Track Premiere: Secret Stuff – “2828”
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Creating music is a very personal experience. Taking the time to pour a piece of yourself into a work of art takes courage and strength. While writing about your problems can alleviate some of the pain, it also immortalizes it. As long as the song exists, you run the risk of reliving those feelings whenever you hear it. But, you may be able to connect with others with your art, helping others along the way. Grappling with these problems is the struggle Tennessee’s Secret Stuff have faced. But today, The Alternative has the pleasure of sharing the band’s latest single, “2828”.
Vocalist Michael Pfohl started Secret Stuff in college after his previous band fell apart. Though frustrated, his drive to pursue music further fueled his new project. With a new band at his side and new music coming together, Secret Stuff was born. The band carry the midwest emo influence with pride. The articulate guitar riffs and Pfohl’s nervous vibrato resulted in an emotional body of work that can find a home in most hearts. The band’s brand of emo tugs at people’s heartstrings like most traditional emo records do: viciously and unapologetically.
2014’s Learning Not to Care introduced many to Pfohl’s lyrical wit. His balance of anecdotal missteps and personal self reflection give Secret Stuff an extra sparkle. Throughout the years, Secret Stuff have allowed themselves to evolve naturally. In 2016, they released This Is Fine, and grew into a sound that felt more like their own. But as Secret Stuff began to grow, Pfohl began facing the same challenges as he had with previous projects. Though the band’s lineup has gone through several iterations, Pfohl stayed determined to make things work. “No one is ever going to care as much about your music as you are and that’s okay,” he said.
Today, Secret Stuff feels stronger than ever as a three-piece. “I think the most distinct part of this current lineup is the fact that I am far and away the worst musician in the band,” he laughed. Drummer Branson Summers and bassist Kris Ward bring a new character and technicality to the band that has opened up the writing process into something more collaborative. “2828” is the band’s first release in nearly two years. The song was recorded in collaboration with the band Square Peg Round Hole last year, but it was originally written in 2016 during a string of Secret Stuff shows Pfohl played by himself. In the days leading up to the tour, Pfohl found himself clearing out his home and storing it away until he gets back.
For three years, Pfohl hosted shows at his house in Nashville, Tennessee. The house, known to many as Exponent Manor, not only hosted over 400 shows in its lifetime, but was also where the band’s entire catalog was written. The memories and emotions attached to Exponent Manor is exactly what made it feel like home. This made the eviction that much more painful. “They laid out this list of demands of things we had to fix in the house to avoid eviction,” says Pfohl. “All seemed right until about a month later when they nailed an eviction notice to our door on Christmas Day.”After disputing the claims against them in court, Pfohl and his roommates were still forced to move out of their home. Immediately after court, Pfohl packed his belongings and locked them away in a storage unit. The next day, he left for tour. The traumatic nature of the event stayed with Pfohl while he was away. Knowing he wasn’t going to be able to return home after tour hurt in a way he couldn’t process easily.
“2828” is an homage to the place Pfohl had called home for so many years. As somber as the verses are, each chorus comes back with a silver lining. There’s an honesty to his words that sinks its nails into the skin. Pfohl’s lyrics scrutinize the smaller details of his experiences. Pfohl’s knack for storytelling has always been an important to Secret Stuff. “Lyrics are the most important thing to me personally when listening to music,” he explains. “So naturally they, are the most important in my songwriting as well.”
As terrifying as the eviction may have been, Pfohl hopes releasing the song will help him begin to make peace with it. Though he is no longer able to call Exponent Manor home, he still has the memories and lessons he learned from his time. “I think the most important thing I took away from my time being so hands-on was the relationships that I built with people,” Pfohl reflects. “I opened up my home and gave people a room where they could be loud and dance and show off the most important thing to them: their art.”
Expect to hear more from Secret Stuff very soon. But until then, catch them on tour this spring with Kayak Jones.
Tour Dates w/ Kayak Jones
5/18 – Akron, OH – Bless This Mess
5/19 – Columbus, OH – Middle Earth
5/20 – Nashville, TN – The Spice Rack
5/21 – Memphis, TN – The Hi Tone
5/22 – St. Louis, MO – FOAM
Yong Los // @yongxlos
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