Interview: Keep It A Secret

Keep it a Secret

Recently I was able to catch up with the band Keep It A Secret before they released their latest single, “Middle With My Thumbs Up.” In this Zoom interview, I asked each of the band members about their core influences, their dream show on what bands they think they would be best to open for, as well as some of the back story on how they became the band they are today. The band has been steadily releasing new material, and is considering an EP at some point soon.

So first of all, thank you again guys for connecting with me today! I’m really enjoying the new single that’s supposed to be coming out relatively soon, for “Middle With My Thumbs Up.” Can you expand on the lyrical material for the song that appears to be about a lost love?

JT (Vocals): It’s a bit more heavy of a song emotionally and everything, and it’s actually based off of one of Jorge’s relationships, because I’m a married guy, so I don’t have too many crazy things happening…but the song basically delves into that sense of loss that you have. And really not just relationships but just the sense of loss and working your way through that idea that it’s not the end of the world. Like, things move on, life still happens, and even the title “Middle with my Thumbs Up” was Jeremy and I’s idea that we came up with while watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It was just the idea of Danny DeVito’s character, on the billboard, where he just wanted to have him in the middle with his thumbs up. So that just kind of carried over to just keeping that dichotic look at it, where it’s sad, but it can still be happy.

How did the song structure come about? And Jorge, can you talk a little bit about that?

Jorge (Bass): This song was actually Jeremy’s brainchild. He wrote that one. I just laid down my bass on it. But this specific song Jeremy brought to the table, and we all loved it. It was around the time that the band was kind of evolving, because the last four songs that we did not include the Dua Lipa cover was just me, JT and the producer. Because Mike and Jeremy were not in the band at the time. So this was like the first song that we were all together. We were able to incorporate Mike and Jeremy into it. And having this be Jeremy’s brainchild, and just seeing where it came from, and how it came to be is really cool. But this question is probably better suited for Jeremy since he mostly put the song instruments together.

Jeremy (Guitar): Yeah, I just wrote the opening riff really and it has just a really cool ascending chord structure going on. And it kind of just wrote itself, very simple. I’m used to writing, but sometimes it’s hard for us. I write more on the progressive side. But this one came together in about 20 minutes.

That’s awesome. Sometimes the quickest songs <that are written> end up being one of the singles. Mike, what was your impression of the song?

Mike (Drums): The first time I heard it, I honestly fell in love with it just because there’s so much emotion behind it. And as soon as you kind of get a feeling for that, I feel like everyone’s gonna love that song.

Yeah, it’s definitely a good choice of a single. Can you tell me about the material you guys have all been working on lately? I understand there’s probably going to be an EP, or maybe more coming out.

JT: We have probably around what guys, like 10 to 15 demos? Just all in various stages of pre-production. But since we’re an independent band, we’ve just been releasing everything as singles, because it is almost easier to do the marketing, and just release stuff that way. It’s very difficult to get people’s attention nowadays, especially with how quick media moves. So to add your 12 songs all at once, you kind of get more feedback and see the response from fans, and fellow musicians even. The best way to see how a song did, instead of just releasing everything as a single, is probably what we’re gonna keep doing for a little while. Until we have enough material to just maybe put one label on it, and release it together.

How do you stay engaged with the fans? Is it mostly through social media? Or if you want feedback on a new song, do you have a trusted friend?

JT: A little bit of both…I would say Jorge is our social butterfly. He’s the guy who really networks with everybody, and when we go out to places he already knows like 50 of the 60 people there. But yeah, we all kind of run everything through each other because we all come from slightly different backgrounds, musically. Jorge and Mike are both more of the heavy metal type of background, or post-hardcore as well. Jeremy and I both do more progressive stuff, so just the litmus test within that already kind of gives us a good amount of feedback. But then, of course, we have our close friends that we send songs to to ask, does it suck?

And with “Thumbs in the Middle,” you kind of get that litmus test, as you go through different material. And it’s good that you guys keep releasing singles because it definitely keeps the interest high in your band. What’s your band’s songwriting process, and what challenges did you face during the pandemic? I know we’re all connected through Zoom from four different rooms right now, so what do you all do to hash things out?

