interview | Tommy Evans of Secret Colours



Photo Courtesy of Secret Colours.

Chicago-based collective Secret Colours brings its own unique flavor to the 1960s psych revival with Positive Distractions, a new two-part album that was created with the intent of provoking audiences. As an independent band, the four-piece has been feeling the growing pains of setting up tours and trying to gain recognition. However, with the group in the midst of an exciting year that has included playing at SXSW and securing an upcoming lineup spot at the Austin Psych Fest, success looks to be on the horizon. We chatted with frontman Tommy Evans about the bureaucracy of touring and his band’s plans for the future.

What are you most excited about for APF? Any bands you want to see?

Definitely want to see Temples. I’ve been listening to that record nonstop. I can’t get it out of my head for some reason. I’m always excited to see the Black Angels. I was really hoping to see Primal Scream this year, but they cancelled their whole North American tour, which was kind of upsetting. It’s always good to see Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. Might try to find some other bands that I haven’t heard of before and check them out too. They always pick good bands at Psych Fest.

Can you describe your experience at SXSW?

It was pretty crazy… a lot more crazy than I remembered it being. I went two years ago and it seemed like there were twice as many people this year. It was pretty hectic. We played some good shows… the Levitation Party was pretty fun. I got to see Damon Albarn and St. Vincent, which was the coolest experience ever. St. Vincent is just an incredible guitar player and is like, my hero, so that was pretty nice. But I was so drunk coming out of that show and then right when I came out there were all these ambulances. I was like, “What is going on?” I don’t know if you heard about the drunk driver killing all those people, but it was pretty intense.

How did you get involved with the festival?

It was just something we wanted to do. Three or so years ago, we were just like, “Oh SXSW… anybody who’s anybody has got to play SXSW.” But the reality of it is that it’s just a clusterfuck of bands and sometimes it feels kind of pointless to go down there because there is so much shit going on. But its always a good time and I think that’s what keeps bringing us back.

Besides APF, are you playing or thinking about playing any other festivals this year? What festival would be number one on your list?

I don’t think we have any lined up at the moment, but I would love to. Local fests around Chicago would be fun. And Lollapalooza, but I don’t think we’re anywhere near that level yet. My dream festival is to play Glastonbury. I would love to go over to England and play Glastonbury. That would be the coolest thing ever.

What is your process for arranging a tour? How do you choose which venues you will play?

We just went on this huge West Coast tour with Sarah Jaffe. It was through a booking agency and kind of a fluke…we just got put on the bill. An East Coast tour we did we booked ourselves and we kind of just tried to find venues and bands to play with. It’s really a hard thing to do, booking a tour, if you don’t have a booking agent. We’re on the prowl for a booking agent right now, so hopefully they will help us out and book an awesome tour. But it’s just really hard for an independent band to book their own tour and make it worth the while.

What’s the toughest part about it?

I feel like venues don’t really listen to you if you’re not repped right. There’s just a lot that goes into it all, including finding other acts to play with you. It would be a lot easier for us if we just jumped on a tour with a bigger band or had a band we knew that was going to go on tour so we could book it together. That way we’d know every show was going to be a good show.

Have you been actively seeking out bands to tour with?

At the moment, we’re kind of working out a plan of attack. We’re still in the brainstorming phase, I guess.

Part I of Positive Distractions is a bit darker while Part II is lighter, more fun and danceable. You have described the two as contrasting light and dark. Was this contrast intentional?

I wanted to make a ‘part one’ and ‘part two’ kind of thing and then bring it together as one full album, releasing the parts separately on digital formats and then Positive Distractions as a continuous chronological flow of negative and positive energy. We didn’t know what order the songs were going to be in when we recorded them, but after recording we felt how the record should flow and it just felt right.

Did you write and record the two parts separately?

We did 12 songs in 11 days. We recorded two up here in Chicago and then did the other 10 in Texas with the same guy, Dan Duszunski. He’s awesome. We went to this ranch in the middle of nowhere, so we got to hang out, camp and record a record, which was fantastic.

While you’re recording, are you also thinking about how you would perform the material live? Or do you keep the two processes completely separate and work it out after?

We were a lot more conscious on this record about how it would translate live. You couldn’t really move or dance that well to our previous record and we wanted to make sure that when we played these songs live it would be more energetic, so people could get into it.

Can you describe your live shows?

It’s different every time. Sometimes we have four members, sometimes we have five. At Psych Fest, we’re going to have seven people onstage doing different things because I think Dan (Duszunski) and his wife Emily are going to play with us. She actually sang on Positive Distractions as well.

What about the visuals on stage?

Typically we have whatever lights there are at the venue. We would like to expand upon our live show in the future, but for now we are just trying to get our songs tight and make sure the music is there.I definitely want to get into more visuals and projection mapping stuff. I really like Rob Sheridan and what he does for Nine Inch Nails. All the stuff they do is incredible. I like overlaying projections and getting projection feedback, so I’d like to get into that.

Have you guys been working on a new album?

Not a new album, but we have ideas floating around. We always have new ideas. Our guitarist Mike Novak has been coming up with a lot of riffs that will turn into full songs. I’ve been writing some stuff and I know our bass player Eric (Hehr) has demos. So we would have enough material if we sat down and put it together, but I think we’re going to focus on Positive Distractions for a bit longer before we do that.


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