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Secret Shine - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 4 / 5 / 2024

Secret Shine - Interview

Secret Shine is an indie pop/shoegazing group from Bristol, which released two singles, two EPs and an album ‘Untouched’ (1993) on the seminal label, Sarah Records, in the 1990s. It has been through various line-ups, but its central nucleus since 1992 has been Scott Purnell (guitar), Dean Purnell (guitar, vocals). Jamie Gingall (bass, vocals) and Kathryn Smith (vocals). After taking an eight-year hiatus between 1996 and 2004, it has gone on record another five albums, ‘After Years ‘ (2004)’; ‘Morris’ (2005), which was an acoustic tribute to drummer Tim Morris, who had died after suffering a head injury at work; ‘All of the Stars’ (2008), ‘The Beginning and the End’ (2011) and ‘There is Only Now’ (2017). Secret Shine appear on both the ‘Under The Bridge’ compilations, which features tracks from former Sarah Records acts as they are now. It has been released on Skep Wax, the label of Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey from Heavenly and The Catenary Wires. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Kathryn Smith about Secret Shine’s long career and ‘Under The Bridge’. PB: Secret Shine is one of the very few surviving Sarah Records bands. Why do you think you have achieved such durability? KATHRYN SMITH: I think the fact that we were (right from the early formation) friends first has been the glue for us. When we halted in 1996, I don’t think we would have envisaged the releases and adventures we have had since getting back together in 2004, but I think our durability is a combination of having stayed close mates in those inactive years, the legacy and love for Sarah Records (which seems ever growing!), and people still listening to our music and supporting us. Having lost friends and family, including our drummer Tim, we never take the ongoing opportunities for granted and our durability is also borne out of gratitude when opportunities arise, not having imploded, and still enjoying what we do (even if sporadic)! PB: How did you first meet and become involved with Matt Haynes and Clare Wadd? KS: Scott and Jamie met at college in the late 80s and started writing music together. Being Bristol born and raised, and into the indie scene, Sarah Records was on their radar. Scott was also writing fanzines at the time. They wrote to Matt and Clare with a demo. The excitement of being accepted, and the release of the ‘After Years’ EP was the start of it all. PB: All its bands seem to remember Sarah really fondly. What were the best things for you about being on Sarah? KS: Matt and Clare were supportive of what the bands wanted to put out and personally they always got behind music we sent them. I think the dedication they gave to both bands and the fans speaks for itself. The more reflection there is about that time, the more you can see how unique, progressive and successful (rising above the vitriol at the time) they were. Sarah bands were part of a radical movement in all that the label represented, and we thank Matt and Clare for having us on board. PB: The late writer Steven Wells described your second single Loveblind’ as being “cancer”. That would have destroyed many young bands, bur John Peel got behind it, saying something like that if a band elicits that much wrath, then it is worthy off attention. Do you think that hateful, ghastly comment had the reverse effect and in many ways spearheaded success for you? KS: At the time it definitely did have the reverse effect and some mini success for us; we got highest entry in the indie charts the following week. We were also on Steve Lamacq’s radar then too; he picked us to support The Jesus and Mary Chain at Radio 1 Sound City, in Bristol, which was a big break for us, and we had some other Radio 1 airplay (note to the people who aren’t old; this was in the days way before 6 Music). Longer term though, all roads lead back to Sarah… I think if we had been on another label and then dropped or faded into the ether we may not still be going as Secret Shine? The love for and legacy of Sarah Records has fuelled new followers, and the support of people who buy each release we make and love the music still, from Sarah days on, is what is driving us. ‘Success’ has never been about being huge, but for a little band in Bristol lucky enough to have our music listened to around the world, we have done alright. PB: Secret Shine is sometimes seen as indie pop band who got into shoegazing. Does thar seem like an accurate description? KS: Jamie and Scott always liked the shoegaze sound. They have spoken about their strategy to make a record which they thought would get them on Sarah and then change direction. Again, going back to the acceptance and support of Matt and Clare, we went into the studio to record ‘Untouched’, without them knowing how it would sound, and it was released without any objections. Our sound since has not radically changed, and now shoegaze/dream pop is back in, we appear to have accidently stayed in vogue. PB: It has been a while since your last album ‘There Is Only Now’ in 2017. Is there more material on the way? KS: Well, we did announce a new album release in 2020 but, life gets in the way, so we are still working on this. We have self-released a couple of preview tracks as downloads on our Bandcamp page (‘Ember’ and ‘Empyrean’) and we are continuing to work towards an album release. Whilst not holding your breath, watch this space! The ‘Under The Bridge’ compilations have also given us the opportunity to release new music. PB: Why did you choose ‘Lost in the Middle’ for the first ‘Under The Bridge’ compilation and ‘Captivate This Broken Love’ for the second one? PB: Jamie wrote these songs specifically for these releases. As there were no songs in the wings as such, he wrote them with ‘Under The Bridge’ in mind. I would ‘Captivate This Broken Love’ is less dream pop, more shoegaze. And as we have often said, most of our songs are about messy relationships and broken love, so the themes continue. I also want to say a huge thanks to Rob Pursey and Amelia Fletcher for including us on both ‘Under The Bridge’ compilations and everything that has come from that. Another great duo putting a lot of love and work into their label. . PB: You are playing an ‘Under The Bridge’ gig at The Louisiana in Bristol on the 1st June? What can we expect from you at that KS: Hopefully a good night! The gigs for the first ‘Under The Bridge’ were such good events. It was great to reconnect with ex Sarah Records artists, as older (maybe not wiser) humans, with less hang ups or social awkwardness. We talked to each other this time round, nearly 30 years on, and there was a lot of love in the room (thanks to those who came along). It is great to be included on a follow up release, to play again, and share the stage with Soundwire and Jetstream Pony. The Louisiana is also part of our history. PB: Thank you.

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Kathryn Smith, the vocalist with Bristol indie pop/shoegazing group and former Sarah Records band Secret Shine, speaks to John Clarkson about her band's long career and its appearance on both the 'Under The Bridge' compilations.



There is Only Now (2017)
Excellent new shoegaze album from Bristol-based ex-Sarah band Secret Shine which is a real hit
Beyond Sky and Sea EP (2007)

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