UCR Interview- Party Nails

Interview By: Kevin Rolfe

Los Angeles based artist Party Nails’ debut album, Past Lives and Paychecks was released in 2018.  Her most recent single entitled ‘I Go To You’ is a stunning and intimate love song, featuring relatable honest lyricism, raw acoustic guitar and layered soft vocals which ride gently atop the organic instrumentation. Her previous single ‘So Broke’ features the singer’s distinct sound of glittery synth-pop and went viral on Spotify.  

We caught up with Party Nails when she was here in Utah supporting Eve 6 on their 20th anniversary tour.  She had some wonderful insight on someone who is getting their opportunity to do what they love. Enjoy!

Utah Concert Review: So are you originally from Los Angeles?

Party Nails: I’m from New York. Like 40 minutes south of Albany. So not too far north but definitely really rural and small.

Utah Concert Review: Did music bring you to L.A.?

Party Nails: Yeah. I lived in New York City for like four years before I moved to L.A.  I just had this thought that I should probably move to L.A. so I did. But that’s the short version of the story.

Utah Concert Review: So what happened where you started to feel like things were happening for you with music?  

Party Nails: I think it was kind of in the beginning stages. I really I didn’t want this (Party Nails) to be my artist project cause I thought that I wanted to do something else. And then slowly but surely it started to mean more to me. I was actually in a few different working relationships with people I don’t work with anymore. When I started strongly disagreeing with them that’s when I realized that rather than working with them I needed to work with these other people or find a better match and then being able to do that was important. Then being in L.A. too it changed a lot of things. There were a lot of the musicians that I was hiring to play in my live band had been touring for a long time.  Forever compared to me. They were able to introduce me to people. It’s not like there was one moment or a person it’s just that L.A. and this sort of like reclaiming of something that I didn’t feel very committed to. Then the steps that happened after that and even to this day there was like this constant refinement of like your process and who you’re with and why and everybody’s business and like family business life is like organized in a different way. And for me, I really wanted to be around people that I could be totally myself around. So that was important. I didn’t want to feel like I was like this brand new artist that was like so cute and one day I’d figure it out. I want it to feel like I could just talk like myself and I would be takien seriously and have it grow naturally.  

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Utah Concert Review: I think, and you would know more than I,  but in my experience in L.A. music scene which is more observational, seeing as big a city that L.A. is it really does feel like a small town in the music community. You can get pidgeon-holed in whatever way where it’s like “Oh this is what they are like.” People might not work with you or they do but it’s not really people you want to work with. I think it was a smart move to be “Look I’m just going to be me. Work with the people I work.” It seems like it’s helped.  

Party Nails: You’re right there is that vibe. And that can really start to affect you mentally.  I feel like as a creative person it’s not safe to be in a place where you’re encouraged to judge yourself. You’re gonna do it on your own anyway and in a city where that’s just rampant and social media that’s rampant like there’s always someone that you can compare yourself to if you take two seconds to open your phone. So I think it’s good to find yourself and at least work to find people that don’t really make you want to do that. Because that’s not healthy I don’t think.  

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Utah Concert Review: So I heard this interview with Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who.  He was saying in the interview that while he was growing up he wanted to be the Beach Boys which blew my mind because they sound nothing alike. So for you, I’m really curious as to what got you into the music you’re making, and what were some of the influences that got you there, even if they’re not in the style of music you make.  

Party Nails: Yeah I hear you. That’s a good question.  And sometimes when people ask me who my influences I want to write all these things and I’m like it makes sense to me. But it’s not gonna make sense like in the context of this publication or this interview so that’s totally something I’ve experienced. And it’s funny because I didn’t realize until I got here that the places where I had also kind of enabled me to then add like a third part to the sound and that’s where I landed. But when I first started playing the guitar I would write blues and Americana songs on my guitar because that’s what I was learning how to do. And it’s a great way to learn how to write songs because you learn keys in your chord progressions and different ways to like pluck and all of that stuff. And I was really into old country music and stuff like that. And then from there, I made electronic music that was almost like they weren’t songs. It was more like ‘How can I play with form and sound?’

Utah Concert Review: And that style of music totally lends itself to that.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Party Nails: It really does. And it’s also fun when you’re still learning how to use those programs and stuff, you can literally open it up and be like wow I’m going to like route this thing in this weird way on the screen. I’m going to try this weird thing I’ve never tried before, open up this plugin I’ve never used before and I’ll just play with that today and that’s gonna be the piece that I need which you don’t really do as much of when you’re writing a song. It’s like kind of two separate skills but they come together nicely or they can. And that’s kind of what I’m trying to do with Party Nails. When the project started somebody had taken an interest in trying to kind of combine my voice with happier sounds than what I had been doing. And we don’t work together anymore and it didn’t end well but that started the ball rolling. It was the first time I heard my voice like in an electronic music context that wasn’t like just a random sample. So, I think that’s kind of how those things came together. But to this day I still say that Sheryl Crow is a huge influence. But so it’s like, The Knife, one of my favorite electronic bands. So I think that I always want there to be a song now. I think I’ve sort of separated my creative self in a way where it’s like OK, Party Nails is going to be songs and then I can find time to like score movies and stuff like that. There’s a love of sound design and a love of songwriting and then trying to bring us together. There’s also a love of making people dance and like that cathartic part of electronic music that’s more active than something like Aphex Twin or something like that. Like you’re not like going into an Aphex Twin show just to dance with your friends. It’s this other thing.  

