When I was much, MUCH younger, working my jobs in fastfood so that I could afford to purchase myself those albums, posters and T Shirts that my mom forbade, the term "Secret Shopper" was one that struck fear in the hearts of myself and my coworkers. You never wanted to encounter a "Secret Shopper". A "Secret Shopper" was a spoiler. Someone sent to ruin our good time. Someone who could submit a report that cost you your job. All because you forgot thier sauce, or you didn't upsell! My how times have changed....
My first encounter with the Secret Shoppers was when they played Hard Times, back when it was still a club night. Sexy Josh had suggested we bring them in as one of our featured performers. We did. They were amazing. It took me a good week to get their song "Genie" out of my head. The 2nd time was this past summer during Pride. As most of you know I work closely with Egan Orion of One Degree Events on Seattle PrideFest, on behalf of my collaborative company, Qulture Qreative. This year Egan wanted to open a new stage that was completely dedicated to live music. He asked for my top picks from Seattle Queer musicians for booking the stage, and Secret Shoppers were among the first off my tongue. Their performance, presence and professionalism made me really proud to have been involved in that decision (thanks guys!). The third time was in July when we were both on the bill to play Portland's First Annual Queer Music Fest. During my performance it was incredibly endearing to me to look out among the faces and see the members of Secret Shoppers out there. Clearly supporting and not hating. Great musicians and good people. Two great tastes that taste great together. During their performance, between the chemistry, Evan in his spandex, and that damn "Genie" song (which is clearly my fav), they clinched it for me. I heart the Secret Shoppers. These guys are great. The sky is the limit for them, and I truly mean that. I know I'm gonna book them every chance I get!
Plus, Evan Rodd has, and don't puke when I say this, an "Elvis" like quality. Early Elvis. Elvis joining the military. Not old bloated Elvis overdosing on a toilet. That milky skin and sweet smile. He's gonna need a huge stick to shake all his stalkers off with! He also recently started a new blog, which I would highly suggest checking out:http://diaryofanamateurpopstar.blogspot.com/.
Since this is my blog and it's aptly named with the expectation that you are going to see things through my eyes, I've decided to devote this post to Secret Shoppers. To indulge my obsession. The band was gracious enough to sit down and tolerate my barrage of questions. Read on....
LAK: Who are the Secret Shoppers?
SS: Secret Shoppers are Garrett Vance, Ash Goodwin and Evan Rodd. We play Pop music with strong Shoegaze and Punk/Post-Punk undertones. Our live shows feature a combination of live and electronic instrumentation.
LAK: How did you all come together to make music? Walk me through the evolution of the Secret Shoppers.
Evan: I was playing drums in a band which was starting to wind down. I'd played drums or guitar in bands for years, but had never sang because I was too scared. I started to experiment with electronic music and Pop song structure a lot more, so myself and another member formed Secret Shoppers. After our first guitarist didn't work out, we were in a rush to find someone a month before a big show we had coming up. Garrett and I had been friends for a while, and I knew he was a super talented musician. He subbed in for the show and learned all of our songs almost instantly, and put his own spin on them. I loved working with him so much that we asked him to join the band. A wonderful friend named Stefanie played keys for awhile, but she moved to New York, so I started to play keys. We liked the balance of the two of us and were a duo for awhile, but we knew we could only be better by finding a drummer.
Ash: My old bandmate, Kyle, recommended that I play with Secret Shoppers. He gave Evan my contact info and Evan ended up finding me on Facebook. The three of us meet a few weeks later and I started practicing with them. It was a good fit from the start!
LAK: When and where was your first show, and what was it like for you?
Evan: The first official Secret Shoppers show was at the Rendezvous, before Garrett joined the band but he was present. The second show we played was with Garrett so I'd consider that the real first show. It was a Chop Suey benefit for a local Roller Derby Team, with our friends Nightrain.
Garrett: It was a strange non coalescing melting pot of our friends and a large influx of serious metal heads to see Witch Burn who were also on the bill. They were kinda scratching their heads, perhaps a tad freaked out at our queer little styings.
LAK: My favorite Secret Shoppers song is "Genie". Whenever I hear it I can't get it out of my head for days after, and it's the one I look forward to when I see you perform live. So, I'm curious about the story behind this particular track.
