Interview by Bre Cura and Matt Davis // Article by Matt Davis // Photos by Bre Cura
Looking for a band that embodies everything you love about the Philly music scene? Well then we’d like to introduce you to Secret Nudist Friends! This four piece from Philly blends multiple genres to create songs that will be hard to get out of your head. They’re electric, original, and showcase everything we love about DIY music. From running their own house venue and starting their own record collective, this band has built themselves from the ground up and have solidified themselves at the center of the local music community. Here at The Queue, we got a chance to chat with them over tea and coffee at the Broad Street Diner.
How did the band first meet?
Matty: “We all met at different points. We had many lineups before we solidified this group of people. I’m the only “original” member. It was my friends solo project in New York, then we moved to Philly. Brian came on next, and I met Brian on Craigslist because we needed a drummer who was reliable. Brian was the best, and he just had brought this energy and I immediately thought, “I like this person.”We auditioned some people who were pretty good, but I just remember thinking “Well I never want to be in a room with you.” So I’m really glad Brian was a good drummer. Then came Missy, and we met at that show! (And yes, that is a song reference). Missy came to a show at our house, Tralfamadore, and she had just run away from Alabama. And that’s how we got Missy!”
Deb: “I had just moved to the Philly area, and I had a solo folk project. I was looking for someone to help book me shows, and I found Matty.”
Matty: “I was basically their manager for a while.”
Deb: “Basically, yes. I found Matty’s booking company, Paper Scissors Media, and sent them an email. Matty told me they were running their very first house show, and their band was playing, and they told me to come through. I saw Secret Nudist Friends play that night, and from there we just became friends. Matty was still helping me book shows in the scene for a few years after that, and during that period they asked me to join the band a few times. Eventually I did join the band, and the rest is history. Now we’re all Scientologists.”
If you had to, how would you label your sound? Or would you not label it at all?
Matty: “Mostly death metal. Nah, I’m just kidding.”
Missy: “I’d say psych-garage rock or psych-pop.”
Deb: “I think defining us via genre has been challenging. One of the things we’re really proud of is that we have a very eclectic sound and we’re able to pull off a lot of different styles. What we really want to be is Secret Nudist Friends, our authentic selves. We’re not trying to be the next Tame Impala, we’re not trying to emulate anybody, we’re just writing songs and they’re coming out as us.”
Matty: “On our last big tour, we we’re out on the road for about 2 months. And the best compliment that we kept getting from people was “I don’t really know what genre you are, but I like what it is, and it’s authentic.” A long time ago Brian and I went through a lot of phases of trying to be groovier or just talking about what this band was going to sound like. And I realized that as the band has changed lineups, it’s just more authentic when it reflects the people in it, with just enough editing to make itself work. And I feel like now with the upcoming album, our sound has a just a bit more intentional direction.”
Is there a song that represents you best or one that you really enjoy playing?
Matty: “Not that’s recorded, but soon!”
Deb: “I think we have a few that we’re just so proud of, and so representative us, and that’s why we’re so eager to get this damn album out!”
Matty: “There’s also a song we played on the last tour called Not Doing Well that I was really anxious about playing. Now I really enjoy playing it, but at first I didn’t at all. It’s a song about poor mental health, and I was like, “This isn’t helping poor mental health, its causing it!” But then, baptism by fire! The rest of the band was saying we should play it, and when we got into a pattern of alternating setlists, I found that when we did it predictably and I had a night off from it each time, I really enjoyed playing it.”
How has the Philly music scene impacted you?
Deb: “In so many ways we’re at the heart of the South Philly diy scene. Tralfamadore (where several band members live) is currently the longest running South Philly house venue, and there’s the record label collective that we started (Good How Are You). We even have our 6th Great How’ve You Been Fest this weekend. We literally wouldn’t exist without the Philly DIY scene.”
Missy: “Yea, with the sheer number of of touring bands that come through Philly, we’re able to connect with people all over the country.”
Matty: “Missy and I booked our last tour solely through connections that we’ve met through the DIY community. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t be doing anything. As people who are scrapy, just trying to get by, the community is everything. They’ve got your back all over the country.”
Is there a place you’ve been on tour that was especially cool to play?
Deb: “In Portland we played this all night beach bash, and it was on like the industrial side of the city. There’s this like pseudo beach called Swan Island, and you enter it through this huge car company lot, and go down a giant ramp to this tiny beach. We played on a plywood stage, there was a huge bonfire, and it had bands playing from like 7pm until 3am. It was just so cool because it was a glimpse of what diy is like in other places. It really was a privilege to be part of it. It wasn’t my scene, but it was cool to see the ways in which it’s other people’s scene. It was this hug diy community, and it was just awesome to experience that as someone from outside of the city.”
How do you, as a diy band, promote your shows?
Deb: “Book less often!”
Matty: “…And also, make sure the people you play with are taking it seriously. As much as that sounds kind of “eh”, if you don’t take it seriously, people won’t care. Some of the biggest bands in Philly have played to crowds of like 5 people. If you don’t promote, people won’t come. We have an awesome audience, but if they don’t know where to go, they’re not going to be there. If we promote, people are usually there!”
Missy: “You have to become comfortable with shamelessly promoting. Sometimes you really have to just bug people about your shows.”
Brian: “The best way to promote is with random hashtags.”
Matty: “But really, social media is super helpful. Instagram is big.”
When you go to write a Secret Nudist Friends song, where does the inspiration come from?
Matty: “For myself, when I start a song for this band, it happens when you’re never trying. The last song that will hopefully be going on the record just happened one day when I was feeling a feeling. There was a guitar amp that I usually don’t play on, and a guitar that I usually don’t play on. They were just sitting there, and I started playing this thing, and then words came in, then an idea, and then I recorded it. I came back to it a couple months later to see if I still liked it and if it still made any sense, then I bring it to the rest of the band. Some songs are self contained, but I think a lot of our songs are just these individual nuggets that someone will bring to the group, and slowly the others will start to unlock the rest of it.”
Deb: “Particularly when I’m on tour, I’m so inspired by all of the music that I hear and all the bands I see. I’ll have a dream, and I won’t be able to sleep because a song will come to me. I like to write songs that exist in this ironic, surreal spaces, so I will wake up and work on it all night. And I’ll have this essence of what the song is, but then I’ll sit on it for a month or two. I’ll be so excited to bring it to the band, and I’m like “Okay, this has only ever existed in my brain, so bear with me because it might be weird.” And I’m the bass player, so I’ll try to sing it and play a bass line, and I’ll ask if anybody gets it, and everybody almost always gets it. It’s been a really good process, especially lately.”
You can catch Secret Nudist Friends playing their very own Great How’ve You Been Fest this weekend at Tralfamadore in South Philly this Friday and Saturday. You can find more info on that event here as well! They will be hosting a food drive (more info on the facebook event page previously linked) and would love donations of brown rice, whole wheat pasta, low sugar cereals, and canned chicken and fish!
You can find Secret Nudist Friends on Spotify, and make sure to connect with the band on Instagram and Facebook to hear more about their upcoming album. And speaking from experience, this is a band you’ve got to see live! See more of our photos with Secret Nudist Friends here!