Utah Concert Review: So would you say the guitar is where you had learned to write and the instrument you first learned? I’m fascinated to know where songwriting initially stems from.   

Party Nails: Yeah totally.  I’m always fascinated with that too. My ideal day is doing one of those two things. And even still I’m fascinated with it. You just have to do it. You know you can’t be like doing something else and then you get a good idea. You have to be willing to sit through those moments where you don’t have any good ideas and wait for something to form.  

Utah Concert Review: So what made you want to do this. Was it a high school choir or did you just started writing? Did someone say, “Hey you have a really good voice, you should do something with that.”?  I’m so interested because all of a sudden we’re here we’re talking in Salt Lake City random Utah. But somewhere you realized “I have to do this.” You know more than I, that you have to really want to do this. Especially since, like you said, you’ve had two things that kind of didn’t work. But here you are again.  

Party Nails: That’s a great question.  No one has ever asked me that before.  I mean it’s an insane thing for anyone to do. I think. I really do! The sorts of shit that you inevitably put yourself through as a result of this is like… I don’t. I don’t really know. I think I just, I remember being really little like four or five and seeing performances. I think my mom took me to like a holiday bagpipe thing. You know and I just remember being enamored with the magic of that. Like the sound and the people performing and the audience and I remember thinking at that moment like I want to be part of this I want to be part of putting on a show.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Utah Concert Review: So which do you prefer, being on stage or in the studio?  

Party Nails: That’s hard.  I love them both so much. I really think that there’s like a magic to that moment. To the moment on stage. It’s not that every single time that you go on it’s the same. I think all of us who do it are kind of looking for that high in a way. I have a lot of friends in comedy in Los Angeles and the first time I saw one of my close friends do it I was blown away.  I remember being like ‘Dude, that looked so fun!’ and she was like “It’s the craziest high I’ve ever had”. Being on stage and not knowing anything that you’re about to do. Doing music kind of like that because like I don’t have choreography. I don’t have to sing everything the same way if I don’t want to. I can make embellishments if I want to and there’s a lot that’s very very much the same thing all the time which is totally fine. But like you don’t know who’s going to be in the audience that you’re gonna say hi to from the stage or I don’t know there’s something special about that experience.  I would rather be doing that than be you know, telling people what table to sit out at the restaurant. There are all kinds of weird parts of the day where you’re just like wow like this still beats that because it really does! But versus the studio? The studio is so solitary and you need an audience. Otherwise, you’re going to go insane. So it’s like however you can get it you’ve got to do it. Because if you’re inclined to create and you want an audience it’s not just a fun hobby. Because some people are perfectly happy make it a fun hobby.

Utah Concert Review: Do you remember the first concert you ever went to?

Party Nails: It was Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos when I was eight.  I actually didn’t know who either of them was, but my best friend who I’m still really close with invited me and I pretended that I knew who they were.  It just blew my mind. And I didn’t think like ‘Oh I want to do exactly what they just did.’, as far as like their style of music or how they looked or how they performed,  you know? Like how Tori Amos would sit on her stool and play two pianos? It was more like just channeling that kind of energy and then being able to do that for other people. It can be a vain pursuit or egotistical like, you’re very solitary a lot of the time and you do have to think about your image. There are things that you know, like diva things or the things that I think are perceived to be diva things. But, then there’s the real true mechanism of doing that. And it’s actually so much more. It’s what they always say about learning. Practice, practice, practice and then forget everything that you know or whatever the quote is about like how to become an expert and it’s kind of like that. You just rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and then you just have to let some higher power take over. Whatever you want to call it. And I don’t think of it necessarily God or anything like that I just think like there’s a lot of energy when you bring people together and somebody has made the commitment to sort of guide you through that and then you have some sort of theme which is like your band and your brand and your sound and it’s like, that’s really what you’re doing. Of course, I would never have been able to have said that when I was eight years old but that’s really what was so incredible to me. Then from there with like all the CDs and then memorizing all the lyrics then pick up the guitar.

Utah Concert Review: Do you remember your first time performing live? And what was it like?

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Party Nails: Well my first time ever singing live was in kindergarten and I had this really short solo. We did the “Circle of Life” from Lion King and I don’t even remember what line it was I just remember really enjoying being able to do it. I think it was a part that for some reason somebody decided it would be a solo and I was like “Oh I’m very happy to do this.” I liked the sense of responsibility. I liked that I could do it and that’s all I remember about that. Oh, and I was nervous. I was really nervous.  