Evan: Genie was the first recorded case of a feral child in the United States. She was discovered by Child Protective Services in 1970 after being locked up in a tiny bedroom for the first 13 years of her life. She was mentally disabled, and her abusive father kept her strapped to a chair, and beat her when she attempted to talk. She never gained linguistic skills and many Social Workers and Psychologists worked with her for a number of years in an attempt to socialize her, and teach her to talk. There's a documentary about her that's pretty easy to find online.
I learned this when I was taking a Sociology class in the context of Primary and Secondary Socialization as well as Deviance and Social Justice politics. I saw Genie as a metaphor for queer people who experience this delayed period of adolescence, so to speak, because they're too scared to express their true feelings or ideas. A lot of us, myself included, enter adulthood and the mainstream gay community and jump straight into unsafe situations and dysfunctional relationships because we deal with so much internalized shame and stigma. Overall, I think it's about how Queer and Radical Feminist Politics ultimately gave me the courage to assume the identity I wanted to in the context of gay culture.
LAK: What would you say your influences are? Both individually and as a group?
Ash: Some of my influences as a drummer are Janet Weiss from Sleater Kinney, Erin Tate from Minus the Bear, and Jason McGerr from Death Cab For Cutie. They all have such great style and I try to incorporate some of those styles in my own playing.
Evan: I think we do a really good job of bringing our influences together, but we have similar tastes a lot. Personally, I'd say one of my biggest influences as a front-person is Kathleen Hanna, hands down. I also love powerhouse, super energetic performers, so Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Beth Ditto, Klaus Nomi, Glenn Danzig, Aaron Behrens, people like that. Really Punk/Post-Punk, Hip-Hop, R'n'B, and Pop are my biggest performance influences.
Garrett: I’m more into atmospheric, shoegaze, dream scape-y stuff.
LAK: You guys have had a busy summer with lots of high profile gigs which included Seattle PrideFest, Portland's First Annual Queer Music Festival and most recently a show with Peaches at Neumo's (congrats on that by the way). How was all of that?
Evan: Thanks! All those shows were so fun to play. Pride was really wonderful, and Portland was one of my favorite audiences so far. So much energy, and a great festival.
Ash: Peaches was an amazing show!
LAK: Do you consider yourself a "queer" band?
Evan: I feel like I would. I think it's important to be open and honest about that, if anything to present visibility. I feel like sometimes gay or queer artists shy away from talking too much about their sexuality or politics, and I think that now more than ever we really need to be open about who we are, and the values that are important to us as a community. Also, no one in the band is straight.
Garrett: We joke about our homo pure-bred ness. It ain't a melting pot up in here!
LAK: Where do you see things headed in the Seattle music scene?
Evan: There's a lot of fantastic Pop music happening right now, and the Punk scene is still going really strong. Something I'm really stoked on is Seattle Hip-Hop, I honestly think that's going to be one of the next big musical exports. The queer dance and DJ scene is starting to blow up, so I can't complain. I sometimes wish that there would be more mixing of genres and audiences, but it's starting to happen.
Garrett: Nightmare Fortress is my current favorite band, they are melodic slightly epic atmospheric goth, right up my alley. And you can dance to it.
LAK: What's next on the agenda for Secret Shoppers?
SS: We're gearing up to record our first official EP, which we'll release with some cool merch we're in the process of designing. We want to continue to play great shows locally, and outside of Seattle more. Start thinking nationally. We have some exciting opportunities we are starting to sort out.
LAK: What would your dream bill to play on look like?
Evan: The Peaches show was kind of a dream bill. More like that would be fab.
Garrett: I just had dinner with Fred Schneider of the B-52s at Queen Sheba on Capitol Hill, then took him to Pony (where else?) to meet Evan. He was the sweetest old southern belle ever, we both did a relatively good job at playing it cool and not falling out of our fucking seats. Though we both had B-52's riffs and funny vocal phrases running through our heads all while hanging out with him. Especially when he started talking about his giant station wagon he drove to do meals on wheels in his youth, it reminded me of the car that's as big as whale that seats about 20. He jokingly remarked about me drinking champagne and adderall after I was talking about my champagne and Aperol drink, it sounded like the lyric to a song. I have not come down from the whole experience and certainly that would be another dream bill.
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