How was the band chronologically assembled? Under what circumstances?
Mark and I were in a band called The Human Record which then eventually became We Are The Living . Mark and I played guitar and Matt played bass. At first our friend Phil Koske played drums but then he moved to Austin. He was hard to replace but Matt’s brother Jared just jumped right in. The Haddon brothers (Jared, Matt, and Nathan) are some of the most talented musicians in Baton Rouge). We Are the Living had more of a Small Brown Bike vibe meets Explosions in the Sky thing going on with a lot of instrumental epic parts and everyone sang.
As we kept playing together Jared was not as into it and moved away. Matt decided he wanted to play drums and I went back to my first instrument on bass which was exciting and challenging for me. I never felt comfortable playing guitar. I always felt like I was holding Mark and his amazing gift back by playing second guitar. After the three of us got together a few times it just became natural. Our first song we wrote was “Boulder” and then “Volume Diss-course”.
Why the name, SECRET SMOKER?
We all have jobs and lives and this band is kind of a cathartic release from our day to day lives. At the same time people I work with don’t have any idea what hardcore or emo is and it is kind of embarrassing, I guess. We need this though. It is like breathing to us. It is like a secret double life we live. But it was even that thought out really. I think Matt blurted it out when we were brainstorming and we thought it was funny so it stuck.
What side-projects and/or offshoots have the band members taken part in?
I have been doing some solo acoustic stuff and Matt is always playing with different bands in and out. (Billy’s solo stuff is linked here)
What bands have most directly influenced SECRET SMOKER’s songs over the years?
We share many of the same classics from the 90’s punk and hardcore era . We all love Avail, Lifetime, Small Brown Bike and old Hot Water Music stuff. Mark and I used to do a distro with No Idea so we loved all the stuff they were doing. Mark and I also really dig bands like 400 Years, Sleepytime Trio and Engine Down. I grew up in Northern Virginia and love all the Dischord records stuff like Hoover, Fugazi, The Crown Hate Ruin and so many more. It just seems like this list could grow for ever. I also love Admiral and Navio Forge, the 1.6 Band, Circus Lupus and Monorchid so much. There is just so much good stuff out there. But it is not just limited to hardcore punk for us. We love all kinds of music
You have some new material coming up, specifically the Alarms And Controls split 7”. What can you tell us about those 4 songs?
We are very excited about it. The guys in A&C are heroes of mine. The drummer Vin Novara is probably one of my favorite drummers of all time. He was in The 1.6 Band and the Crown Hate Ruin. The Crownhate Ruin also featured Joe McRedmond from Hoover and Admiral and Fred Erskine from Hoover and June of 44. Vin changed the way I listened to drums. Chris Hadley plays guitar in A&C and is just brilliant. His vocals and guitar work are profound, unravelling puzzles. The way he plays has this perfect synergy. It is like his guitar parts and vocals speak the same language. What also strikes me about his style is that its complex but not zealous or pretentious…it is so natural to him. I love what they do. Michael Honch is playing bass on the 7” and he is an incredible bassist that I admire greatly. He has another band called Argos which is instrumental bass stuff. They have an LP out on Dischord called Clovis Points out which was recorded by J. Robbins of Jawbox and Burning Airlines. When I approached Vin about doing the split and he was into it I almost fainted. These bands are so important to me and to be able to collaborate is incredible.
Have your recording experiences differed? If so, how?
We have been recording ourselves for almost as long as I can remember. When Mark and I did the Human Record forever ago we had our friend Fred Weaver record our stuff. He is very talented as well. We did it on 2” reel to reel and I loved the warmth of the sound. He has recorded some of my favorite records by Ethel Meserve and Spirit Assembly, too. He also toured with Don Caballero and Mono who are incredible.
What has been the most difficult song to write? The easiest?
Most songs are happy accidents. We record practice on Mark cell phone to come up with collaborative ideas. Somehow we hammer out songs this way. When it get frustrating just we step away from it. Stress is not good for us and usually when we come back to it we are able to communicate better and get the song written.
Which bands would you recommend checking out?
All of them. Listen to everything open and without ego. If you don’t like it now, come back to it later and retry. I still shudder to think that I missed so many great records when I was younger because I wanted them to fit into what I wanted at that time. This was great a mistake for me when I was young. I wanted music to reflect who I was which is a consumerist self centered unenlightened vacuum. There is no change or dynamic when one approaches music that way. Now I try listen to everything open. There is no product identity associated with it. There is no genre identity attached to it. My preferences are always changing. I like honest music.
How do you find out about new music?
From people like you and other friends.
What were you like in high school?
I was and am still a nerd. I was president of the vegetarian club and took all the hardest classes. I ran cross country and skateboarded every day.
Describe yourself now?
I am still the same kid.
Tell us about the guy who was trying to rob someone and how you talked him down and then he gave you a hug after you gave him a bottle of water, or something along those lines.
I was at a parade with my wife and a bunch of friends. I saw a guy walking in front of me stop and look at a purse on the ground behind a couple standing there. We kept going and I just got this weird feeling he was going to grab it. I turned around and just kind of caught him off guard as he was walking away with the stolen bag. I said very calmly and firmly, “Hey man, that is not yours just put it back.” He looked like a deer caught in the headlights and just put it down. Later on I saw him sitting on a bench with his head between his knees. I could tell he was affected by guilt. I went up to him and gave him a bottle of water and some money. I told him this was not some kind of spiritual witnessing thing and I could just tell he wanted to be a good dude. I told him he did the right thing and gave him a hug.
What are your future plans, short and/or long term?
Keep playing music until this hungry ghost has been satiated.
What is the most frustrating thing about the "music industry", in your opinion?
The fact that is an industry. I really have nothing to do with any sort of music industry. If that is what a person wants to be involved with I hope they find happiness and satisfaction with it. It does not affect anything I do. I am neutral to it.
Do you find it hard to balance objectivity with emotion when listening to/playing/talking about music?
What is your biggest accomplishment? Biggest regret?
For me, my family is quite an accomplishment. I am amazed that we are able to function and survive. I have no regrets.
What bring you the most joy, these days?
Just about everything. Laughing is good. I try not to take anything too seriously, especially myself.
Has anything made you question your faith in humanity?
Nope. People are all on different paths in life. We all manage and suffer with our insecurities in different ways by feeding desire. This is not new. I just try to understand and find empathy and common ground.
You have kids, is it difficult to balance music, work and children?
Nope. They don’t want to join my band.
What would you say to people who claim that you can’t be punk rock at 30 with kids?
Maybe they cannot but we can. Why couldn’t you.
I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what I should and shouldn’t tell my child. For example, should I promote the belief in ficitional characters, such as Santa Claus? When should I tell my child that the world is absolutely fucked and grownups are ass-backwards?
Tell them when it is appropriate. My son Milo found out most of this stuff on his own.
Is there a song that you feel encapsulates SECRET SMOKER as a band?
Yes, the next song we write and then the one after that and then the one after that and so on.
What music that you used to love do you look back on and shake your head at now, if any?
If anything I wish I had been more open to different kinds of stuff when I was younger. When I was a teenager I liked a lot of pop punk and hardcore and if it was anything else I did not give it the time of day. Huge mistake.
Besides music, what do you spend your time doing? What are your hobbies?
I love gardening and doing the dishes.
Can you reveal anything interesting about the other band members?
Mark is an incredible artist and does all of our artwork. Matt is an amazing carpenter. He made his drums from scratch. Both dudes are very inspiring. We are all still really good skateboarders.
Be sure to grab Terminal Architecture here!