They aren’t the first to be on stage in their underwear, but the Skivvies certainly made an impression with the stripped down look by calling it “undie rock.” Nick Cearley and Lauren Molina began the Skivvies as a fun experiment on YouTube, but it’s grown into a project that’s taken the mainstage of their professional lives. Cearley and Molina still grace the theatre stages (Cearley is currently the lead in An Act Of God on our B3 stage), but the Skivvies has become an undeniable force in their lives.
Artistic Associate Sean Nill interviewed Cearley on the origins of the band, its evolution, and how the two balance acting and music.
How’d you and Lauren meet?
Lauren and I met in 2003 when we were cast together in a touring children’s theatre production of The Just So Stories. We drove a van across the country with all of our sets, props, costumes in back, performing in the grandest cafetoriums in the land. We became instant best friends.
How was the Skivvies aesthetic (performing nearly naked) discovered?
Well, Lauren and I were doing our thing one day in January of 2012 which consists of us getting egg sandwiches and creating some quirky arrangement of an over produced pop song. The one that day was Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” We put it on guitar and ukulele and we liked what we did with it so much, we wanted to put it on YouTube. We hadn’t really done that before. As Lauren was deciding what to wear, I said she should just wear that since we were stripping down the music. Why not just take it literally? I checked my briefs to make sure I had something on that day appropriate too and voila. The Skivvies were born. I remember the hesitation we had at first of “I can’t believe we are just gonna sit here in our underwear and do this” but it was the best decision we probably ever made.
What’s a Skivvies concert typically like?
Our signature opener is a medley of Nelly’s “Hot In Herre,” Sondheim’s “Hot Up Here,” and Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot,” played on the ukulele. We strip to our undies and the show gets going. It feels like a pajama party; fun, comedic energy, with special guest performers, many who have also performed on Broadway. The show is filled with arrangements of songs of all genres, played on ukulele, cello, and drums, with quirky toy instruments like glockenspiel, melodica, thumb piano, and boomwhackers. As an audience member, you can expect to not stop smiling.
Who have been your most exciting musical guests? Do you have any dream musical guests?
We love Laura Benanti. Her sense of comedy and ear for music is top of the line. We have had so many amazing guests it would be hard to narrow it down. But I think we would love to get some guests in the music and comedy world. Right now we pretty much strip down the Broadway community and we love when we have a crossover artist like Sophie B. Hawkins or Caroline Rhea who have really made our line up quite unique. We would also love to snag people from the SNL, Comedy Central, The Daily Show worlds. And honestly, just anyone who wants to play our game and have fun with us.
When did you and Lauren realize that your band had become a big deal?
When our first video with a special guest went viral we thought, wow we’ve got something people think is funny too. It was Wesley Taylor (Smash, Addams Family, Rock of Ages) who sang “Call Your Girlfriend” with us on our couch that really got noticed. Then we did our first live show, it sold out, and suddenly magazines and newspapers wanted to interview us. America’s Got Talent called us, and we started to book shows non-stop. In an over saturated market of musicians, you gotta get a gimmick, and people seemed to notice us when we took off our clothes. We were able to back it up with awesome music, so people kept coming back for more.
Is there a particular story that epitomizes your experience with the Skivvies?
Well I think it comes out of the story of the origin of The Skivvies. It was something we always did wearing clothes and then one day we were just like, how do we get maximum impact? Oh, great! Oldest trick in the book! If you look at pop stars like Britney, Madonna, Ricky Martin, Miley Cyrus, Cher, so many. They have been wearing their underwear on stage for years. I think we are the first though pioneered the “undie rock” movement though and really took it there.
Did you have any ambitions when you were an actor to break into the music business? What are the challenges that being a musician has added to your life as an actor?
Music has always been a part of both of our lives and it seems natural that playing instruments would be a part of our careers. Lauren was in the Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd where all of the actors were musicians. It was where she honed the talent of singing and playing cello at the same time. I had only been playing ukulele a short time before the Skivvies started and now I often play it in shows too. As Brad in Rocky Horror, I sang “Once in a While” while accompanying myself on the uke. Also, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I played Puck and wrote and sang original music. Being a musician is a great balance to being an actor as it allows another part of creativity to flourish.
What are the Skivvies plans for the future?
We tour all the time. While I am here doing An Act of God, I actually have to take my day off mid July and fly across the country to the island of Nantucket in Massachusetts for a day. Not a fun plane ride but I do it all the time. Then, the week we close here, we have two shows back in NYC at Joe’s Pub. We are then traveling to Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, back to LA, San Diego, 54 Below, and we are really eyeing getting our TV pilot out there. And this is all while both of us have a lot of theatre gigs already lined up! The secret is to never get bored and keep ourselves extremely jam packed busy.
The Skivvies will take the Mainstage on June 30 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available through the Box Office. 916.443.5300