Manchester show last time that you were in the UK. Was that your first visit to the UK?
Second time. It was the first time like we spent three weeks there. We all love going there, as well as the show you saw we went to Glasgow and London and Brighton, we got to play Belfast and Dublin. The UK and the US are our two main stomping grounds.

And obviously, we look forward to seeing you again when you are able to come.
Yeah, absolutely. I hope so.

Moving on to the new record. How do you see it progressing on from the first one, which was terrific? Did you find it difficult to follow such a great debut album?
We were touring that first record for two years so we had all been dying to get back into that creative writing zone and make another record. We kept getting tour offers and a lot of them were really cool so we couldn’t turn it down. We planned to go back in the studio and then we’d get an offer to play all points east and we’d say we can’t turn that down. Then the Arctic Monkeys offered to take us on tour and then Jack White. It was like offers kept rolling in that kept making us unable to go into the studio. So by the time we finally did, we were really ready for it and had a lot of ideas to kick around. There was a lot of built-up energy.

Are all the songs on the album new or are there songs that you had in the locker already but hadn’t recorded?
They were ideas already formulated that had been kicking around for a couple of years that finally got attention and became synthesised and arranged. We didn’t have to sit down and write a whole bunch of new stuff.

Do you see the album as different from the first one or a continuation?
It’s different. The main difference to my mind was that the first one was our first proper studio album and we’d already been a band for five years. We had a lot of songs that we had been playing on tour for years and honing. Going into the studio for the first album was just like putting down all these songs. This one was, after touring for so long, just blocking out two or three months to make all these songs and finish them, not ever having played many of them at all. I think there was a lot more focus on arranging and layering. We had to really listen, rather than just playing what we’d been playing. We were still making it as it happened. To my mind, it feels like there’s more depth to it

You’ve not, for obvious reasons, been able to play these new songs live. Is that something that you’ve found particularly frustrating?
Yeah totally. The one tour we were on where we played some of these songs before they were out was back in March. It was so new and it felt so good. It just felt so great to be doing something new and exciting together and it was going really well. Then the pandemic cut the tour right in half. We literally woke up one morning after a show and everything was cancelled. It makes the release feel a bit harder.

With the United States being such a vast country there will be areas that are affected worse than others or are ahead of others. Is there any prospect of playing again in some locations if not nationally?
The impression I have is no. Listening to the news this morning they are talking about a resurgence in cases and questioning whether they were even going to allow 25% indoor dining capacity to happen. The US is not handling this well at all, constantly getting it a bit under control and then resurging. We are just so big and so disorganised. I think any live music that happens in the semi-near future has to be outdoors and we are heading towards winter, the leaves are all changing here. It’s going to be too cold to do it outside and too dangerous inside. We are just adapting to being a digital presence, we can’t be a physical one and that’s been a learning curve but we’re naturally pretty good at it.

Have you done much online stuff?
We did at first and then we took a while off. Everyone just needs to have a rethink and re-adapt what they’re doing.

Although very welcome at first, do you think that a certain amount of fatigue has set in around online performances? It is nice, but not really an adequate substitute for a live show.
Yeah, although I feel like I shouldn’t knock it because its what we’re going to be relying on. The truth is you set all your gear up and when you’re up and playing it still feels good to play, but you’re playing to just a few silent lenses. When the song ends and normally there would be some kind of applause and stuff, some banter and talking but it just feels so robotic and strange to banter to a camera lens.

Reviews of the album have so far been very positive. That must be very pleasing.
I’ve seen that but the cynical part of me says that almost all musical journalism and music criticism is positive now. It feels that way to me at least. It has been great though and there has been a lot of international attention which has been very cool, and new.

At AUK we love to share music, so can I wind up the interview by asking what you’ve been listening to lately that you might want to share with us.
Just the other day I was up in Maine on a little trip with my girlfriend and an MPR station was playing through the Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash sessions that I’d never heard before, so my girlfriend bought me the triple LP of it. I’m a big sucker for diving really deep into artists that I like. You know like alternate takes, session outtakes, demo tapes, of right now Bob Dylan. You find something like Levon Helm playing drums or Dr. John on keys, its crazy the kind of stuff that shows up.

The new, and highly recommended,  Nude Party album ‘Midnight Manor’ is released on October 16th on New West Records.

About Clint West 325 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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