JT: Usually we get together if Jeremy has an idea, and they’ll come by. He lives in Tampa, where the rest of us are in Orlando. So he’ll come out and just track some stuff, and then we’ll all just work on it once he goes home. Or Jorge and I will watch a lot of “How I Met Your Mother” or “Californication.” It’s mostly just because we’re all bros and like to hang out together just to have fun. And so that’s where our writing tries to come from, and that’s pretty much how it’s gone so far.

Okay, and how’d you guys all get together as far as forming this band?

Jorge: I came from a previous project at the time. I was coming home from this tour, and I ended up leaving that project, and then I just wanted to try something new, because I did have more of a heavier background. And then locally through Facebook and social media, I was putting out demos through SoundCloud saying I’m looking for a vocalist that’s interested in singing this kind of style. JT sent me an email, and we linked up. Then when we were in the studio, probably about two to three weeks later, we were recording the EP over at the Audio Compound. Then Jeremy came in right after and we had a couple of different member changes, but we solidified it with Mike on drums, and then ever since we’ve just been playing music, writing music, and a couple shows here and there. But it was the inception of me and JT’s brainchild, but now it’s all four of us, and it’s awesome because now we have four different creative inputs. We’re all so different when it comes to music. I like hair metal and the Backstreet Boys and Mike likes Wage War, and heavy stuff. Jeremy likes progressive rock, and so does JT, so it’s just really cool just to have all of our ideas come together, because we really do like to try to incorporate unique sounds into a genre that can be very overplayed.

Yeah, it’s kind of cool to hear like the pop background, and then also the metal that you’re talking about mixed into just the small snippets that I’ve heard of your guys’ sound so far. It seems to be working out pretty well, and I appreciate what you guys are doing for the genre that seems to be kind of blurring lines…It kind of crosses over several different genres…

JT: That was super important to us. And especially being independent, doing what we want, we want to continue to sort of be surprising with what we do. We don’t want to necessarily stay there. We’ve had our first single with a pretty classic, pop-punk type of sound. And then this song is much more of a post-hardcore almost like old Underoath vibes. And so we just want to maintain the ability to put out a pop song or a piano ballad. Then do a heavy song, just because. And hopefully, we’ll be able to explore it as we go.

Yeah, definitely. It seems like interest is high as far as releasing different styles, and things like that. So, how would you describe your guys’ live performances? You mentioned that you played a couple shows recently, so how was the reaction to the new material?

Mike: I think as a whole, when we all come together and we play a live show, our viewers listen to all the stuff that we put out there that’s very musically emotional, and very touching to their personal views of that song. And when we get on stage, we all kind of blend because we all come from different backgrounds. We all get on stage and we’re putting all our personalities together. It’s like you get to meet everyone, each and every one of the members of the band for what we are…

JT: Knuckleheads! <Laughter>

<Laughter> But you sound good together! And hopefully nobody’s booed you off stage, or thrown anything besides female clothing or anything like that! <Laughter> So what are some of your core musical influences that you’ve brought into this band?

JT: I mean really for this band, you can kind of hear it in “Middle with My Thumbs Up,” but just like Underoath’s They’re Only Chasing Safety, it was a really good vibe for me. 

Jorge: We kind of brushed up a little bit on this earlier but when I was growing up, my mother always had music playing in the house. Everything from the Bee Gees to Michael Jackson to Bon Jovi and stuff like that. So when I write, even though I’m mostly a guitar player, I’m a rhythm guitar player. I like chord progressions, and I like catchy vocals, but I also like emotional vocals. So what I like about this band specifically is JT is the first vocalist that I’ve been able to work with. He’s actually really let me help him kind of write the melodies and stuff like that. So most of my background just comes from wanting something that’s going to connect with the listener, but I also want it to be catchy, so that way even if you can take anything away from a song, whether it’s a synth part or the chorus that caught your eye, or that guitar riff or whatever the lyric that JT was saying….Even if it’s a small thing that you can take away from the song, that’s cool with me. So a lot of just popular music, but mostly 80’s hair metal would be my main one.

Nice! How about you, Mike. What do you cut your teeth to?

