Asheville-based post-punk outfit and JOVM mainstays Secret Shame can trace their origins back to summer 2016 when Matthew (bass) and Lena (vocals) met through mutual friends. As a duo, the band released their self-titled debut EP, but they mostly stuck to hometown DIY shows.
Nathan, who had released the band’s debut EP, later joined on drums and not long after, Aster joined on guitar. The Asheville-based outfit’s full-length debut, 2019’s Dark Synthetics was released to widespread critical acclaim with album single “Calm” being featured on The New York Times‘ playlist, and the album landing on a number of that year’s Best-of-lists, including landing at #77 on Bandcamp Daily and #1 on Post-Punk.com.
Building upon that momentum, the band embarked on an East Coast tour, which kicked off at Hopscotch Festival. They also recorded a split 7″ single “Dissolve/Pure” with Aster as the band’s sole guitarist.
Throughout the band’s growing catalog, they’ve maintained a steadfast refusal to a single genre, but pull from a wide range of influences including post-punk, death rock, shoegaze and dream pop among others. But at the core of their sound is a palpable and uneasy tension between rage and melancholy, the beautiful and the bleak that finds some resolution in the way the music reflects the lyrics’ mood.
2022 has been a busy year for the Asheville-based JOVM mainstays: They headlined this year’s Dark Spring Boston and they’ve quickly become a regular presence at Hopscotch Music Festival. They’ve also spent much of the year touring extensively, opening for the likes of Xiu Xiu, Wednesday, Soft Kill, Choir Boy, and Vision Video.
Secret Shame’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Autonomy is slated for an October 28, 2022 release. Recorded at Asheville’s Drop of Sun with engineer/producer Alex Farrar, the album reportedly sees the JOVM mainstays reaching a new level of maturity both musically and lyrically: While the 11-song album may be diverse and yet cohesive, the album’s material is centered with lyrics that directly confront the realities of addiction, body dysmorphia, abuse and mental illness with an unvarnished honesty.
Late last month, I wrote about album single “Color Drain,” a single that found the JOVM mainstays taking up a dreamy, shoegazer-like take on post punk that brought Cocteau Twins to mind paired with enormous, catharsis-inducing choruses and Lena’s achingly plaintive vocals. Lyrically the song features some of the most painfully honest lyrics in the band’s growing catalog: “Color Drain” details Lena’s long battle with anorexia, and how it feels to walk through the world in an apathetic and dissociative state after realizing that they both wanted help and simultaneously didn’t want to accept that help.
Autonomy‘s latest single, “Zero” much like its immediate predecessor sees the band’s Lena detailing struggles with addiction, body dysmorphia, abuse and mental illness with the unfiltered and unvarnished honesty of someone, who has gone through hell and back multiple times over. Lena’s lyrics and expressive, Sinead O’Connor-like delivery are paired with an arrangement that turns from shimmering and brooding to full on raging storm for the song’s catharsis-inducing coda.
I’m certain that someone out there has gone through many, if not all, of the same things that Secret Shame’s frontperson has experienced. But what “Zero” will say to you is that you’re not alone, that someone out there has been through the same hell, that not only would they empathize and truly get your struggle, but that there is understanding, kindness and hope — even if its three or four minutes.
Directed by the band’s Lena Machina and Aster Nema, the accompanying video for “Zero” is captures the inner monologue-like feel of the song with a feverish and feral intensity.