[Q&A] Party Nails Advocates for Self Improvement with ‘You Don’t Have To Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here’

Photo Credit: Kelsea McKulloch (@kelseamcculloch)

By Alissa Arunarsirakul // May 26, 2020

Ever since she was eight years old, Party Nails has been deeply in love with music–with choir, viola, guitar, and production work under her belt all before she turned 18. Having opened for PVRIS and Bad Bad Hats, Party Nails has certainly taken advantage of her time ever since she relocated from New York to Los Angeles. It’s our pleasure to introduce you to Party Nails’ fantastic new sophomore album, You Don’t Have To Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here.

On You Don’t Have To Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here, Party Nails shared, 

“I was drinking a lot, and eventually quit, so a lot of the lyrics are about a state of inebriation and time of night, the positive, negative, and in between. Other songs touch more on feeling connected or disconnected from people you love. There is a lot of masking of the truth going on in the world today, and this permeated my music during the making of the album.”

To celebrate the release of her new music, we recently chatted with Party Nails about alcoholism, inspiration, and of course, You Don’t Have To Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here.

HH: For those who don’t know, how did you come up with the moniker, Party Nails?

PN: I was at a small house party, getting ready to go out with some of the girls there. I noticed they were doing their nails, and I loved that a detail so small was so important and could contribute so much to their confidence and excitement about the night.

HH: You Don’t Have To Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here is heavily influenced by alcohol and its effects on our lives. What was your experience like when you decided to quit drinking?

PN: Gross, embarrassing, scary, and relieving. I read This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, and was in therapy weekly (still am), journaling daily, trying to exercise, and eat well. Being human is a lot of work! I quit right after a tour, so I could kind of fold up tour exhaustion and the blur of my last few beer nights into one period of leave-me-alone-I’m-not-getting-out-of-bed-until-I’m-ready-yes-I-know-it’s-New-Year’s-Eve moment. I still have days where I’d like to crack a cold one on the porch, but honestly the mantra “one day at a time” really helps in those instances! 

HH: Can you describe the creative process behind the new record?

PN: “Take Me Somewhere” was a collaboration with producer Summer Heart; I heard this track, loved it, wrote the song on top, and sent it back to him to mix. I love when things feel right like that. “Cut To Bleed” was a straggler from my first album; it just didn’t fit into that world and I always assumed it would be on my second album. “Time To Settle Down,” “Yours To Take,” and “Dream Closely” were all written and recorded alone in my home studio. I added the harmony vocals and viola parts a few weeks after I first recorded “Yours To Take” and “Dream Closely.” The other songs I had written and demoed out before bringing them to Ben Greenspan, who co-produced the rest of the album (and produced “Eden”). That process involves finding and creating sounds, building beats and sections, singing melodies and lyrics, and trying to bring a song as close to the finish line as possible before getting completely stumped and meeting up with Ben. Ben was able to nurture all of the weird and wonderful parts, enhancing them with distorted synths, more drum samples, guitar parts, and encouraging me to play bass again and again–which I loved. “Fuckboi” is the oldest song on the record, first written in the beginning of 2018. For the longest time I could not figure out what it was. Eventually I stopped trying and just admitted that I liked it a lot and didn’t know why. When I showed it to Ben he completely accepted all of its weirdness and nurtured, rather than tamed, them.

HH: Whether it’s the hypnotic synths or alluring electronics, the album is drenched with otherworldly sonics. What inspires this soundscape?

PN: I try to find and create sounds that inspire me. Sometimes they are unexpected, and sometimes I have an idea for a sound in my head and I try to create it. Sometimes the song and the lyrics inspire the sounds, sometimes other records inspire. Sometimes the inspiration will be visual, like the way a photo makes me feel, and I’ll try to make that into sound. Ben shares a similar sound palette to me, and so it was fun to go deeper together.

HH: How have you grown since 2018’s Past Lives and Paychecks?

PN: Wow, I’m not entirely sure how to answer that! I’m older for sure, less concerned with what other people think. With Past Lives, I wanted to prove to myself that I could work alone and pursue ideas that were too odd for group sessions, but still create something with a fresh, pop-leaning sensibility. Embrace more creativity but not lose any of the production value. I didn’t expect to learn so much from the format of an album, but I did. I really love that an album’s energies can come in waves, that every song doesn’t need to stand on its own, that the context of the track ordering, the artwork, and the record as a whole all contribute to the experience of the album. I enjoyed playing with all of that again on You Don’t Have To Go Home.

HH: While you’re between tours, you produce and engineer for other artists. How does that process differ from your work as Party Nails?

PN: It’s similar in that you sort of cast a wide net, and the work that ends up seeing the light of day is a small percentage of the actual hours you put in, haha. It’s hard to know how an artist, song, or record will evolve, and I love being part of the process with other artists as much as with my own music. I LOVE being able to focus on the song and sounds and not so much on the publicity side of being an artist. It’s just a nice way to exercise my skill set in a different way. Not everything I make needs to be about this Party Nails world; sometimes I prefer to be a supportive hand in another person’s vision, and give them the faith in their art that I have received from friends and collaborators along my journey as well. Another really big thing for me is visibility for womxn, queer people and people of color in tech roles in music. So by playing a role not typically played by womxn, and working with people who also fall into these categories, I hope to keep that ripple moving outward.

HH: If you could collaborate with anyone in the music industry, who would you pick?

PN: Amy Winehouse, if she were still alive. I would want to produce her record. And Prince, if he were alive, I would just be happy to work near him. I would really like to work with Rick Rubin and Sylvia Massy. Together or separate. However it happens, I won’t complain. I would also love to be produced by Rezz.

HH: What are your three hidden hits?

PN: Bad Bad Hats – “Nothing Gets Me High”
MishCatt – “Your Eyes”
Chela – “Zero”

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