Mike: I think for this example, “Middle with my Thumbs Up” is probably the first track that me and Jeremy were actually putting our influence on. So I think for me personally, I tried to go more with a classical jazz style. Because in that type of frame of mind, when you’re playing jazz, or even funk for that matter, you want to make sure that every part that you play is different that way. That it’s not the same thing, and even though it’s simple, it’s different. And it keeps the listener entertained and has replay value.

That’s awesome to hear. I understand that you released a fun cover of Dua Lipa’s “We’re Good.” I caught that on Apple Music today, and I thought that it was awesome. What inspired this version of the popular song?

JT: What we were talking about before, Jorge was literally on the way over to just come hang out with me and jam a little bit, but mostly hang out and then in the car on the way, he said, “I have an idea…” It was a fun one. We got to drop B tuning and that just was more fun to just get a little heavy.

Jorge: It was one of those moments where a deep hangover was hitting it. And the song came on my Spotify shuffle, and I love Dua Lipa, but I guess she did a re-release of her latest record. And that was one of the newer songs on there. And I heard it, and the song isn’t heavy, it’s poppy, but we wanted to give this a chance to maybe try some avenues that we haven’t yet. Because the last release of the four songs that we did were really heavy, and we didn’t really scream much when we did them. They’re so blended in the mix because we didn’t want to be that kind of band at the time. So with this song, it really did give us the opportunity to kind of experiment with just a more heavier side of us. So that cover was really cool because it gave us the opportunity just to try different styles and elements into it. And so far the response has been great. And I’m excited to do maybe more Dua Lipa songs in the future if the guys are up for it. It was a lot of fun, and I’m glad the guys kind of trusted my gut on that one.

And especially for bands that are just starting out, a cool cover can go a long way. I mean you see what it did for bands like Alien Ant Farm with “Smooth Criminal.” It just blew up, so you never know what’s going to hit somebody’s ears and make them say, “Oh, I gotta check this band out because they did this!”  But it sounds like you guys get along for the most part at this point. I mean, obviously every band has their ups and downs, but it seems like you guys have a pretty eclectic group of individuals that makes this work. So the last question I have for you is if you were to choose the perfect band, either past or present, to open up for…what band would it be, and what do you think Keep It A Secret would add to that show?

Jorge: I would love to start. I’m gonna say this, because it’s the one that I hear all the time. But I think it would be really awesome for us to open up for Coheed & Cambria because we get a lot of similarities with JT’s vocals and the one thing that I think that will kind of win over their crowd is that. I’m not just saying this because I play in a band with him, but JT is phenomenal. You’ll hear the song and he sounds close to, if not exactly like, the songs within the recording. So I think that just having a vocalist that can have a similar flair as Claudio but also have the ability to really pull off all the vocal intensity that he’s putting into the song. I think that would blow people away. And there are certain parts where JT is saying really specific things about getting through this difficult time, but I think he’d be awesome with an audience like Coheed & Cambria, where they write those songs based on the comic books. They really will take away a really positive thing from just the vocal delivery that we can bring.

JT: Coheed would just be awesome, because as we get that <comparison> every time. I also think Sleeping with Sirens would be a pretty fun one, too, just because Kellin Quinn is just an incredible vocalist. And every song from start to finish is just a sprint of awesomeness. And it would be fun to try to match that energy and just see how that would go.

Jeremy: I would say it’s a tie between us because I feel like we have similar energy with them at least like with their earlier stuff. And then maybe At The Drive-In because I’m a nerd for them so it’d be tough to play with them.

Yeah, I love The Mars Volta too. Those guys are just musical geniuses.

Mike: So I want to say I’m kind of torn between two right now. So I feel like both of them kind of stand for the same reason, though. So if we were to play a show, I would say Hail The Sun, and probably Beartooth. The reason why is because both of these bands have so much versatility in the styles that they write. It’s kind of a mash-up of so many different genres. But their latest album has a vast majority of different styles that I think we would definitely blend well with.

Great answers, fellas! And I’m glad that you each had different answers, or that would’ve been really boring. <Laughter> Have a great night!

Thanks, Adam!