It's that time again, the New Columbia Heights Bands in the Neighborhood series. This installment is the Secret Pop Band, a trio featuring a couple of neighborhood residents (16th & Euclid and 14th & Euclid) who both take the CH Metro to work every day. Here's what vocalist and guitarist J. Forte had to say.
How did you all come up with the band name? How did the band form?
A few years ago I put out a solo record called Secret Pop. Ody, Greg and myself were all playing in another fine band, Lejeune, and I drafted the guys to help me play shows to promote the record. For the early shows we were billed as “J. Forté and the Secret Pop Band,” but we’ve since dropped my name – no ego trips here! We’ve been playing together as a trio and working on songs ever since, and recently released our first record as a group.
Do you practice in CH? How about play any gigs in the neighborhood?
We hold what we term as “apartment rock” practices at my place on Euclid in CH. Apartment rock is low-key and low volume – minimal drums, little amps. These get-togethers are great for working on new material and when we need to freshen up a bit for a gig. When we want to make a lot of noise we unfortunately have to make the long trek out to the ‘burbs. Ody used to have full-volume band practices over at 1226 Fairmont – until the police started giving him trouble. We’ve all played at Wonderland with other groups, but Secret Pop Band hasn’t played CH as of yet. Wonderland is definitely a fun place to rock.
What are your band's influences?
Our band influences are pretty varied. I typically think of 60’s and 70’s power pop as having the biggest impact on our sound – bands such as Cheap Trick, the Byrds, the Beach Boys. I also grew up listening to Duran Duran and metal – so I think that seeps into the music in some subtle ways. Greg is a huge Kiss fan, so Peter Criss drum fills pop up here and there. There are also some indie influences – Guided by Voices and Sonic Youth come to mind. We like to think that we take inspiration from the last 40 years of music without necessarily sounding exactly like any one era or band.
Do you have any records out?
In May we released our debut album, Pardon the Solar Interruption. We recorded and mixed the CD with our good friend (+ great engineer) Dave Copeland. It was a pretty DIY affair and I recorded most of the guitars, keyboards and vocals in my apartment – sorry neighbors! We’ve got a number of tunes posted on MySpace.
What's your next show?
We just finished up a string of DC shows, but keep an eye on our Web site for action this fall.
Gone on any tours? Any crazy and terrible tour stories?
Ody and Greg just became dads, so we’ve been keeping it pretty close to home as of late. We did play a gig all the way up in Silver Spring recently, and after the show had the unpleasant surprise of finding Ody’s car mashed by a garbage truck. That’s what we get for leaving the District! When we do play out of town we just get up to the typical rock band high jinks – beer, smoothies, late night chilidogs.
What’s your take on the local music scene, Columbia Heights and DC?
I’ve always felt that the music scene in DC is very healthy. We’re lucky in that there are several places where bands can play original music. There’s a lot of cool music history in DC (Columbia Heights’ legendary Wilson Center for example), so it’s great to be a part of that.
I’ve been in DC for ten years, and in the neighborhood for about five, and it’s a great area. I know the new retail and development in Columbia Heights is a contentious issue, but I’m a big fan. Target and Best Buy are keeping tax dollars in the city, Pete’s Apizza serves an excellent slice, and Commonwealth pour a fine pint (and let us watch tennis).
And if you had to rename your band for something in Columbia Heights, what would it be?
It’s funny, the street where Greg and I both live, Euclid, has a little bit of cache in rock-n-roll. There was a hard rock band in the early 70’s called “Euclid,” and Ody reminded me that there is a Samples tune called “14th and Euclid” – so that’s a Columbia Heights-related band name we could get behind.
Secret Pop Band is J. Forté - Vocals, Guitars, Greg Gendron - Drums, Ody Leonard - Bass
"Sunday's Hard Rock Falls"
"Week Old Beer"
"Your New England Winter"