BWW Interview: Nick Cearley of THE SKIVVIES on A VERY SKIVVIES PRESIDENT'S DAY at The Green Room 42
It isn't necessary to have an underwear fetish to enjoy The Skivvies, but it helps. Whether you like lingerie, tighty whities, hot bodies in good shape or whether your interests err more on the side of damn fine musical entertainment, The Skivvies is the band for you. When they burst on the scene at Joe's Pub they became an instant sensation and, quick as a wink, their live concerts featured some of Broadway's biggest names appearing as guest artists... in their underwear. As concepts go, it's a marketing dream come true, but the truth is that the underwear thing is just a gimmick -- it's a great gimmick and one that is working for The Skivvies, but if they didn't have the musical talent to back up the gimmick, it would have been over relatively quickly. Luckily for Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley, they DO have the talent, boy howdy, do they ever. With a foundation laid by great training and a structure made up of brilliant ideas, these two musical mavens have gathered around them the best craftspeople to be found and created something unique that is all their own, and their fans have stayed true to them since day one, with new fans joining the fold every day. Their shows at Joe's Pub, 54 Below and other clubs around the country have made The Skivvies one of the most in-demand bands in the business.
On February 17th at 7 pm The Skivvies return to The Green Room 42 for A VERY SKIVVIES PRESIDENT'S DAY. Their guests for the show will be Tim Hughes, Nathan Lee Graham, Lesli Margherita, Logan Hart, Kevin Zak, Amber Ardolino, Gina Milo, Ben Bogen, Kuhoo Verma, Florrie Bagel and Travis Kent.
As the days til their President's Day show flew off the calendar, I got on the phone with Nick Cearley to find out how he and Lauren Molina came up with the idea for The Skivvies and how it feels to go to work in your underpants.
This interview has been edited for space and content.
Nick, how did you and Lauren meet?
Lauren and I met... we got our Equity cards together 17 years ago. We met on the first day of rehearsal.
And what were you rehearsing?
It was a theater tour, we were just at a college university tour and the show was called Just Those Stories and so we performed in elementary schools and the grandest cafetorium across the country.
So put me in the picture. What was the exact moment when the two of you came up with the skivvies?
It was in 2012. Lauren and I, from 2003 to 2012, we were always creating music together and doing shows together at venues like the Laurie Beechman or The Duplex or the typical cabaret venues that were around back then. And we would do these shows, probably half a dozen a year, and people came - we had a great time doing them. Then it wasn't until 2012 -- YouTube was kind of new and we were deciding to do a cover and put it on YouTube. Lauren was walking around deciding what to wear -- she was walking around in a bra and jeans and I looked at her and I was like, "Why don't you just wear that?" Because we are stripping down the songs, why don't we do it physically as well? and never comment on it. And her boyfriend, from the kitchen, was like, "Why don't you just call yourself The Skivvies?" So we ended up going ahead with all of that, putting it up on YouTube, and the rest is history I guess, cause it started to go viral, and we did our first live shows six months later.
When you started doing those live shows, did finding gigs, as the band in your underpants, did that come easily?
Luckily and thankfully we were embraced. I think it's because it is a unique niche thing, it's a genre that we kind of made for ourselves. There isn't another underwear band. So it was something that was very unique and one of the kind, I guess to this day... I don't know of any other underwear bands. So Joe's Pub, once we said that we wanted to do a concert they gave us a residency and then we went over to 54 Below a few months after that and did a residency for a long time. We bounce around - also we do shows at The Green Room 42, as this next one is going to be. I think (the owner of that room always likes to remind us) that we hold the record for most performances at The Green Room 42. We've performed there more than any other band or artist since they've opened, because we used to do, for like a year and a half or two years, we used to do Skivvies Brunch. On Sunday afternoon we would do a Skivvies performance while they did brunch, for a very long time.
When you started The Skivvies, was there ever a moment when either of you felt slightly nervous about appearing in public, almost nude?
Yes. I remember when we first put that video up, we both said to ourselves, "Okay, if this doesn't go well, we can just delete it and it never happened. If we get a lot of flack for that, if we get a lot of negative comments like, what are these people doing?" because our goal was never to be like, "Look at us, we're so sexy and hot!" We aren't that. We are, more than anything, clowns. We just thought this was kind of funny and ironic. I also remember at the first live show at Joe's Pub, the fact that we were going to be taking off our clothes for songs, doing the reveal for the first time... I remember being like, "Wow, I can't believe we're actually going to do this. I'm a little nervous." Because we aren't those kinds of people ... we're not show-offs. We're not like "Look at our bodies!" That's not what it's about.
Once you started doing it, did you find it liberating?
Yeah! I mean, to a degree. Lauren likes to always say that when you're in that kind of various states of undress, the audience is more forgiving because you're already showing the most vulnerable side of you. So if we make a mistake, please forgive us, we're naked.
Who was your very first guest artist?