Then when I was 11 I performed with a guitar and sang and I was shaking and it was really scary. But both times I think that I could feel a sense that there was more to it inside me. I really wanted to discover and nurture that thing. That’s kind of the biggest commitment up until more recently and still it feels that way. You’re always going to come up with new ideas and new creative things like I definitely for a long time but you’re not good yet.

Utah Concert Review: Isn’t that the worst?!  You just want to be good, but you’re just not until you finally are.

Party Nails: You’re just not! You’re figuring it out. You can hear talent. You can be talented but you’re not good and you’re not ready to be on tour you’re not ready to have people judging you and you it would be unfair. And I actually do think that some artists have to deal with that. They do become successful before they’re actually fully formed. And it really sucks and they have to do it all in the public eye.  

Utah Concert Review: Do you remember the best concert you ever went to?    

Party Nails: The first one that comes to my mind is actually the Dresden Dolls. My best friend from high school and I were like really into them. She was a little more into them than I was but we went and saw them when we were 14 or 15 and it was an all-ages venue.  We grew up in a small town so there were no venues. And going into that place and it’s you know, covered in spilled soda I guess? Because it was all ages you know? And of course with the matte black and the dirty stage and all that. At the time I just thought it was so cool! They’re just a two piece and they would wear the mime makeup. And he’s a crazy drummer, incredible.  And she’s an incredible performer. She would play the piano. They just put on such an intense show. I don’t even remember how many people were there but it wasn’t a lot like 20 maybe 30. I just remember being like this is… like you couldn’t not watch you know? And the songs were good and the sound was good and they were talented musicians and not a huge fan anymore. Of like her newer stuff for their last record before they disbanded or anything like that. Like they didn’t remain my favorite. But that show was mind-blowing to me.

Utah Concert Review: And that’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be your favorite band, it’s just that moment in time that made the difference.

Party Nails:  Such a big sound! The the the electric piano that she took on tour just sounded so big and scary and she uses low notes a lot so they do kind of like come out a lot. It just blew my mind.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Utah Concert Review: So final question. What was your best performance experience?

Party Nails: The first tour that I went on and felt like that most of the time. We played 10 shows we were first of three and the headliner was PVRIS and I think there were maybe one or two kind of shaky shows for us and I just had reached a point where I didn’t believe that I could ever do it anymore. I was just like. ‘I’ve been doing this for so long I don’t really have an audience and I don’t care anymore. I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore.’ Being able to like hone that in on stage made for a better performance. I became a better performer. And then that was capped with really kind fans who just like, they were fans of the headliner and co-headliner Lights, and they were just really kind people. They would make a point to be like “Here’s why liked it. Here’s why I’m going to be your fan for a while.” And some of them were really young. They were all ages but the ones that were younger that were just like scared to talk but then would give you a hug and smile or something like that. Paired with that because at that moment I was like ‘Oh, I want to protect these people.’  Like I wanted to be a positive thing. I don’t I don’t need followers I need people to do this with. And actually meeting them I just felt like a momma bear. The combination of those things kind of a really intense previously negative experience kind of became this driving force. And knowing who reacted to that and the ways that that affected their life just felt like something I had been waiting for and practicing to be able to do. And it felt really good to be able to do that.

Utah Concert Review: That’s cool! And it’s interesting because. I think that’s a benefit of going on the road. Because at the beginning of this we talked about how small town and small community the L.A. music scene can be, it also could feel like everybody’s doing everything you’re doing even if they’re not.

Party Nails: Right! And why am I doing this?

Utah Concert Review: But then you get on the road you can find those people that like you said weren’t your followers initially but shared this experience with you. So I think that kind of shows right there that benefit of getting out of town and touring.

Party Nails: That moment of real feedback loop with an audience is really special. And you can feel when they want to make you feel good too which is very sweet. That was what a lot of those fans were like. You can tell they were the sort of fans that were like “We’re gonna love the opener because they picked them.” I just thought it was so sweet!

Utah Concert Review: Well thank you so much. I had a lot of fun talking with you!

Party Nails: Thank you! That was really lovely.

When I watched Party Nails open for Eve 6, my main concern for her was that her style of music might not be something that Eve 6 fans would totally embrace.  As you probably know, Eve 6 is a late 90’s/ early 2000’s era rock band. Party Nails has a modern electronic sound with retro elements. There really are no similarities with these two styles of music.  I was really impressed with Party Nails. While initially the audience just stood there and mostly just watched, I’d say about halfway through the set the crowd started warming up. I thought Party Nails was engaging with the audience, and as I stood in the back I began to see heads bobbing and feet tapping. I noticed several people walk over to the merch table inquiring about who the artist was. That’s what you hope for as an opener. You hope to get the audience warmed up for the headliner, and gain a few new fans for your next visit to town. I’m confident Party Nails accomplished both. I look forward to her next stop in Salt Lake City. I think she’ll gain a strong following here.

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