He may have started making music to impress a girl, named his band after his weed dealer and partied with Lindsay Lohan, but producer Justin Nealis was serious about crafting some standout jams on his debut album as Party Supplies, Tough Love.
"I wanted to make my own version of a classic '80s pop-rock duo," said Nealis, the Williamsburg-based artist who makes up one part of Party Supplies. In the past, Nealis employed the name Party Supplies to craft production for rappers, most notably with Action Bronson's acclaimed '90s homage Blue Chips. Now he's added his high school friend Sean Mann to the mix as Party Supplies releases its debut Tuesday (August 27) via the Fool's Gold stable. Here's Nealis's handy primer for the off-kilter world of Party Supplies.
1. Justin made his first remixes to impress his girlfriend
"A-Trak initially signed my record deal with Fool's Gold off of the songs that are on the album Tough Love, but a week or two after I signed with them I had done all these remixes for no reason other than my girl liked these bands like Arcade Fire and I was trying to impress her. I just remixed the bands she liked and I put them on YouTube and they got way popular too quick and I started getting booked for gigs as a DJ! Next thing you know I'm on tour with AraabMuzik. I made a lot of money doing that 'cause, you know, DJs get paid more than bands! But I didn't want to just be known for doing that -- I wanted to be known for creating something original. That's what I'm doing with this album, which is me picking up a guitar and singing my original music."
2. The name is inspired by a Williamsburg character
"There was this dude who was a purveyor of... let's just say fine goods, man, and we bought from him. And I'll be honest, he had the business card printed out that said Party Supplies on it! I was like, 'That's kind of impressive, to refer to himself like that.' I thought it was cool, it's a singular thing, and you associate it with like an 8-year-old's birthday party with Hannah Montana and hats. The name's funny 'cause it's kind of like calling yourself Kitchen Sink or Coffee Table -- if you Google it you're just gonna get a bunch of coffee tables. But I want to change peoples' ideas of music and what it means and the name ties in with that."
3. Justin grew up in a town where Ben and Jerry used to sell weed
"I grew up in Merrick and Middle Village, Queens. Ben and Jerry, the ice cream guys, they were like weed dealers in high school. It was a weird high school. Merrick is not that far out -- it's like 15 minutes from Queens -- so everyone who lives there grew up in Astoria, grew up in Middle Village, grew up in Brooklyn, and they were sick of the city and they moved there to have kids, which was my generation. So you get a lot of weird celebrities there, like it's a suburb of New York City. Mario Puzo went to my high school. Ben and Jerry were older than me so I don't know what their weed was like but I'm sure it was shitty 'cause the weed back then was always shitty compared to the weed that we smoke now. But they were crazy entrepreneurs and crazy stoners and just started fuckin' with making ice cream in their crib! From what I know they went around house to house in Merrick and they asked people like, 'Hi, my name is Ben and I was wondering if you'd like to invest in our ice cream company?' Imagine if you invested -- you'd be a millionaire now!"
"There's video of me singing Fine Young Cannibals songs when I was like 8 years old, like 'She Drives Me Crazy.' I was always fuckin' around with '80s rock and pop music. I was born in '87, so I'm a late-'80s guy as an '80s baby, so the '90s is when I started to listen to stuff that affected me. I was doing a lot of things for rappers but I wanted to be the lead singer of like this '80s pop-rock group. I always wanted to get to the point where it's me on stage with a guitar singing."
5. Justin prefers to make music while high not drunk
"My girl was a big fan of Edward Sharp so I remixed one of his songs. I was shit-faced drunk one night and I'll never forget it 'cause I don't do stuff drunk -- I'll get high off weed to make music. But I really killed that remix. I've always had in the back of my head that maybe I should drink a few beers in the studio. I'll have to revisit that idea. She was crazy impressed with the remix and I'm still with her to this day."
6. Justin will sing in a British accent
"I'm very heavily influenced by the British early-'90s sound like the Happy Mondays, Oasis, the La's, all that stuff. It was the whole British vocal thing, so kind of singing with a British accent but not really, and the Morrissey thing. I'm from Queens, man, so for me to even try and put on a British accent is kind of comical, but at the same time your voice is an instrument like anything else so if I want to sing in an Irish accent like Bono then I will. I don't think there's any shame in doing that. Madonna was speaking in a British accent at one point and she's from New York! Even Lady Gaga has done a British accent! The accent is just this classic sound in rock, this kind of intellectual edge to the voice and it adds a nostalgic edge to my music."
7. Justin has consumed kegs with Lindsay Lohan
"She was a year older than me. I didn't have a crush on her but she was in 'The Parent Trap,' which was a huge movie so she kind of had this celebrity edge to her already. No one ever knew that it was going to turn into what it turned into for her. I spoke to her a few times and we partied in the woods with her and we all drank kegs. We had the woods near the reservoir and we all used to party there. The Lohan family is a wild family, man -- it's a classic Merrick family!"
8. Justin dreams of writing a classic love ballad
"I'm a huge Peter Gabriel fan, I'm a huge Brian Eno fan, a huge Genesis fan. I wanted to write a huge fuckin' love song, like an '80s love song that would reverberate with people and help people and uplift people. That's really what I'm about with my music."
9. Action Bronson's Blue Chips 2 is coming!
"I love rap and it will always have a place in my heart and I'll always do music with Bronson. We've got Blue Chips 2 coming, it's ridiculous, bro. It's so ridiculous that I don't even wanna go there yet…"
Tough Love is out now via Fool's Gold Records.