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Partition queers cowboy culture and Catholicism on 'Prodigal Gun'

Partition

Partition Aiden James Film

Taylor Nice slinks through the door of Carma Coffee looking like something John Waters might doodle on a napkin.

The Virginia transplant wears a highlighter-pink teddy jacket, their hair done up in two peroxide-blond antennae. Nice downed four cups of coffee before arriving and crests with nervous determination. They’ve reached a personal apex, and they’ve got the rhinestones on their eyelids to prove it.

“I had this book of mine from when I was like three years old, and in it I said I wanted to be a rock star,” Nice says. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s always been a confidence thing. It just felt like maybe I wasn’t good enough. But the more I kept doing it, the more I was like, ‘This is what I’m supposed to do.’”

When Nice founded Partition in 2014 it was just them and their bass, setting poems to music in their bedroom. It would take five cities, some luck, and two stints in rehab before those songs came to their full form, but on January 14, Nice finally released Partition’s debut LP, Prodigal Gun. Next Tuesday, they’ll celebrate the half-decade triumph-in-the-making at the 7th St. Entry.

“Through my sobriety and drug addiction, I’ve just been trying to have this done,” Nice says. “It’s kinda crazy to actually manifest it.”

Nice wears a gilded mare charm on a necklace, and there’s a horseshoe tattooed on their left knuckle. These ambivalent homages to their life growing up in Virginia invoke their troubled relationship with their father, a horse trainer. Prodigal Gun has nothing good to say about that man, who’s renounced outright on “Cowboy Mouth,” but he’s still an indelible part of who Nice has become.

“My dad is a bad person—an alcoholic, he’s abusive to my mom, and just the biggest narcissist,” Nice says. “I just felt like if I ever did something wrong, it was the part of me that was him.”

The relationship poisoned Nice’s view of masculinity, as did the experience of growing up trans in a rural town. They knew they wanted to make music, but they thought only boys could play guitar, and they knew they weren’t a boy. Nice didn’t find the confidence to join a band till a new toxic male figure entered their life: their high school boyfriend.

“I started doing drugs with the boyfriend who most of these songs are about, Partition’s original guitar player,” they say. “When we broke up, to fill the void, I started doing drugs a lot.”

Several lyrics on Prodigal Gun address Nice’s addiction. On opener “Drugstore Anthem,” they bleat, “I am always starving, so take me to the drug store/But I’ve got no money ’cause I always score.” The album’s bleakest chapter, “Why Did He Lie?,” painfully relives Nice’s first overdose.

Drugs became a crutch to help Nice deal with the breakup as well as deeper, unresolved traumas. They were homeless. They did sex work to score. And despite getting A’s at Virginia Commonwealth University, they dropped out a semester shy of graduation.

Soon after, Nice contracted a vicious infection from shooting up into their wrist. Their left hand swelled to the size of a baseball mitt and almost had to be amputated. They tried rehab in Kentucky in 2017, but it didn’t stick. Nice found themselves at a crossroads and realized that, if they ever wanted to fulfill the ambition of their three-year-old self, they’d have to be clearheaded and sober.

“It just got to a point where I was either gonna kill myself or try to actually follow my dreams,” Nice says. “I’ve been trying to follow my dreams ever since.”

Nice’s right thumb traces a cross embossed on a ring on their middle finger. They seem almost nervous to touch it. This is another relic of Nice’s past, this one representing their Catholic mother.

Nice’s mom was the reason why, in 2018, they gave rehab another shot, in Nashville this time—the single “Get Clean” repeats the mantra “Get clean for mama, I will.” Nice is now sober, happy, and living in north Minneapolis with a functioning band and an audacious wardrobe.

“I used to just hate all the Catholic and cowboy stuff, because it represented everything I wasn’t,” Nice says. “Now I’ve embraced it as part of my past, and I’m making it my own.”

With Partition, Nice reclaims their past by queering the things that rejected them. The cover art for Prodigal Gun is an image Nice conceived of a half-decade ago: the Virgin Mary (portrayed by trans musician Evyn Komstadius) cradling a rifle as if it were Christ.

“My family is Catholic, and then there’s rednecks and guns, and I like to queer that,” Nice says. “There’s so much homophobia in those things, and I want to make the ultimate perversion of what those people hold dear.”

Partition is in its fourth or fifth lineup by now, gigging and recording the most professionally fleshed-out music of its fraught existence, thanks in part to Seth Jaques, the first reliable guitarist Nice has ever had. But Partition would never have even made it to this point without drummer Evan Thomas Blasing.

Blasing met Nice through a series of Instagram comments in 2010 when both were 15 years old. They wrote longing posts on Tumblr about each other, separated by 1,500 miles.

“We both liked Nirvana,” Blasing remembers. “I showed them Pixies, Modern Lovers, a bunch of cool bands from back then. I knew we always had that, even if we weren’t talking so much. I knew that we’d be a good band before it even came together.”

In 2018, Nice was in a California sober living facility, plotting, along with their current boyfriend, to move Partition out to Detroit. Nice asked Blasing to move with them, and the drummer half-agreed, but the boyfriend’s drinking problem interfered with this plan.

Blasing had another idea, and they struck a deal: Nice would buy the flight, he’d pay for the bags, and once settled in Minnesota, Partition would be reborn as a two-piece.

Nice found a job with free housing on a horse farm in Webster; Blasing would drive an hour south to pick them up, bring them to Minneapolis, then drop them back off when they were through. Soon after, Nice and Blasing moved into former DIY space Paper House, where they met Jaques after a gig, and Partition became a trio.

“I remember being 17 and fantasizing about you being my drummer,” Nice tells Blasing. “I never thought it would happen. Now, we got a cat.”

But don’t think this is a happy ending. Nice is more stable and actualized than ever, but there’s still a lot of work to do now that the record is pressed. Prodigal Gun signs off with “Freudian Slip,” a crystalized trauma nightmare that culminates in 12 seconds of banshee screams.

“When I perform, I turn my skin inside out and just cut open my veins,” Nice says. “I have to bring myself back to those points. I have to think about this stuff. It’s my life, and it’s real.”

Partition
With: Harper’s Jar, Gramma, In Lieu
Where: 7th St. Entry
When: 7:30 p.m. Tues. Jan. 21
Tickets: 18+, $10; more info here