POSTED ON NOVEMBER 14, 2012:
Fan the Flames
The Secret Post reemerges once again and adds to its mystery with Fields of Fire
Back in 2006, a band came to my attention seemingly out of nowhere. Almost like it arrived via time machine, The Secret Post simmered just under the surface of most of the local music scene's consciousness and made an auspicious debut in a club not normally known for hosting live music, The Tulsa Eagle. Unlike anything else Tulsa had produced for 15 years or more, the band delved into gothic post-punk, channeling The Cure, Bauhaus, New Order and Rocket From The Crypt. Just as the band started to gain momentum, however, it disappeared into the shadows.
Such has been the story of The Secret Post: Months of silence, followed by a flurry of activity and yet another sustained silence. Since that debut in 2006, the band has evolved beyond Goth. Yes, it still has distinct post-punk influences, but the group has also incorporated even more influences, from punk to glam and lo-fi garage rock. Every time the band has reemerged, something new has risen to the top and the band's music has taken on new layers and subtleties.
The group has also accumulated an impressive catalogue of songs, but you'd never know it because nothing was ever officially released. That all changes this weekend as The Secret Post reemerges yet again, this time with a new five song EP in hand.
In catching up with front man Zachariah Wiser recently, he admitted to dealing with some frustrations with the band: some of them resulting from what has seemed like a constantly revolving door of cast members and some a result of a local music and club scene that really has no idea what to do or how to respond to a band like The Secret Post.
He also admitted that part of the reason that the band has repeatedly emerged then retreated has been due to membership changes and the commitments of various band members. As frustrating as that might be, however, it has only added to the intrigue and mystery of the band. If nothing else, Wiser and his band mates have achieved something that few other local bands have been able to master: building a sense of anticipation around the group's appearances and leaving audiences wanting more.
With this reemergence, however, The Secret Post promises to leave a more lasting impression. Although you shouldn't expect the group to be playing too frequently in Tulsa and ruining the intrigue, Wiser is preparing to play more often, potentially taking to band to multiple markets and test the waters in St. Louis, Dallas, Austin, Kansas City and elsewhere. And then there's the matter of finally producing a new CD.
Entitled Fields of Fire, the disc contains five tracks that do a fantastic job of summarizing what the The Secret Post is all about. Not nearly as Goth as early incarnations of the band suggested, Wiser and his band mates have taken their post-punk influences and dragged then into the present. If anything, the band straddles a fine line, creating a sound that hints at nostalgia yet remains current at the same time.
Although there are still keyboards in the mix, they don't overtake the songs, keeping the group from being artificially cast as a synth band. Make no mistake: The Secret Post is a rock band, just one with darker influences.
Beyond all else, the songs on the EP reveal show that The Secret Post isn't exactly what you might assume, and it certainly isn't a one trick pony. Yes, the songs are dark and brooding, but instead of revolving around keyboards, or even guitars, the songs on the EP are more rhythmically and melodically oriented, with the instrumentation falling into place to help enhance the song and create a distinct vibe or mood for each track.
Title track Fields of Fire is a great opening track in that it sets the mood for the EP and summarizes not only where the group has been, but where it's going. Don't expect five tracks that sound the same, however, because that's not what the band is about. Instead, the tracks all tie together with a sound and vibe that distinctly says, "Secret Post," yet they all go in different directions, getting almost jittery and dance oriented with "First/Last" and "Unnatural Things" or near melancholy with the more brooding "Motion 17," which is highlighted by an incredibly tasteful and almost Gilmore-esque solo by former guitarist Ryan Wojcik. The real surprise of the disc, however, is "The Alchemist", which shifts in tone and tempo from verse to chorus and back to verse, but somehow works where you think it shouldn't.
When discussing the difference in the songs -- and even more so, the evolution of the band's sound, Wiser admitted, "The Secret Post has always been all over the place, but that's because I don't want to write the same thing over and over. I don't want to be stuck in only one way of writing or doing things and I don't want the band to be seen as strictly one thing. That's why we've been moving away from a Goth sound -- there's a stigma or stereotype that tends to go with it and I really don't want anything to do with it anymore."
Part of the strength of the band at this point comes from the lineup. The Secret Post has always been Zachariah Wiser's project: he writes all of the songs and all of the parts except the drums. The moniker dates back to 2002-2003, as Wiser created The Secret Post and started wit 4-track cassettes as a more post-punk outlet, separate from his more hard rock edged band, Wiseman. Wiser moved back to Oklahoma and arrived in Tulsa in 2006 and by October, the band had been formed and played its first show.
Although the group has weathered membership changes that saw different members come, go, and return, Wiser said that he wouldn't trade any of them as each lineup had its strengths and he learned from each experience. He firmly believes that this is the band's strongest lineup to date, however, as guitarist Aleks "The Myth" Zael is back at lead guitar and Tim DeCastro is back at keyboards. Wiser has been the focal point of the band, but his brother, Nicholas Arena, has been the other consistent factor, staying on at drums throughout the duration of the band's existence. The current group is rounded out by M. Daniels on bass, giving Wiser a strong creative foil and sounding board with the current band roster.
If anything, it certainly seems that The Secret Post has finally found its balance. Aleks Zael has always been a key ingredient in the band's mix and his return has certainly been a rejuvenating factor in the band's reemergence. The return of Tim DeCastro on keys has contributed to the band's chemistry and sense of camaraderie as well. Somehow, amidst all the change, the band has become stronger and more focused.
"This is definitely a different Secret Post," Wiser told me with a laugh when reflecting on the band's past. "We used to just get high and make music -- and fight -- but we're all clean now. Now we all have families and work out and can have intelligent conversations."
While the members have each shed their personal demons on their own, which contributed to the lineup shifts, the band's now drug-free status is undoubtedly what has added to its personal chemistry and focus. To be sure, there's still some chaos and revelry within the ranks -- after all, this is still a rock band -- but it's far less self-destructive than the past and, as a result, you can see a closer bond between the band members.
Even so, don't expect all of the intrigue or mystery of this band to disappear. Although Wiser consistently speaks of plans he has for the future and keeping the band active, I still don't expect we'll see the group saturate the Tulsa market. Instead, my hunch is the band will be playing elsewhere and be very selective in the shows it plays here in town.
That selectivity even extends to the band's CD release party, which will be held this Saturday night, November 17, at The Vanguard. Wiser has hand-picked the opening acts, drawing Kill the Reflection from Oklahoma City to join in the party. "We've played a couple of shows with them in Oklahoma City, so now we want to introduce them to Tulsa. The evening will also include the live debut of Young Lyons, the new band that features John Lyons (formerly of Ziff), along with bassist Paul Cristiano (formerly of RadioRadio) and drummer Kayle Greiman.
Tickets for the show are only $5 at the door and Fields of Fire will be available for only $5 as The Secret Post pulls out all the stops for the release of its debut EP. You'll want to make sure arrive early, though, as the show starts at 8pm, not only to take in a couple of new bands in Kill the Reflection and Young Lyons, but also to make sure you don't miss and extra surprise the Wiser and The Secret Post have planned to make the night complete. If you've followed The Secret Post from the beginning or are just now catching on, this is a show you won't want to miss.
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