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Standout track: No. 6, “Saccharine Smile,” a Weezer-esque powerpop tune, with crunchy guitars offset by sing-songy vocals. Secret Pop Band frontman James Forté, 36, affectionately taunts, “Certified drama queen/From the age of 17/You’ve always gotten your own way.”
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Musical motivation: Imagine the heroine of a teen movie, gliding down a high school hallway, her straight-toothed smile barely concealing some secret pain. That’s what Forté had in mind when he penned “Saccharine Smile.” “Around the time I wrote this tune, I was watching a lot of ’80s Molly Ringwald movies: Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles,” he says. Forté thinks the song would work well on The Hills or Gossip Girl, but not on the soundtrack to just any show. “Hopefully it wouldn’t be on something stupid like Grey’s Anatomy,” he says. “I have my standards for trashy entertainment.”
Volume Conversion: Forté recorded the “Saccharine Smile” demo with a 12-string acoustic guitar and a tambourine, giving it a ’60s-folk feel—went down a little too smoothly for his taste. When Forté brought the song to Secret Pop bassist Ody Leonard and drummer Greg Gendron, the two roughed it up with a distortion pedal and a hard-driving beat. At live shows, the band scuttles the demo’s harmonies and keyboard parts in a way that takes the track into garage-rock territory. That’s perhaps not a genre the classic Ringwald character would listen to—at least not at the beginning of the movie—but, says Forté, it plays well with live audiences. “We are definitely louder live,” he says. “Since it’s just three of us…everyone tries to make a racket to fill up the space.”
Secret Pop Band plays Friday, May 29 at the Velvet Lounge.