Earlier this year, the rock band Always Naked released an album called Sex Sells, along with a music video starring Seattle-area theatre artists Kendra Pierce and Ayo Tushinde.
With next week’s arrival of their third full-length album, called I’m the Man, Always Naked finally gets to throw a release party. You can check out their work from earlier this year in the meantime.
Is it an invitation, an accusation, or a business plan?
Sex sells, weaponize me.
Whatever it is, the sultry hook — uttered by singer-songwriter Skylar Steffy of the Seattle-based rock band Always Naked — is more than just an earworm. (It’s that, too.)
Sex Sells — both the album title and the closing track of the band’s most recent release — is addictive, with a simple but infectious refrain, and a fitting selection to close out their set at a recent (and first pandemic-era) show in Everett.
The lyrics are at once straightforward and layered; subtle think-pieces, let’s call them. Certain parts — ostensibly directed at the marketing power and magnetism of sex appeal in the music business — might be just as apt for Steffy’s years dealing with customers from behind the bar, not to mention the advances that stage talent (in their many forms) are expected to receive with a smile.
They say sex sells, so try it.
To show & tell you my version of life,
Where I lie to sweet guys to get by.
In contrast, the track’s music video is neither subtle nor preoccupied with the male gaze. There, lead singer Steffy, sans band, is joined on screen by two Seattle-area theatre artists: Ayo Tushinde, well-known to Seattle audiences as the lead in Sheathed with Macha Theatre Works and Bulrusher with Intiman Theatre, along with roles in ACT Theatre’s most recent A Christmas Carol (see NWT’s reviews for all three here), among others; and Kendra Pierce, a Cornish alum with credits ranging from actor to casting director to choreographer, and who choreographed the video for “Sex Sells.”
Suggestively clad, though revealing little, Pierce, Steffy, and Tushinde gyrate around poles, ponder themselves in the mirror, and stare down the camera. There’s no question they look good; but all while giving the impression that it’s more inwardly focused, not for the viewer to own. So when Steffy sings, You wanna see it / You wanna own it, in the song, maybe it’s an observation. In the video, it’s more like a middle finger.
Though they’re not seen in the music video, in the band Steffy is flanked by three men (who seem to use given and last names only intermittently): Knuckles on guitar, Pword on bass, and Rahul on drums.
By their powers combined, on recordings the Always Naked sound is intriguing, catchy, and varied — from the bass-driven groove of “Cardboard”; to the made-for-moshing “Straight to Hell”; to the mystical progression of “Dirty Face”; to the jagged-melody sing-a-long interludes (think The Black Tones’s “Welcome Mr. Pink” live) of “Read @ 359”; to the vocal swirl that opens “When I’m Mean” (with surprise hints of — dare I say it — Tori Amos there?); to the distinctive, ponderous intro chords of “Sex Sells.” And they’re even better live, where their tone, chemistry, and energy are all amplified. These are musicians who work well together, and it shows.
You can find the video for “Sex Sells” and others on YouTube here. The full album Sex Sells and earlier releases are available to stream on Spotify and other places, along with real live CDs for sale. I’m the Man will be unveiled on or around the release party date of November 27, where they’ll be joined by other artists appearing on the album.
Always Naked performs 11/27 at the High Dive (21+) in Fremont, with Asterhouse and Of the Heavy Sun. Proof of vaccination or negative test required. Tickets are $14 with fees, available here.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.