Now two albums old, Bridport-based rockers Secondsmile have established themselves as one of the most underrated bands on the domestic touring circus, with a steadily building fanbase holding them closely to their hearts and outsiders looking in growing increasingly interested. With songs both heavily intricate yet instantly accessible, theirs is a sound well-schooled in past post-punk ways, but incorporating melodies ripe for mainstream absorption. Fans of Minus The Bear and Biffy Clyro, step right up.
2006’s debut album Walk Into The Light And Reach For The Sky (review) got tastebuds tuned to the fivesome’s furious riffing and progressive instrumentation, but it was this year’s sophomore, Years, that saw the band truly recognised as up-and-comers to be taken seriously – a prospect with a real future, rather than just another below-the-radar combo sure to wind up on the fanzine scrapheap. Rock publications weekly and monthly, widely available in all good newsagents, have been won over by the band’s charms, and DiS is no different – find Years given an excellent appraisal here.
On August 30 the five-piece – Ross (vocals, guitar), Fiann (drums), Phillip (bass), Thomas (guitar, vocals) and G (guitar, keys) – play DiS’s monthly DiScover Club at the Notting Hill Arts Club in London; they’re billed between newcomers Brontide (ex-I Was A Cub Scout) and Birmingham quirk-poppers Envy & Other Sins. Get all details on the free-entry afternoon show here. DiScover questions answered by vocalist Ross.
Video: Secondsmile, ‘Astronauts’
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Hola Secondsmile – please introduce yourselves and give us a quick run through of your history to date.
Hello. We are Secondsmile from Bridport in West Dorset. Yes, we speak like farmers, but no, we are not inbred. Myself, Tom and Phil started the band when we were 12 and 13 years old, playing covers by the likes of Stiltskin. Twelve years on we are still plugging away with the help from Thomas James Gale and my brother, Fiann. We have released one EP and two albums and have had the most fun in the whole wide world. We have been all over the world and seen a million faces. We love it.
Your latest album, Years – how do you feel it progresses the band's sound and technical abilities since your debut, Walk Into The Light…?
I feel that is a real album, with real songs that are all very different from each other. That is what an album should be in my opinion. Who wants to listen to songs that sound the same? Not me. The last record was written and recorded in under a year. With this one we spent time making sure we were happy with every song, shaping it over and over.
The new album's been well received too, with many a critic referring to you as one of the country's most underrated acts – is it good to be playing the underdog, or would you really rather the talk transferred into sales and you were able to take things up a few steps?
It's nice to be recognised as an underrated band, but we have been doing this for so long now it would be much nicer to have a stable place in the 'scene'. We want to do this for the rest of our days and we have been touring the toilets for too long. It's time to step it up, to be quite honest. But, with the arrival of new 'buzz' bands every week, it seems we sometimes get left behind. That’s only natural though. We take inspiration from bands like Modest Mouse and Sonic Youth, who were doing it for years and years before they hit the big time. I've started writing for the next record already so we not stopping any time soon.
Are you in a situation presently where 'normal' work needs juggling with live dates and recording time? How easy is it to get a tour organised, and do you find yourselves counting pennies after certain shows?
Yes it is a struggle sometimes, and we literally are, after ever show, counting up our earnings, which doesn’t amount to anything after fuel costs. We drove six hours to Cambridge for a show the other day to find it hadn’t been promoted, and to play in front of two paying people. We got paid eight pounds. It cost us 80 pounds to get there and back. We have always wanted to do this full time, so we will keep trying ‘til it happens.
You'll be touring the continent soon – have you any prior experience of playing overseas, and how does an alt-rock band from Dorset go down amongst our French-speaking neighbours? Are there territories you're really keen to tour that you haven't reached yet, and if so what are you doing to make that dream a reality?
Touring in Europe is amazing. We've been to mainland Europe twice before and Eastern Europe once. The people are so nice over there and the kids just want to watch live music and have a good time. The promoters treat you with respect and everyone is just generally lovely. We have met some amazing people and I can't wait to get back out there! We haven't played in Germany yet, so I'm very keen to do that, and the US would be a dream come true if that were to happen. We are trying to get an American label for Years, so if that happens maybe we can get some shows to promote it. Who knows? We need a nice big American band to take us out. Any offers!?
Video: Secondsmile, ‘Our Great And Secret Show’
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Years is your second LP for Big Scary Monsters (BSM), a label that's been a launch pad for a few acts in the past – does the association fill you with pride, and do you harbour any hopes that maybe it'll get you into enough ears to take that next step. What reservations would you have about signing to a major in the current industry climate, what with album sales on the slide? Is the increasing cost of fuel affecting your ability to play live yet?
BSM is the best indie label in the UK so we are very happy to be a part of the family. We are almost the grandfathers of the family, I guess, as we have been with (label founder) Kevin for about five years now. It has got our music out to people all over the world and has opened so many doors for us for which we are truly thankful. Of course we want to step things up, but like you say, the industry is going through some hard times and we would have to think long and hard if any offers ever did come our way. And yeah, like I said before, touring the UK now is getting much harder because of the fuel prices. The promoters still pay the same so we have to make sure all routes are worked out properly, which sometimes doesn't happen and we lose money.
What can fans of the records who're yet to see you live – but may do so on August 30 – expect from the Secondsmile live experience? Everything set to eleven?
They can expect energy, passion and a whole lot of fun. And ringing in the ears for days after.
I've noted you're handy footballers, via the BSM five-a-side tournament (DiS got thrashed in the annual punk-rock kick-about) – what other non-band pursuits keep Secondsmile entertained when riffs aren't rocking through your brains?
Me and Fiann have a boat and try to get out on the ocean as often as possible. The weather this summer though has been truly awful, so we haven't been out as much as we hoped. We have two lobster pots which we check every couple of days. No lobsters as of yet, though. When we are not playing, we hang out pretty much every day. This town doesn't offer a lot in entertainment so we do go out and paint it red a lot.
If Secondsmile curated an ATP-style festival, who'd you pick as your headliners, and why? Who'd you love to be picked by?
Ahh, good one... Well this is just me, as the others will all have their favourites... Do they have to be alive? If not then there are a couple who would definitely be up there. Jimi Hendrix or Jeff Buckley. Jimi because he is pretty much the best guitarist who ever stepped foot on this planet, and Jeff Buckley as he could have done great, great things if he had lived on. The first time I heard him was a life-changing experience as far as music goes. I would love to be picked by Radiohead, or Smashing Pumpkins. It would be great to hang out in our rusty Transit van with old Yorkey and Corgan, play a round of the Rizla game or something.
A young man passes two nuns and a puppy on the way to his local shops. Both nuns are carrying bags, full of oranges, too many to count, while the puppy has a red leash and yaps in time to Maps & Atlases. How many bananas are there in the whole of Columbia?
I hate bananas, so I don’t care.
Video: Secondsmile, ‘Tell Me A Story’
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See Secondsmile live, for free, on August 30 at the Notting Hill Arts Club, London; doors at 4pm and the show’s open to over-18s only (so bring ID if need be!). Details here. Find the band – to hear songs and check out future tour dates – on MySpace here. Years is out now on Big Scary Monsters.