Lyle Bell has all kinds of secrets, most of them dry. He’s in three Edmonton bands, including the Juno-nominated Shout Out Out Out Out. He has a fiancée. He also can’t grow a moustache, something that would disappoint people who might listen to the lead single off the Wet Secrets’ debut album Rock Fantasy titled, “Grow Your Own Fucking Moustache, Asshole.”
“Man, I grow such a terrible moustache,” laments Bell, who fronts the group and plays lead bass. “My main tip is to give it 100 per cent effort. There’s a great little festival that the [Edmonton-based] Night Gallery puts on called Moustache Rock. We would plan our moustaches out six months in advance. I have tried man and my moustache is pretty piss-poor.”
Bell, on the phone from Toronto, is sitting on a patio before the Wet Secrets play their showcase at the North by Northeast festival. With laughter and playful chatter all around him, he explains what some of the differences between the Wet Secrets and other Bell bands, Shout Out and the Whitsundays.
“The whole point of the Wet Secrets was some of us getting together and doing whatever happened,” laughs Bell. “Playing and writing stuff spontaneously, getting drunk, writing songs and not really thinking about the end product. It was sort of an experiment in forming a band and doing something fun.”
Their origin story reads like a cry for an intervention. Formed in an Edmonton bar in 2005, the group drunkenly signed-on to a gig. Forgetting about the gig until a sudden reminder from the booker—the group only had one week to put everything together—they wrote material that eventually landed on their first EP, Whale of a Cow. The band has evolved in the three years since, gaining more members, a horn section and tightening up the entire act from its boozy beginnings.
“When we started, it was just this whimsical thing,” explains Bell. “[Bell’s fiancée] Kim [Rackel] and Donna [Ball] hadn’t played horns since high school and Trevor [Anderson] is an actor. He’s the first guy to say that he’s an actor and not a drummer. Trevor practicing and getting better at drums really helped and it tightened everything up. Adding to that, our keyboardist Doug Organ is a joke. He’s this ridiculously talented jazz keyboardist and he’s just slumming it in this band.”
One of the immediate things about the act is their image. Unlike most bands with their tight jeans and t-shirts, the Wet Secrets wear a full set of marching band uniforms. Some may roll their eyes at the self-indulgence factor, but with tracks like “Chinball Wizard” and “Get Your Own Apartment,” you can’t wear the typical t-shirt and jean ensemble.
“Trevor was in a marching band in Red Deer,” laughs Bell. “They’re the old Red Deer Rebels marching band outfits. Trevor’s mom, who’s extremely supportive of Trevor’s projects, found out that they were selling these outfits and brokered this deal where we got 24 of the outfits for $20. As soon as we saw the outfits, we knew that they were perfect. It kind of went with the ridiculous absurdity of singing about teabagging yourself and heavy cans of paint.”
In a genre of music that can be overly ponderous and full of pretension, the Wet Secrets are the drunken uncle at the family reunion with the lampshade over his head. They’re doing it for fun and lack any of the self-consciousness of the more grim-faced bands.
The Wet Secrets play the Mewata Side Stage on Fri., June 27 at 5:15 p.m.