Since Dashboard Confessional, Matchbox Twenty, and Modest Mouse hit the airwaves in 2000 and brought emo, indie rock, and alternative into the new century, I’ve been searching for the band that would one day successfully blend the ideal mix of emo, indie, rock, and alternative into one album. Low and behold, as of last week, my wait will has been well rewarded. Secret Space, hailing from Toledo, Ohio, released their debut album, The Window Room, on June 17, 2016.
Drawing from the best of the 90’s and current trends in the indie rock world, Secret Space carves out their own space amidst a plethora of great music being made in a similar vein today.
Memorable melodies, approachable lyrics, and a moving and cohesive whole makes for a tight record well-deserving of many listens from this year on. I caught up with Dean Tartiglia (lead vocals and guitar) to talk about the band, their debut full-lenth album, and what events inspired both to exist.
Secret Space pretty much started when my two best friends and I started jamming together about a year and a half ago, after all our other musical projects fell apart and we didn’t think we’d ever be in a serious band again. Then very quickly we got signed to Equal Vision Records, started working with Will Yip, and have been incredibly fortunate to watch things snowball this past year. But basically the way I feel playing in this band is how I felt when I was 14 in my first band playing Nirvana covers, it’s effortless and fun as f***.
What do you feel you (as a band) have been able to accomplish with The Window Room that previous releases or endeavors have lacked or not accomplished? Related: as your debut full-length, what were your main goals for this album?
What I’m most proud of with The Window Room is that we established a trajectory for the band. A huge part of that was working with Will Yip, who saw a potential in us that we never did and pushed us to believe in it. We are a little older than most of the bands we play with and have already gone through the experimental “let’s completely change our sound” phase in past bands. So with The Window Room it was all about setting up the blueprint for what a Secret Space album is, and as we grow as a band we know that each album will be unique in itself but never stray too far from what we established with The Window Room. Working with someone as pro as Will was our first real opportunity to say “we want to be a band with longevity” without fear or reservation.
The lyrics in The Window Room are quite expressive and thought-out, with key phrases punctuating key moments in the songs, tied integrally in with melody. How do lyrics find their way into the writing process for Secret Space – do they come first, later, or somewhere in between?
When I write it’s all about capturing spontaneous hooks/moments and expanding on them. So for example, when a melody/chord progression/lyrical phrase/drum beat comes to mind and I can’t get it out of my head I record it on my cell phone and archive it. Then I’ll go back, see if I still like it and see what type of song form works best with it. But most importantly it’s got to be a solid hook to base the whole song around. Lyrics are just as important as melodies when establishing a hook, so usually I write the concept of the song and a few hooky lines and let the rest of the story write itself as naturally as possible.
What are some life events or situations that influenced the songs or their concepts on this album? The Window Room seems to dive into some personal and relationship-based conflicts or struggles, and I imagine at some point those topics were inspired by real life events.
The Window Room is one giant story about how my writing process effected how I perceive my life, by basically isolating myself from the outside world but still watching it go on without me. I spent a lot of time holed up at night in my living room, that has 3 walls of windows, reflecting on situations in my life, trying to relate from a completely outside perspective and write from that same perspective – hence the very literal album title.
With “Cast Iron” it was important to me to write a song about how people who struggle with alcoholism and addiction have affected my life, specifically reflecting on two people I was very close with who very slowly drifted away into complete isolation from the real world. I wanted to put myself in their shoes and really try to understand where they were at when we fell out of touch and what an average day would feel like being completely numb. “I’ve Come Around” was me trying to work through past confrontations after the fact, where I realized I was in the wrong. To me it’s a very sad song but it’s been interesting to see people respond to it in almost the exact opposite way, it really pumps most people up and feels like “f*** you” type anthem.
The most positive and uplifting song on the record to me is “Stars”; we wrote the whole thing within the last few days in the studio, and at the time I knew I was going to get engaged when I got home. I just wanted to capture such a unique moment in my life and kind of say “we will be together forever, but for now it feels like a forever until we will be together again”. The record talks a lot about physical and emotional distance and “Stars” is probably the best example of that.
What’s your favorite part about being a band in Ohio?
Toledo’s scene is on fire right now, give it a few more years and it’ll be known as the Philly of the Midwest. Citizen, The Flats, Good Personalities, Equipment, Outside, Jacob Sigman – honored to hang with such great bands/people regularly, all who I honestly believe will leave their mark on the scene. Basically it’s mega cheap to live here and it’s a day trip from any major music city (other than LA). So touring is super easy and sustainable, and all the great musicians here play in each other’s bands and tour together. It’s kind of a utopia for indie bands right now, don’t sleep on Toledo.
What is Secret Space most excited about this year, besides this release?
Very excited and grateful that Turnover is taking us on their summer tour, which starts the day before The Window Room drops so the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I’ve just had a good feeling about this band from day one, that we’re going to make music that is important to people and that we will be doing this for a long time… and every day I get these little reminders that we can make that a reality. I am most excited about that constant inspiration.
There has never been a better time to be in love with indie music and the musicians who create it. I write about and share what I discover because I find it difficult not to.