At first listen, The Secret Storm seems to contain multitudes. The music itself seesaws between airtight pop melodies and a kind of brooding Americana—a landscape where winsome string sections and plaintive piano chords move easily alongside narratives about doomed romance and obsessive, occasionally all-encompassing, love.
The music is both honest, sexy and, at various turns, both deeply intimate and amazingly huge-sounding. Lauren Hoffman—the singer, songwriter, and general force of nature behind The Secret Storm—has lived many musical lives. Her new musical nom de plume marks a sharp left turn in what has already been a remarkable career defined by unusual twists. First signed to Virgin records back in 1997, Hoffman has gone on to release four full-length albums of knotty indie-pop before deciding to shift gears entirely and ultimately redefine herself as The Secret Storm.
Tapping into hidden emotional undercurrents seems to be a theme with The Secret Storm, but nowhere more so than on the new EP’s title track, “The Dragon.” Like so many of Hoffman’s songs, the track is exploration of being drawn to the thing that breaks us and the very thin line separating pleasure from very real pain. The song is the kind of delicious paradox that lies at the heart of so many of Hoffman’s best songs—certainly the ones on The Dragon.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Hoffman to discuss the self-released EP, out December 4. This is what she said about it.
When did you begin writing the material for The Dragon?
The Dragon EP is a mix of old and new songs – the song “The Dragon” was written a long time ago when I was in college studying dance. I was trying to do something different by focusing on dance and college, but I felt music calling me back, so “The Dragon” was the metaphor for that. “Sick with Love” is also older, one of a batch of songs I wrote about an unrequited love in 2006. As part of moving on from the experience, I also put that batch of songs away for a while. I was finally ready to record it after like eight years! “Fast Lane” and “Feel It All” are newer, from the writing spurt that coincided with the formation of The Secret Storm.
Which of the songs on the EP is most different from your original concept for the song?
That’s an interesting question… because I usually don’t release recordings unless or until the recording matches my original vision for the song, and this EP is no different. For example “Sick with Love” is a song I tried recording under different circumstances and it was just wrong. It’s on the EP now because this recording of it is finally right. With “Fast Lane” it was hard to describe what I was looking for, I think I kept referencing Prince which probably didn’t make sense to anyone but in the end it came out the way I wanted it!
“Fast Lane” sounds like the best song Aimee Mann never wrote. Is she an influence on you, at all?
Oh that’s cool! Yeah I think her song “Save Me” is one of the most perfectly composed songs of all time. But I didn’t hear her influence in this song so that’s a cool surprise comparison!
Speaking of “Fast Lane,” is this an illicit relationship you’re singing about? “If there’s no heaven up above, we got this” is such a great line, that seems to imply you’re in trouble if there is heaven.
Cool, nice to hear you like that line!… Though I prefer to let people just have their interpretation without my explanation: No, I don’t think i meant it that way. I think it was more of a nihilistic statement; like, life is short, who knows if anything better comes next, might as well indulge in the pleasures we find here in the moment…
What prompted the name change from solo artist to band? Are the other members of The Secret Storm the same people you’d been playing with?
They are people I gathered in 2013 to play a show as “Lauren Hoffman”, after promising myself I never had to play solo again if I didn’t want to… Then as we started working on new material, it seemed like a great time to transition to a band name. For a long time I had wished I had used a band name instead of my own name. It was probably not a great career move as far as losing some of the name recognition I’d built up as LH, but it definitely has felt like the right move for me personally and artistically.
Do you have any plans to tour outside of Virginia this winter?
Yeah, I hope to! and I’m working on it… I love having a big band, but a six-piece does make it harder to organize things. We all have other responsibilities and other projects so it’s tricky, but yes, if not this winter then spring/early summer.
(Visit The Secret Storm here: