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Typical “throwing spaghetti at the wall approach” – An Interview with Secrecies

Mixing synth-pop and shoegaze, the new album from Secrecies is a captivating blend of ethereal guitars, synth chords and otherworldly vocals. Out now on Idol Records, Perfect Bite is the sequel to Secrecies’ self-titled debut in 2019, which earned the coveted Best New Artist accolade at the Dallas Observer Music Awards.

With some new band members in an ever-rotating cast of talent, Secrecies is the creation of songwriter, producer and musician Shawn Magill. Across the album’s twelve tracks, which were born during the pandemic, the listener is taken on a sonic journey that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. Opener and Lead Single “Cathedrals” urges you to “Taste it, touch it, feel it, love it, waste it, rush it, need it, prove it tonight” while “its time to let go” on the driving “Game Show”. Other favorites are the title track and “Dance With Me”. You can preorder the limited edition red vinyl of Perfect Bite by visiting the Idol Records Bandcamp page.

We had a chat with Shawn about the new record, its bigger sound and how music inspires her other creative passions.

Hi! How’s everything going right now?
Everything is amazing! I’ve been so overwhelmed with the reception for the new Secrecies singles and live shows, and really excited to have this full album out into the world! It has been a long time coming. I’ve been stunned by how well the Youtube videos are doing as well (each of the first 2 videos has close to 1 Million views!) and reaching people all over the world.

What classic album cover art is your current mood?
Dark Side of the Moon! Always a favorite – I love how simple but powerful the triangle prism and rainbow imagery is.

Loving the new album Perfect Bite which was released on May 17th. When and where did you write and record it?
I wrote it slowly over the 5 years since the first album came out – much of it was actually written just before the pandemic when I was traveling to NY often and many of the songs came about from people-watching and thinking up stories in my head about people. For example, “Perfect Bite” the song is mostly about interactions between people in a bar in lower east side – patrons and bartenders and how they would position themselves in certain good light to look better, or move away from that light to get more moody and intimate. “Are you staying here, or are you lost? What you looking for, can I help you?” Is the bartender talking to random people wandering in… Then during the pandemic, I refined the songs and taught myself to play bass guitar and demo-ed out most of the album, and then added to it a bit more once I started traveling again. After the pandemic I was finally able to get back into the studio with Alex Bhore and polish it and make it really come alive with his creative genius.

It’s almost five years since your self-titled debut came out. Was it a case of “difficult second album syndrome”?
I went through quite a bit of personal upheaval and turmoil and change during that time, which fueled the writing, but then really slowed down the recording process even post-pandemic. These songs were mostly written and demoed 3-4 years ago, it has just taken some time to get them ready to make it out into the world – and it felt better to be patient and take the time they deserved!

The absence of the dual vocals from Secrecies is one way that Perfect Bite is different but it also sounds much bigger as well. Did you originally set out to record it this way or did your new band members affect it in any way?
Working with Alex Bhore was really the game changer for this album. I had worked on some singles with him before, and really wanted to get back to working with him on this album. He has this amazing studio with a treasure trove of instruments, vintage synthesizers, pedals, and gear, and just really gets my sound and vibe I am trying to create. We spent almost a year recording it over time, just going back in and adding more and more layers. Alex and I did most of the playing between the 2 of us, bringing Leah, Dean and Ivan in to bring the sparkle on guitar, percussion, and drums. But all of them have played a ton of live shows with me as well so we’ve had time to really hone our sound. I’ve had a blast playing with Leah over the past few years and she really brings that glamorous bombastic shoegaze sound and we have so much fun together at our live shows (we were also roommates for almost 2 years during all this!). Then the mixing also took some time as we had to take out a lot of what we had put in! Typical “throwing spaghetti at the wall approach” where you don’t want to just leave the messy wall! But, yes I love the bigger sound and how epic it feels – like driving down a desert highway or through a city at night with the windows down and the wind in your hair.

If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
I had to skip this question and come back to it, and I’m still torn. Like, 1 record per day? That would be much better… My favorite vinyl I own and end up pulling out and listening to most often is Tycho’s Awake. It almost always fits my mood whatever that may be, calms me down while at the same time energizing me. So yeah without that one, I’d feel pretty bereft. I also love that he is a visual artist and creates his own artwork and visuals that complement the music so well.

The record blends 90s shoegaze with 80s synth-pop (amongst others) – what were you listening to when you were growing up and wanting to become a musician?
Anything from classical music (I love the Russian romantic composers and was a classical pianist growing up) to rock classics like Pink Floyd, early U2 and Brit-Pop. Then I fell in love with Depeche Mode and New Order, and pretty much listened to Mazzy Star and Fiona Apple on repeat in the 90s.  Then came the obsession with Slowdive, Sonic Youth and the igniting of my love for reverb-drenched guitars – I like a guitar to be swimming!

You’re also a collage artist and designer – does your music influence your art/design in any way?
Absolutely – I create visual art much the same way that I write music – inspiration comes from the world around me and I kind of pull bits and pieces out of the air (or vintage books in the case of visual art) and start working with them and they start falling into place until all of a sudden “It’s a song” or “It’s art” and saying exactly what I need it to say. Art more creates itself than I create it, just by being open and letting things through. All forms of art are an escape for me where I create my own worlds (I also read a lot of Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature!).

Do you have any live shows planned to promote Perfect Bite?
Currently focused on a release show on May 18th, but then planning some touring later in the summer! Alex helped me mix the live set so that I can be flexible with it – bring the whole band, or even tour on my own with all the backing tracks – I’m excited to see where that takes me! Where should I go???

What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
Alfredo sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, green and black olives, artichoke hearts… probably called Shawn’s Special or alternatively – “You can pretend it’s healthy but you’re not fooling anyone.”

What else do you have planned for 2024?
I can’t wait to start demo-ing new songs for Secrecies and planning out the next album. I have tons of ideas (bits and pieces) to draw from! I’m also working on recording a new solo electronic project called “Polarimetry” where I get to play around more with editing in ableton and create a new kind of sound for me. I’d also love to do another piano solo album and a second art show! Maybe not all in 2024…

Secrecies’ new album, Perfect Bite, features band leader and songwriter, Shawn Magill on vocals, bass guitar, and synthesizer as well musicians Alex Bhore on guitar and synthesizer (composer/ producer for HALO video game, prior member of This Will Destroy You), Leah Lane on guitar (of Rosegarden Funeral Party), Dean Adams on percussion (of LoreleiK), and Ivan Beltran on drums (of Only Ever) . The album was produced and engineered by Alex Bhore at Elmwood Recording in Oak Cliff and mastered by Dave Cooley of Elysian Masters in Pasadena, CA. 

In addition to the Secrecies project, Magill is a collage artist, composer, and designer who collaborates with fashion designers and photographers as well as bands, dance companies, theaters, and nonprofits to help them tell their stories. Her work has been seen and heard at various venues, stages, and screens throughout the county, including Theatre Three and Second Thought Theater in Dallas, and the NAMT Festival for new writers in New York. 

You can find out more about Secrecies by visiting their website and follow them on Instagram and Twitter for all the latest news. Also, check out Shawn’s art here.

Feature Image Credit – Vera Hernandez

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