The Secret Hairdresser's guitarist and vocalist Jason is a busy man. As well as being in two bands (he’s in Animal Planet as well as the Secret Hairdresser), he is also a gig promoter, running Planet Beet and records his own solo songs. This year has been a big one for the Secret Hairdresser with their songs being played on several BBC radio shows and appearing on Channel 4’s Pop World after winning the Slashmusic indie band competition run by the station in the Summer.

The band-Jason, drummer Rob, bassist Lotty and keyboard players Steph and Shana (the band don’t use surnames)-are currently working on new songs and are hoping to release them on Wrath records, who released their fantastic recent single ‘Copier’.

The group has been around in one form or another for a good few years, really as Jason’s project. There was an American Secret Hairdresser when he lived in the States for a couple of years, and the line-up has been completely changed several times.

The current incarnation of the Secret Hairdresser has been together for a couple of years, and is still going strong, despite guitarist Richard leaving them recently and Lotty breaking her arm in September.

The Secret Hairdresser's music is great; quirky, punky indiepop, which comes across like a British Weezer with a touch of the Beach Boys in their syupy, sugary harmonies (all members of the band sing). They will be contributing to a Pennyblackmusic compilation that will be released next year, but until then, their songs can be heard at their website; www.thesecrethairdresser.co.uk.


PB : You're currently writing and recording a bunch of new songs. How are the sessions going so far?
 
J : The recording we've so far done was just one day's worth, a few weeks ago, and we got instrument tracks done for 7 songs in just a few hours. We're still waiting for the tracks, so that we can work on them at home and get them finished. It's difficult to say how good they are at such an early stage, but we're not too fussy, he he, and it's all songs that we think are really good. They're not all "new" songs as such. A few are songs that we played at one or two gigs a while back, but never got a chance to record properly.

PB : What can people expect from the new songs ? How do they differ from older songs?
 
J : I really don't know that they do differ. I write stuff in a bunch of different styles, but when the Secret Hairdresser play my songs they sound like the Secret Hairdresser, and when Animal Planet play them they sound like Animal Planet. We have some rocky/shouty stuff, which is fun for us, and poppy/melodic stuff, which the audience prefers on the whole, so there's something for everybody. There's all our usual ingredients in the songs: moog, lots of boy-girl harmonies, a few shouty bits, a few quirky bits, and lots of catchy bits. We're not making any concious attempt to "move on" or anything like that, because we like how we sound. So, people that like us already will probably continue to do so, but then, who am I to say? I'm probably not as objective as an outsider would be. You might hear the new recordings and instantly declare them "shit", which would also be fine.

PB : What kind of things are the new songs about?
 
J : Well, there's one about not being able to fake things the way that so many other bands are willing to do just to "get on" in the lovely world of the Music Industry, and about not really giving a shit what people think. I get a lot of bands asking my opinion on them (because I'm a gig promoter and sound engineer/producer), and all they really want me to say is that I think they're brilliant.

I don't give them my opinion at all unless they ask me specifically. The thing is, if I then have some minor constructive critisism, they can't take it that I might not view them as highly as they do, and they get very defensive and very occasionally someone might then slag of one of my bands. But the difference is, I'd never even ask them what they think, because I'm just not interested, and am doing this to please me, and not to show off onstage and get loads of attention. So that song is called 'I Couldn't Give A Fuck If You Like Me Or Not'.

There's 6 more, ranging from the sort of unrequited love where the other person loves you "like a friend", to other more abstract subject matter. A few funny lyrics in there.. Nothing earth-shattering in its originality, but then, we're not really trying to be original, although it sometimes happens anyway.

PB : Lotty broke her arm in September. How has it affected the recordings ? Has she recovered enough to play on the songs?
 
J : Well, she was out of action for a while, so we stopped everything the Secret Hairdresser related. We had one practice together before the recording, and she coped really well. If any of the bass tracks need re-recording then she'll do them again, now that she's recovered more, but we tend to keep tracks unless they're really really awful. It's how everything sounds together that counts, and you can get away with lots of minor issues if the whole thing has a cool sound and feels right. We had been working on a new song just before Lotty's arm snapped, and her arm hurts too much still for us to try and remember it again, because it involves lots of bending the bass strings, in a discordant kind of way, which hurts her too much at the moment. It's a real rumbling wall of noise, like a cross between early My Bloody Valentine and Henry's Dress.

PB : Will these new songs be released as a new album? if so, when will it be out?
 
J : I'm not sure. It's only 7 songs, so maybe a mini-album. We're giving Wrath Records the option to use whatever they want, in case they fancy doing another single, a proper single, with us. Otherwise, I might release the stuff on Lap Records. We won't be able to decide anything until the songs are finished. We might not even like them, ha ha!

