From out of Philadelphia’s extensive ring of house venues and underground punk scenes emerged Secret Plot to Destroy the Entire Universe, or simply Secret Plot for short. The band can be characterized by their heavy yet melodic post-hardcore songs, frontman Daniel Anderson’s gloomy hindsight lyrics and their habit for the extreme. Whether it is having their first practice, writing multiple songs and recording a demo all in a couple of weeks, or embarking on a 60-day tour, Secret Plot tends to go for its limits.
“It was a long process but it worked,” Anderson said of the group’s recent release. The same could be said in regards to its development and history as a band.
All meeting at a house show in south Philly, the members of Secret Plot came together in the fall of 2011. A few member changes and position rearrangements have occurred, but currently the band is a four-piece with Anderson on guitar and vocals, Ruben Polo on guitar, Ben Schmidt on drums and Mark Walsh on bass and backup vocals.
Regarding the early days of Secret Plot, Walsh said, “We had a band practice with all of us and our old drummer Chris and it wasn’t anything we wanted. Then we had a second practice and we wrote two or three of the demo songs in that practice. And then we just kinda went on tour.”
This fast-paced push continues. After the tour, the band began playing several local shows while simultaneously recording their first album. But as the band put it, technical difficulties arose. The material that eventually would become “I Only Miss You When I Want To” was recorded in the spring of 2012 and the band set out on a five-and-half week tour soon after.
But on their return, the recordings went missing.
Picking up from where they started, Secret Plot re-recorded the entire album, recording most of the instruments themselves and finally released it in December 2012. In January, the band once again packed up and drove off for a massive eight-week tour, returning to Philadelphia in March.
Secret Plot attributes its style to what each of the members brings and their influences. While many of them would credit 90’s emo bands such as Jimmy Eat World and Sunny Sunday Real Estate, the harder punk influence of the drums gave the band a different sound.
When writing “I Only Miss You When I Want To,” the band took the feedback they received from their first demo, “Montauk” and put it into the new songs.
“We didn’t really have a plan when we started the album. It was just, ‘Let’s write an album,’” Anderson said.
Walsh humorously explains the writing style saying, “Normally either Dan or Ruben goes, ‘OK, I got this.’ Then they play it and they’re like, ‘I don’t really like it.’ And then the rest of goes, ‘No, we really like it. And then we jam on that one riff for three and a half hours and by the end of it it’s magically a song.”
Anderson commented, “As time progressed we’ve gotten a lot more logical with our song writing. We sit down and go over part by part.”
The lyrics of Secret Plot tend to be theme based and even slightly narrative.
“I have a hard time writing about things that have happened or events that have occurred without having a common theme behind them. So if I have a common theme behind everything it helps tie everything together,” Anderson, the main lyric-writer, said.
The writing process of the lyrics is not always as straightforward, though.
“I wrote and recorded three completely different sets of lyrics three times,” Anderson said.
“The first couple concerts there were no actual lyrics at all. You [Anderson] just yelled [The] Front Bottoms lyrics,” Polo said.
Next to the album, Secret Plot’s eight-week tour stands as another remarkable feat. This self-booked, cross-country escapade took them from east coast to west coast and numerous stops along the way.
“We had a war room,” explained Polo, “where we sat down with all of our laptops.”
Sending e-mails to every contact they could find, the band ended up shipping off with nearly every date booked. But about a week-and-a-half in, shows began dropping.
“Every week after that point, two or three shows would fall off,” said Anderson.
Remarkably enough, the band managed to book most of the cancelled dates from the road, leaving only 13 empty dates out of 60.
“It’s cool when you’re sitting in your living room a month from when the tour happens and you book a show in Arizona and the guy is like, ‘Here’s the date, here’s the place, you can Google it, you know the other bands.’ But then you’re in southern California and that show in Arizona is two days away and you’re sitting in the back of the car on your iPhone being like, ‘Please book our band,’” Walsh said.
Since the tour, Secret Plot has been playing shows and working on an acoustic release that it hopes “to get weird on” as stated by Anderson. After that, they plan to work on a new EP to release by the end of the year. Plans for another full U.S. tour are in the works for the coming winter.
Secret Plot is not focusing on long-term plans. While they all wish that they could take the band to a point where it could love off it, the important part is what the band is putting out.
“Whatever we are doing, I don’t really care as long we are writing cool music,” Anderson said.
“When you lose touch of people coming to your shows and not thanking people for buying your music or buying a t-shirt and you lose touch of how your band got popular, it’s a shame,” Walsh said.
Jared Whalen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.