S'funny... the other day I was in the shower (more information than you needed) when I found myself thinking about Sarah Records, and how fond I was, back in the early 90s, of some of the stuff they put out on that label. Later that day I was browsing through a few profiles on MySpace, and spotted (what turned out to be) a Sarah fan profile. A couple of hours after that, Casey mentioned to me the series of Sarah features that have been run on the wonderful Indie MP3 blog lately. I think all that amounts to a sign that it's high time we featured something Sarah-related ourselves, wouldn't you agree?
Secret Shine (for that is today's band) have a history that can be traced back to November 1990 when Scott Purnell and Jamie Gingell recorded a "hollow sounding" (in their own words) demo and sent it off, without much hope of anything coming of it, to Sarah Records in Bristol, UK. They were surprised, then, when they returned home (to Bristol, as it happens) from university at Christmas and found a hand-written letter waiting for them; the letter was from Sarah founders Clare Wadd and Matt Haynes, saying they'd like to put out a Secret Shine single. A couple of months later, that single got made: it was called After Years (although perhaps more importantly to any Sarah aficionado, its catalogue number was Sarah 53) but Scott and Jamie were perhaps a little disappointed with the finished product - they'd recorded it in two days with a producer they didn't gel with, and the result was what they describe as a "very soulless single", although the excitement of seeing Secret Shine's debut release in the shops no doubt made up for that to some extent.
Scott and Jamie were aware that with Secret Shine's lineup consisting solely of the two of them, they were going to be unable to create the kind of sound they wanted (both were very taken with the emerging shoegazing scene), not to mention unable to take up any of the offers of live gigs they were getting. They soon recruited some new members from a band Scott's brother, Dean, was in - the band was handily in the process of splitting up, and Secret Shine snapped up Dean Purnell, as well as Nick Dyte and Paul Vowles. With this lineup they put out a "Sarah reject song", called Unbearable, on German label A Turntable Friend. After this, they became a six-piece with the addition of another Dean (Dean Tyler), and finally found singer Kathryn Smith just before recording the 1993 album Untouched (luckily not rejected, the album was released as Sarah 615), from which the modestly successful (John Peel liked it, the NME didn't - I know whose judgement I respect more...) single Loveblind was taken.
Secret Shine never really took off as a live band, due to a combination of factors, and openly admit to having played "some appalling live shows". There were some lineup changes, notably Nick Dyte's departure and replacement by Tim Morris on drums. Reading their bio, you get the impression that the oft-cited "musical differences" were causing problems by the mid-90s. The band never "officially" split up, but in 1996, they just stopped playing music together, although they remained good friends. The self-proclaimed "laziest band in the world" did occasionally think about working together again, but only got round to writing and rehearsing new material in 2004, eight years after the split-that-never-was. In February 2005, Tim Morris was killed in a tragic accident; the remaining band members decided to make a record in his memory. That record, the acoustic album Morris, was released on the band's own label in May 2005. The band raised an impressive amount for Tim's favourite charity, and felt encouraged to keep working together, with their most recent record, the Elemental EP, released earlier this year. They have a new EP due out in September, and have a few UK live shows planned around that time.
This song, Deep Thinker, can be found on 1994's Greater Than God EP (Sarah 89). If you want to hear more (and I'm sure you do), pay a visit to the Secret Shine website, where there are a couple of exclusive tracks available for download - you can also buy a lot of the band's non-Sarah material through the site. There's also a Secret Shine MySpace page - this is a fan profile rather than an "official" one, but there are a few tracks you can listen to.
MP3: Deep Thinker