Pennsylvania-based sludge/grind trio Secret Cutter (ex-Oktober Skyline) unleashed their acclaimed, super heavy self-titled effort over four years ago. Now, the impossibly intense band is set to release their crushing sophomore LP, titled Quantum Eraser, this Friday (July 6). The new release not only maintains their abrasive and begrudging tone, along with compelling and unpredictable songwriting, but it’s also tighter, more focused and somehow even heavier than their previous offering.
In this recent interview with Svbterranean, vocalist Ekim, drummer Jared Stimpfl and guitarist Evan Morey discuss the origins of Secret Cutter and the making of Quantum Eraser. They also talk about combining the visceral aggression of grind with the harsh density of sludge (why is “grudge” not a thing yet!?), how they manage to achieve their massive sound as just a three-piece, as well as their approach to unique songwriting and more. Check it out!
Can you provide some insight into the band’s inception? How did Secret Cutter come to be?
Jared: Evan put out [Oktober Skyline album] That’s How Tripods Work about 14 years ago when he was running a label. Ekim was originally part of Oktober Skyline, so when we broke up we were in limbo, just doing random projects and I wanted to start something heavy with Ekim again. Our mutual friend Ray Gurz from Tile told me how bad Evan wanted to start a Floor-inspired type band and Ekim and I were both into it. Evan had fleshed out four songs that eventually became our first seven-inch. The rest is history I suppose!
Congrats on the release of your second LP, Quantum Eraser. How are you feeling about how the record turned out?
Jared: I think it came out great! For the amount of work we put into it, I’m not at all disappointed about how it came out.
Evan: It was a lot of work. In ten years, I can tell you. Still way too close to it to objectively judge the record.
What was the writing and recording process like for this release?
Jared: The writing was half done when Self Titled came out. So it took about another year to gather enough material to get solid and start recording. It is a long process because we have to squeeze it in here and there, then stacking time on top of that, so inevitably there are changes, and changes, and changes. We’ve all been through some heavy life transitions throughout the life of Secret Cutter, I think in some way that all ties into the growth.
Ekim: Lyrically, I wait for the rough mixes of the instruments, and establish my placements first, then I write the lyrics to fit my placements. Then I figure out where to put my annoying feedback over top.
This release seems a bit tighter and more focussed than your previous material. How do you feel Quantum Eraser compares to your previous self-titled release?
Ekim: I think this record went to a new level that surpasses Self Titled in every way.
Jared: We feel like it is a definite step in the right direction. We made up for our mistakes from the first record. Although we made some others on this one that we had to fix, but it still feels like a tighter and more cohesive record as a whole. It really comes down to the performance we lay down, instead of “Protooling” the mistakes out of it and sucking the life away.
How do you feel the band has changed/progressed since you started out?
Ekim: We’ve been a band for a long time now and we’re at the point now where we can pretty much read each other’s minds and feed off each other’s energy. So when it comes to writing we know what works and what does not sooner rather than later.
Jared: We’ve definitely become tighter players and have also learned from past recording mistakes, which I feel will lay a much more solid foundation to build off from when we start recording. If it’s right from the start, everything else should fall into place nicely.
Secret Cutter combines the visceral aggression of grind with the harsh heaviness of sludge, yet there’s more to it than that, which makes it challenging to categorize. How do you describe the band’s style?
Ekim: I’m a fan of all types of music, especially sludge and grind so I guess it shows in the style we play. I think our songs feel longer than what they are because we cover a lot of ground in that short time. I think the band’s style is non-stop aggressive and I hope it gives the listeners anxiety.
Jared: I mean taking the sludge/grind label seems to work, I suppose. Maybe we should coin the term “Gludge” or “Slrind”? We try to figure out how to make them talk to each other musically, so why not smash words together!?
Evan: Or “Grudge.”
There’s also a distinct intensity to your sound. How do you achieve this type of heaviness as just a three-piece?
Ekim: Pissed, pissed and more pissed.
Jared: Evan’s tuning is definitely a factor. As well as all his dumb amps! Which is necessary since we’re a three-piece trying to achieve a five-piece’s sound.
Evan: I think a lot of the intense sound is in the songwriting and the arrangements. We consciously write with urgency in mind – shorter songs that stay around only as long as needed. That idea has become groupthink for us.
The songwriting is also quite unique, and at many moments unpredictable in terms of structure. Where does the inspiration for this approach come from?
Jared: I feel like it is just the natural course of everything, pure chaos. We have to let go to some degree and let the song tell us what it wants to do. I often find myself outside of the song and have gotten better at just observing from a brutally honest perspective. The unpredictability comes from wanting to not make a song feel like you know what is coming up around the corner, which might hurt our accessibility, but who cares! We love it and it’s what works for us.
Evan: The songs aren’t designed to be scattershot. I feel the changes work in a unique way without being desperately unpredictable.
I had the pleasure of seeing you guys open for Pig Destroyer in Ithaca, NY in 2016, which was a crazy intense show. What’s your favorite show you’ve played to date?
Jared: The night before in Philly with those dudes at Union Transfer was definitely a milestone for us. That whole weekend will always feel like a weird, surreal dream for me.
Ekim: I agree about the Union Transfer show, that place is large. But I also love playing tight basement shows where it’s hard to move – minus moving equipment up and down tight stairwells.
Evan: That weekend was definitely a great time.
What are your influences, musical or otherwise?
Jared: I tend to seek influence outside of music, by just living or trying new things that may challenge my comfort zone. It’s amazing to let go of preconceived notions and get your mind blown to other perspectives or experience. Also listening to players that are leaps and bounds beyond anything I could achieve is always an influence.
Ekim: Musically, I’m a mood listener. I can listen to the mellowest and the heaviest styles. Outside of music influences – BMX, exploring abandoned buildings, welding, etc.
Lyrically, is there a specific theme behind Quantum Eraser?
Ekim: Lyrically, it’s about the shittier aspect of life and the highlights of life.
What’s coming up next for Secret Cutter?
Jared: New songs in the works, trying to get into bigger and better basements!
Thanks for the interview!
Evan: Thank You.
Quantum Eraser is out July 6 in LP and digital formats, with distribution through Deathwish Inc. in North America and Holy Roar Records in Europe. Stream the record below and check out more from Secret Cutter here.