PB : You mention on your website that for one song you all swap instruments. Will you be doing that more often in the future?
 
J : Yes. We've done it in the past, but not for a while, because our line-up wasn't really stable enough for a long while, so we never got to the point where we were all that comfortable with things that we were willing to throw that level of comfort out of the window by swapping to other instruments. We only get to practice for a few hours a week at the moment, and some weeks that doesn't even happen ((because of other commitments that we can't get out of), so that's our only limiting factor, because we certainly have tons and tons of ideas that we want to try and develop in the future.

PB : Do you think you'll be making greater use of the more orchestral
instruments that some the Secret Hairdresser members play?
 
J : Yes. The main problem though is that you can't really do this in the sort of tiny venues that we get to play at, so there's no point yet. Most small venues don't even have enough equipment for us to play as it is, what with all 5 of us singing, and needing to hear ourselves. One place we've played a bunch of times only has one stage monitor, so it's really impossible to do anything where we need to have 5 people singing vaguely in tune, let alone being able to hear the keyboards, so doing anything more adventurous than that is impossible really, until we get to play bigger venues on a regular basis. And even then, it's often not possible if you're just a support band.

We played one particular gig at the Norwich Arts Centre, and the soundman wouldn't even let us use all our keyboards and vocals, because he'd only allow us a few channels on the mixing desk, because the headline band wouldn't let him touch their 15-20 channels, even if he wrote down the exact settings. So a minor argument erupted, which we poured our special the Secret Hairdresser water onto the flames of, and we eventually bargained the use of 2 more channels, and re organised our keyboards (which was less than ideal), and ended up only losing one vocal, but still, we shouldn't have to do that. So if we turned up at a venue in the back of a pub with drums, bass, 2 guitars, organ, keyboards (4 synths and a sampler all go through a little mixer of ours), 5 vocals, and then violin, flute, and 2 saxophones, hehe, I just can't see it ever happening. Unless we ever start playing bigger places. If we were a basic 3-4 piece band, then we'd probably do more gigs.

PB : Your guitarist Richard left in September. Why did he end up leaving?
 
J : He just wants to play tons and tons of gigs, and he's in a few other bands and didn't feel he could commit to the Secret Hairdresser. He left on good terms with all of us, and it wasn't a problem from our point of view, because we'd only want people in the band that really really want to be in the Secret Hairdresser. None of us really want to play tons and tons of gigs in tiny venues just for the sake of it, because of reasons I've just explained, because if we can't hear ourselves, or aren't even allowed to use all of our equipment, then it's really difficult to find a way to enjoy it. Also, I've done all that before, doing literally hundreds and hundreds of gigs, years ago, in another few bands, and I didn't really enjoy a lot of it then either. We're not attention seekers, despite what a lot of people might assume, and if we're not in a position to do the songs justice then it ends up being more frustrating than fun.

PB : Have you had any luck finding a new guitar player?
 
J : We didn't even start looking, because the first practice we had without Richard was brilliant, and the sound was immediately clearer. Richard had a lot of trouble getting a decent sound, and was always tap-dancing on his pedals trying to stop feedback, breaking strings, breaking sockets on guitars, and stuff like that. We got Richard in initially just to do a bunch of gigs, and he ended up joining after a while, but the Secret Hairdesser have had just me on guitar for great big chunks of our history, so the lack of a second guitar isn't a problem, especially as we now have Shana (longtime the Secret Hairdresser on-off member) back in the Secret Hairdresser, on keyboards, and Rob and Steph play guitar on the few songs that need it. It's a lot more fun now that our roles aren't so concrete. It feels like there's more opportunities for fun, especially at practices. And that's what we do this for, fun, because we certainly don't earn a penny from it (it's expensive funding a band), and we're not under any illusions that we'll suddenly land a huge deal, although I suppose it's not completely impossible that that could happen someday. I wonder how we'd feel if we ever did get that kind of interest..?

PB : Any plans to do any tours in the near future? Any shows lined up?
 
J - We have some gigs coming up but no touring plans. If we ever had a record released that actually sold some copies, then we'd gladly tour it, as long as it was on our terms. We're not up our own arses. It's just that we're not desperate either. We really love being in a band together, and are all really good friends purely because of it, and being in the same room together playing these songs is almost enough for us. That one last piece of the the Secret Hairdesser puzzle would make things perfect, and that thing would be to have some minor success at some point (because we'd like people to hear the songs), and play in some nice venues in different places. It might happen, but we concentrate on enjoying ourselves without that chance being a major reason for us getting together to play songs.

PB : Thank you.











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