In a video, we had Wesley Taylor. That was the first arrangement that we ever created for guests. For the first live show, we had six guests that we asked to perform with us. I don't remember who was the first of that concert, but I can tell you there were six guests - I just don't remember who went first that evening. But Wesley Taylor was the first, I guess, guest that we ever asked to do something with us. That was a video.
Who was the first guest that you really wanted to get but you were afraid they might say no - and then they surprised you by saying yes.
In the first year, I would say Laura Benanti. She really embraced our humor and we just love her comedy, it's very on-brand to ours... she doesn't take herself too seriously and we don't either. So I would say Laura -- she performed at our second concert. And the second person I would say that was really fun, that same first year, was Daisy Egan. She was pregnant when she performed with us, she was nine months pregnant. I reached out to her because she had one of the funniest Twitter accounts, and she had a very funny tweet and I laughed about it for days, and she had a blog, so I reached out to her and I was like, you know, "The Skivvies would love to do a song with you, especially 'cause you're pregnant. We have an idea if you're down." And she couldn't have said yes faster.
Who has been the guest artist that has appeared on stage with the Skivvies more times than any other,
Did you get to a point where artists began reaching out to you and asking, "Can I do a Skivvies show?"
Sure. It kind of works both ways. We like it when somebody comes to us with an idea like, "Oh my God, I had this funny idea and I would like to execute it in your show with you guys." So that happens. We often come up with the stories of the songs or the themes or whatever the mashups are going to be. But it is normally a pretty true collaboration. I do love it when people come to us with ideas because then it actually does a lot of the work for us and all we have to do is put it together.
When you have a new gig and new guest artists, how much rehearsal time does it take to put the show up on its feet?
We could probably do it, we could do it pretty quickly. We have this down. Back when we first started, I would've had a different answer, but because we've done so many now that follow very similar templates. Just the other day we were preparing for the last show on January 30th and I think we did five arrangements in maybe four hours and we finished the rest of the arrangements the next day. So we probably created all those new arrangements in two days, then we schedule rehearsals with the guests over the next week leading up to the show. I would say crunch time for us is usually two weeks before the show and the week before the show. Every song is about three to four minutes. It's not like a huge chunk of time that we're asking, for any kind of commitment - especially if the arrangements already created, we just have to set it together with the guest. If it's just me and Lauren, we are like a brother and sister relationship at this point so we can pretty much knock anything out and in a very quick time.
Do all of the Skivvies band members coordinate what they're going to wear on stage?
No. Back when we first started, I would say we used to match Lauren. She'd be like, "I'm wearing red." So I would rather wear something like that. But now I don't feel like it's necessary. Maybe for a picture, we don't want to clash. But now most everyone just wears whatever they're most comfortable in. Also, we always tell the guests that if they want to, just play the game but they don't even have to be in their underwear, we cover that part. The Skivvies are like a state of mind is what I always like to say. It's like a pajama party. So whatever you want to wear that makes you feel comfortable and fun. Sometimes the costume will indicate what the arrangement is. Sometimes someone's like, "Oh, I've got this amazing thing, I want to wear for The Skivvies." And then we're like, Oh my God, why don't we do a medley about that? That was what happened with Laura Benanti. She wanted to do a medley about Thanksgiving or Christmas and how everybody eats too much. And she was like, "I have a pizza onesie!" So we were like, "Great! It's a medley about eating too much and you're wearing a pizza. Perfect!"
With all of the popularity that the Skivvies has gotten, what's the farthest the Skivvies has traveled for a gig?
We have been to Mexico twice now, so we do lots of jokes that we're international. We would love to venture to Europe. We would love to go to London - we think we would play well over there. A lot of people that have been like, "Why haven't you come?" So that is a priority for us to get to London.
When you and Lauren aren't doing Skivvies work, do you still pursue work as actors?
Oh god. Yeah. That's the most challenging part because we do work so much as actors, whether it's regionally or here in New York --the biggest challenge of Skivvies is calendar stuff. Lauren's getting ready to start a show next week, which is in Philly and that's going to keep her out of New York for like eight weeks or six weeks or something like that. Her days off are Sunday nights, Mondays, and I think Tuesdays actually. So we've got to balance our rehearsals for this upcoming February 17th show around her rehearsal schedule for the show she's working on in Philadelphia. That happens all the time. If I'm out of town doing a show, a lot of times (we're very lucky about this) because of the popularity the Skivvies now have, a lot of times if one of us is out of town during a show, that theater will request what it would take to get a Skivvies show there. And that's happened, I would say dozens of times. That's pretty cool.
So what would you estimate is your annual budget for underwear?
Mine?! That's very... I only wear underwear so it's... I buy for each appearance and it's like a few dozen concerts a year, maybe 15. It's really not crazy for mine. Lauren is a little different just because the other underwear that girls have to buy or wear is, uh... it's more.
For information on A VERY SKIVVIES PRESIDENT'S DAY please visit The Green Room 42 website
Find The Skivvies online at their website
All photos provided by The Skivvies and used with their permission.