Band of the Day

2012.08.13

Secret Music

Boisterous synth-pop created with stolen pay phone receivers
I know of a place to go, a secret that you should know. You're never gonna find me. You're never gonna fucking find me!
lyrics from Ghost in the Graveyard

Out of Brooklyn comes Secret Music, a band which, true to its name, reveals little about its antecedents. What is known is that bandmates Daniel Fry and Chase Nicholl met in 2009 through mutual friends. With nothing but a year-old raw Casio keyboard recording, Nicholl demoed an early version of “Top Drop” to Fry. One breakup and one move to New York later, and Secret Music was born. The duo later became roommates and wrote their self-titled debut album while living together. To complete their own unique sound Fry and Nicholl went rogue, stealing payphones off the street to use in their recording. Their LP was produced in part by Ayad Al Adhamy of Passion Pit and released on his label Black Bell Records. The album debuted in March 2012, and the band played SXSW the same month.

Public pay phones are pretty rare sights these days and, thanks to the late-night shenanigans of Secret Music's Chase Nicholl and Daniel Fry, are becoming even rarer. As legend—or at least their press release—has it, the duo stole pay phone receivers one morning in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of central Brooklyn. The receivers were then used in the making of their 2012 self-titled debut album, a 10-song collection that dabbles in everything from lo-fi to synth-pop—the latter thanks in part to Passion Pit's synthmaster Ayad Al Adhamy taking the helm as producer. Opening track “Ghost in the Graveyard” is a total assault of furious punk guitars and distorted vocals, with lyrics touching on the theme of running away (“you're never gonna find me/you're never gonna fuckin' find me!”). Excellently highlighting this theme is a music video that features Ted Batchelor, a Guinness World Record-holder for the longest body burn. It starts with a balding, middle-aged man watching a late-night infomercial seemingly spoofing “The Secret,” with promises of awakening “the voice of your soul.” Inspired by the sentiment, he runs out of his house, puts on a suit, hops over a chain link fence and leaves his mundane suburban life for a Burning Man-esque society in a desert. While a barrage of fireworks is going off, and a wooden structure is burnt to the ground, he's set ablaze—as if to symbolize a complete end to his former life. Alongside the blazing chaos of “Ghost in the Graveyard,” the album has a few songs that seem to highlight the fact that Secret Music's album artwork is comprised of a collage of vintage pinup girls—there's “Top Drop,” “Stripper” and “Floozies.” The latter song starts off with aggressive drumming, colliding with space-age synths and leading up to a heavy metal-inspired guitar solo. With Fry repeating the line “you laugh, you cry” through the distortion of a pay phone receiver, the image of sheer mayhem is completed. On Secret Music's Facebook page, their band motto is listed as “play it loud – bring the noize,” and every single one of the 10 songs on their debut LP proves that they're sticking hard to this motto.