Philly band Secret American just released their debut album entitled Warmth and Shelter, the record follows up the band’s Why Believe? EP that came out this past year. The record is one part alt-americana and part retro-indie rock, but overall an infectious, feel-good mix. It possesses breezy, vibrant arrangements that parallel the charismatic, crooning vocals throughout the album.
Lead singer Derek Krzywicki breaks down the record below and describes how discovery, finding love and a search for something more influenced the final result.
“Warmth and shelter”
Bluntly stated, this is the first time in my life I’d written a love song. I was at a point in my life where I finally felt I loved someone and I felt the urge to settle down. This song essentially romances the idea of moving to the country, living simply, loving someone, and two people only needing warmth and shelter.
This song is simply about sexual tension disguised as a love song. The first line “I’m a red bullseye baby, you’re a loaded gun” is pretty cut and dry about it. The rest of the song follows that theme throughout.
I came back to california after recording all the songs on the record and felt compelled to write something really simple to add to the album. After recording some guitar chords and looping some drums I felt a vocal melody and wrote much of the song in the course of one day. It’s more or less a slight to anyone who follows a creed blindly without question.
“Good Men Change”
This is the result of playing with the mellotron for the first time. Once I recorded that progression everything else fell into place over the course of evening. The theme being mostly about how all things are relative. Our morality is what we make of it.
“I Wanna Know”
This is another song guided by sexual tension. “I wanna know you completely, turn on your TV and put your records on” is my best attempt to wax poetic about wanting someone. Aside from my perfectionist tendencies this song almost wrote itself in the course of a day.
This is one of the oldest songs on the record and it’s ironically not written in California, but my apartment in Fishtown/Port Richmond. It was more of a mantra/prayer themed song I wrote as I was mentally preparing my move westward. You can hear a waitress’ Philly accent that was recorded in The Acropolis Diner (no longer in business) at the corner of Frankford and Girard.
“Chelsea the cat”
When I moved to California. I didn’t have a job so I started a pet care company. One of my first clients was named Chelsea. During my first time cat-sitting for her I noticed a great acoustic guitar on the wall. I thought that I might make more comfortable around me if I played a little. The first thing that came out was that bass line and verse progression. I went right home afterwards and wrote the whole song that night. It’s written from a cat’s perspective but parallels my life in some way.
“Wish a well”
This funky-ish jam fits squarely in the sexual category. Being loaded with guitar riffs and sliding bass lines it just grooves. We didn’t know if it would make the record but clearly it has. One not so obvious thing to note is the lead guitar riff near the end of the song is the same guitar part that starts off the next song “human”. We thought it would be fun way to secretly hint at the next track.
I had written the first half of this song in my Philly apartment basement. I was watching some North Korean military march and came up with that guitar riff to match their movements. I then tracked drums and some rough vocals and had a dog concept I was pretty excited about. Years later, when putting this record together I knew I wanted to finish this track. It was difficult and I showed up to Cambridge Sound Studios without a finished song. Todd and I played around late one night and it just came to us. I started free-styling lyrics and the star spangled banner emerged and we just went off the deep end at that point. It’s one of my favorite moments of the recording process
This was just a fun little jingle I didn’t think I’d ever release. Nonetheless, we slapped it on the end of the record and I animated a music video from the scraps of the “Why Believe?” video.
Take a listen to the full record below and follow Secret American here