One of my favorite under the radar finds this year has to be the grooving, vibey Secret American. They dropped Warmth and Shelter in the first part of this year, a layered gem consisting of 10 tracks pulling from a deck of surf rock, indie soul, retro sound cards that somehow manage to sound fresh and contemporary.
The project was sparked by long time friends Derek Kryzwicki and Todd Mecaughey, with Mecaughey claiming the band’s name comes from being simultaneously proud and ashamed to be American. He told me, “I don’t have many music boundaries but this record has influences like Motown/Americana/Indie/ Pop.” Truly each song could stand on its own without feeling like they are duplicating the same sound for each track. This seven piece band, fronted by the enigmatic Kryzwicki, imbibes a fluid and funky atmosphere. My friend describes the band as being “one big group hug”. You get the feeling they are actually having fun playing their music, an exceedingly rare trait in today’s gritted-teeth white indie landscape, and the feeling bleeds through on a record designed simply to have listeners dig it. Another interesting aspect is that 6 of the members live in Philly while Kryzwicki resides in California. This blend of East and West Coast vibes pushes and pulls the music in unusual directions throughout the tracks.
Krzywicki states that the song “Why Believe” was born of the current political climate. “Though rich in sunny California vibes, it’s blood is pure Philadelphian.” While the vibe is breezy and insouciant, the lyrics tackle losing hope but trying to remain positive. “Too poor to retire / Too young to die”. The “Why Believe” video is joy-inducing. You can’t help but smile as Krzywicki hits an imaginary baseball and goofily runs the bases. The title track opens with a catchy riff that unspools into atmospheric layered guitars. “Give Me Warmth and Shelter” details an emerging romance where all he needs is the other person and warmth and shelter, a self-described love song that feels like a picnic in the countryside on a perfect Saturday afternoon. “Bang Bang” is a funky tune about sexual tension. “I want you to blow my head off / Right between the eyes / Bang bang bang”. Heavy use of twangy guitars and the crisp tambourines makes this a definite favorite on the album for me. “Amen California” rests its golden head firmly on a Southern Cali ’60s denim pillow. With vocals rich in gutsiness, Krzywicki slows down this jam to let you know he wants to be reborn in California, his voice paired with the warm acoustic guitar tones in a retro, but not tired, way.
I came across a YouTube video of one of their most recent live events. It gives you insight into why you need to see them live. The band plays with 2 guitars, a bass, a mini keyboard, a drumset, and Krzwicki who acts as his instrument as he busts his reptilian dance moves. Katie Frank on the keys, all flowing blonde hair, keeps the edges colored nicely. Krzywicki cuts a lanky figure in denim and flannel, writhing around barefoot like Chris Robinson once dared to do in the “Remedy” video in the heart of the grunge 90s. This band seems almost as out of place now as the Black Crowes were in their day. Their unabashed retro feel leans far from the ’80s (which have been back in style longer than the actual ’80s), goin’ on up the country to the optimist meadows of the Summer Of Love. Secret American is the band we all need right now.