By Mike Ciriaco, Photos by Augusten Burroughs, Monica Simoes and Michelle Blake
The Skivvies are all about stripping down. The New York-based music duo of Nick Cearley and Lauren Molina perform stripped down, acoustic covers of popular songs while stripped down to their underwear. This unique act has attracted the attention of high profile collaborators, like Tony-award winner Daisey Eagan and critically acclaimed writer/photographer Augusten Burroughs. Cearley and Molina recently exposed their souls to Instinct, revealing the origins of their band, their aspirations, and of course, performing publicly in their undies.
Where did the concept of The Skivvies originate?
Nick: In our pants. Kidding. Not really. Lauren and I have been creating music together for 10 years, wearing clothes, but performing this style of stripped down covers/mashups, plus originals.
Lauren: We were getting sandwiches at the corner deli near my apartment and the song "We Found love" by Rihanna was playing.
Nick: I remember saying to LoMo, "God, this song drives me nuts. It’s just digital noise."
Lauren: So we went back to my apartment and dissected the song. We liked what we did with it, making it a waltz march by simply changing the time signature on guitar and ukulele. And we thought we would record a video for the YouTube.
Nick: Lauren was deciding what to wear, standing there in her bra, and shouted to me from her bedroom asking what she should wear and I said "Just wear that!"
Lauren: I was like, "Well, we are doing a stripped down version of the song…that's pretty hilarious, to take the musically stripped down element to the next visual level" Thus, The Skivvies were born. Nick loves being in his underwear and we are both theatrical actors who have often had to appear in our underwear onstage. So it just seemed right. And ironic. Covers, uncovered.
How does playing in your underwear influence your performance?
Nick: Its freeing. I'm self taught, so when I learn an instrument, I am usually in my living room in some sort of state of undress figuring it all out. Putting on clothes to play instruments feels so weird.
Lauren: When we are actually in performance, there's a natural vibe the audience gets by seeing people in their underwear. It makes you appear very vulnerable and it instantly helps the audience to be on your side. Also, if I make a mistake, they are generally more forgiving.
Nick: Yes. Our straight male and lesbian fans are very happy when Lauren makes a mistake. She usually drops something and picks it up off of the floor to make up for it.
Do you have a 'lucky pair' of undies?
Nick: I like to wear Andrew Christian, not only because he has been very kind to give me dozens of pairs, but I also feel they are very kind to my naughty parts.
Lauren: I like wearing Victoria's Secret brand though they have not given me a damn thing.
What was the most interesting aspect of shooting your music video 'Hardbody Hoedown' with Augusten Burroughs?
Lauren: Augusten is an incredible photographer and he has the ability to find beautiful interesting shots in the unusual.
Nick: He is also has a very generous heart. I was fortunate he was able to take my wedding pictures when I was married last June to my husband, Eric Lesh, who is a lawyer at Lambda Legal.
In your Rockwell show in LA, you were joined by a very pregnant Daisy Eagan, also in her undies. Did this set the bar for your live shows? Have you ever done anything more unusual?
Lauren: Oh yes! She really raised the bar in all departments.
Nick: We have both been fans of Daisy since we were kids. I remember watching the Tony Awards the year she won her Tony for The Secret Garden and I remember saying "I want to do that. I will do that." I never played Mary Lennox, but boy I tried really hard.
Lauren: We first got the idea to ask Daisy when we were reading her blog and following her on twitter and realized her sense of humor is also our sense of humor. We simply wrote her after reading a particular jawdropping entry about healthcare in America and her being pregnant. She replied with a big fat “yes!” within seconds.
Nick: That's what so great about bringing in guests to play with The Skivvies. Everyone has a sense of playfulness and unique creativity and that we can build off together. Each arrangement is specific for the guest. Another aspect of individuality is in what each guest chooses to wear.
We have had Tony Nominee heart throb Will Swenson in a G String dedicating his tune "Get Low" to his mother. The cutest was Barrett Foa in Rocky Balboa boxing get-up singing a mash-up of all songs 'Stronger.'
How did you guys first meet?
Lauren: In 2003, Nick and I were cast by TheatreWorks USA, a children's theatre company that tours across the country.
Nick: We played the grandest cafetoriums in the land.
What is your ultimate goal as a duo?
Nick: The Dream! We have always been a large fan of shows that incorporate sketch comedy with music.
Lauren: "Portlandia" and "Flight of the Conchords" are recent inspirations that are similar to what we would like to be doing.
Nick: I have always been inspired by The Monkees and how they were able to incorporate these aspects so seamlessly as well.
What kind of impact are you aiming to make on the gay music scene and the music scene in general?
Nick: I think what we are doing is truly original. We take some of the best songs and put our own spin on them. The fact that we are in our underwear is inconsequential.
Lauren: It has been so great to be embraced by the gay crowd. Because of our backgrounds, they seemed to notice us first and give us so much love and attention.
Nick: Wit and irony seem to always be embraced by the gay scene. Look at Oscar Wilde.
Lauren: He also was the first to say "All art is truly useless."
Nick: Well, I think an underwear clad duo singing cool mashups on cello and ukulele, with comedic undertones, is a pretty useful asset to any music scene.