Serenity can be a tough thing to find when you need it in this day and age.
When Strange Glue met up with Southern-England band Secondsmile, it was certainly high on the agenda. After settling upon a table in the local pub, the realisation dawns on us that this conversation will mostly consist of the word "What?" shouted whilst the local DJ churns out the hits.
One great idea and five minutes later and we're safely tucked away in the band's tour-bus. Well, van really, and the conversation can begin.
Now a five piece, Secondsmile comprises siblings Fiann "Serj" Smithwick and Ross Smithwick on the drums and guitar/vocals respectively. Tom Warne joins Ross by providing accompanying guitar and backing vocals. Rounding out the cast is Phil Wrixton on Bass and newest member Tom Gale who adds his unique keyboard and guitar skills to the outfit. Although he is prone to disappearing from the stage from time to time (mostly when they play older songs which the rest of the lads won't teach him how to play).
"It's pretty hard work when you start off as a band," explains Tom W. "We sent CDs to pretty much anyone and everyone. Even getting a gig was quite a slog... Our first proper gig away [from home] was a favour from some friends in Yeovil." Their perseverance did pay off though, and resulted in them getting airplay on the Radio 1 rock show with their two-track demo. A feat which they put down to their producer Mark Williams, "He made us sound a lot better than we actually were... We only had four songs and we were on the radio, it was pretty crazy."
With their profile soaring and having secured a recording contract with Big Scary Monsters, all was looking rosy, but as is often the case, all was not well within the Secondsmile camp. A rift developed which led to lead singer Olly Goodland leaving the band. "It did piss us off a lot," remarks Ross, who ended up taking over vocal duties. "We could have easily got another singer and carried on, but it didn't appeal to us really... I personally didn't want to get someone in. When Olly left, all the trust sort of went... I wouldn't trust anyone except for these four guys," gesturing towards his band-mates.
"It's always been about friends this band, because we live in a small town, it's not like we hand-pick really good musicians from the area. [when Olly left] We got a lot of emails from kids who were like 16, from Kidderminster and shit like that," says Tom W. stressing the word Kidderminster with much disdain. "They were saying 'I wanna be your new vocalist' and it was blatantly not going to work."
Secondsmile make great effort to hide their influences deep within their bowels. "We've never been one of those bands, that you go and see and you can pick two or three bands who they obviously love... If something comes out [during writing] sounding like another band, we're just like 'right, let's get rid of it'." It turns out, that the problem with hiding things deep within your bowels is that they're occasionally prone to escape. Something which Phil now takes the opportunity to illustrate, with smell-o-vision. The feat is greeted with a round of laughter. "Phil's ass, it's like clockwork, it's unbelievable." Tom reveals, "It's the first thing you hear in the morning, and the last thing at night. Phil's nickname is actually 'The Ass'. Which has been mentioned in many interviews before... In fact in nearly every interview we've ever done," And far be it from us to mess with tradition.
One window wind-down later and the boys start to recall their fond memories of life on the road. Tom W. starts the proceedings by offering up this gem. "We were in Latvia with Meet Me In St. Louis and Jairus, the second we were there, we went out drinking all day - instigated by Kev (label owner) I went to bed later on, woke up and I had sick everywhere, obviously, could of choked on it, could of died. These boys came in, pissed up - 'oh there he is' - took a photo and left. So in theory, they might of actually took a picture of my corpse." To which the other Tom chimes in "That would of been great." - "Come to think of it." the protagonist of the story concludes; "That's not really one of MY fondest memories."
"How about 33 hours driving in a frickin' minibus with three other bands. We were just like that," says Serj as he makes a visual illustration by crushing his body to about a quarter it's usual width. "The driver didn't speak a word of English, we just shouted at him, we nicknamed him Barry. He'd never left Latvia before and he drove us through Lithuania and Poland, Slovakia, Hungary. He didn't have a clue, I don't think he even had a map. He was just driving on a straight road." Tom W. takes the story up a notch by adding, "[He was] so fast as well, with the worst overtaking manoeuvres imaginable... There's a big bend coming up on a mountain road, pretty much a right angle and there he is overtaking. We screamed out 'Barry, no!' - We really could of died on that tour."
Which would of been a shame if they had, since this next part wouldn't be especially applicable, as Ross volunteers his thoughts about their upcoming album. "We want our music to be a constant progression... The three or four songs we've written are sort of like a mixture of both releases. They have the energy of the E.P. mixed with the writing maturity of the album... It's a lot more vocal led and We shortened down the songs a bit. On the last album, every song was like 4 or 5 minutes." Stressing the need for constant innovation with the writing process Tom W. retorts "There's nothing worse than a band doing an album, and the next one is like, that album part two... The new songs all sound so much better, I know it's a band cliche, but it's true I promise... [Hence] the rest of this year we won't be doing much gigging, just concentrating on getting this second album finished. Then next year we'll just be touring it."
"We want [the album] to sound as big as possible. Get some different instrumentation on it, some strings and stuff like that." continues Ross, "Maybe a few guests as well, Fred Durst, Chester Bennington." he adds with a knowing smirk. Describing the writing process for the album Tom W. explains "We wrote some of [the new songs] in a church... I bet God was frowning upon us... The things that were said in there. When we first started rehearsing it was like, 'oop, shouldn't say that'. That didn't last long. It was a terrible place to play really. It used to echo for about four hours after you finished playing.... It was like Phil Spector style", he pauses for a few seconds, "only not as good." "When we started playing elsewhere after [the church sessions] it was like 'Wow, we can hear, Oh wait, that [song's] not very good really." adds Serj.
"We're not bothered about being famous, I think our main goal really..." muses Ross, "...is to be able to make a living from Secondsmile. It would be nice to be able to devote all of our time to the band rather than having to go to our nine to five jobs." The guys then describe the wonderful employment opportunities they enjoy on a regular basis. Tom W. starts "I work at a hospital in Bridport, I have to take the dead people off the ward." "That's where he gets his inspiration from." cuts in Phil, "He's a big fan of Type-O negative as well." adds Serj. Ross takes the baton next, "I'm training up to be a chef, it's creative you know, get to knock up some nice little dishes." Onto Serj, "I do landscape gardening, it's nice to be outside on a nice day thinking 'I'm glad i'm working here and not stuck in and office somewhere." "Like Me!" Tom G. cuts in with. "Great Link" the other Tom (W.) comments and Tom G. continues "I'm an administrative assistant for a major money supermarket with petty rules, and soulless managers... Managers who call me gothic and who tell me my hair is no different to some stunning Latvian female who works there. although hers is obviously better managed." Having the final word on employment, Phil comments, "I going to wait 'til I get back off tour and get myself a shiiiiit job." when asked what would happen if his equipment broke down and was in need of replacement he responds with a long pause followed by "It just doesn't"
With that the band set off to prepare themselves for the nights show which showcases a few very promising sounding new tracks. If a picture speaks a thousand words, a sound can speak at least 70 or 80, so have a listen to two tracks kindly provided to us by Big Scary Monsters Recordings. The first, entitled "Smokestacks" is a previously unreleased new track, whilst the second is "Our Great and Secret Show", the lead single from their debut album "Walk Into the Light and Reach for the Sky".
Track 1: Smokestacks
Track 2: Our Great and Secret Show