It’s a scary, wonderful, crazy time for The Wet Secrets — the Edmonton band that performs in old Red Deer Royals uniforms and was co-founded by award-winning filmmaker, musician and Red Deer native Trevor Anderson.
First came the scare: Anderson was sure he would die when he lost control of his fishtailing van on black ice near Innisfail, while travelling to a Calgary music competition during a Nov. 27 snow storm. His vehicle rolled twice across the southbound lanes and ended up with the windows smashed and a caved-in roof.
But Anderson and his two passengers were uninjured, thanks to their shoulder belts, and a wire fence that prevented the van from jumping the median into oncoming traffic.
Then came the wonder: On the evening of that same day, Anderson and the rest of The Wet Secrets won the top $100,953 prize in the Peak Performance Project competition between three band finalists at Calgary’s Republik club.
The richest prize in Alberta’s music history will go towards producing the band’s next album — planned for a fall 2015 release — and marketing The Wet Secrets across Canada.
“I am so grateful. This is a terrific opportunity,” said Anderson, who’s sure residual adrenaline from the crash contributed to his performance at the contest, sponsored by Calgary’s The Peak radio station and administered by the Alberta Music Industry Association.
“It was (great) to be there with something to do, other than dwell on and replay what had happened. Having the audience there also helped — it was a soldout crowd — and I got to beat on something … it was a great release,” said Anderson, the band’s drummer.
He’s thankful other musicians and instruments were travelling in different vehicles that made it to Calgary safely during a storm that caused so many accidents that police closed Hwy 2.
“It’s far better to have been presented with a large novelty cheque than to end up in a body cast,” he said.
Anderson jokingly lamented, “I didn’t get to roll around in the money! It would have been great to put it on my bed and roll around in it.”
Instead, the $100,953 is being held in trust for the band, to be used to pay the tab for professional development, recording projects and other business services.
Now for the crazy/surreal part: The Wet Secrets wasn’t even supposed to be a serious band. The group was started as an “art stunt” by Anderson and his friend Lyle Bell in 2005. They wanted to see if they could put together a band, write, record and release a record in a week.
Eighteen months later, the friends discussed whether to keep their music project going. “We discussed do we break up the band now? Have we finished what we started? Is our hobby done now, or should we … keep it going to see what happens if we take this as seriously as we can?” said Anderson.
He and Bell decided on the latter course, and the everything seems to be falling into place.
The band recently made a music video with Joe Flaherty, of SCTV fame, reprising his Count Floyd character.
And it has been performing regularly in Edmonton and Calgary with plans for future bookings in Red Deer and beyond.
One of the things that sets The Wet Secrets apart from many other rock bands is the retired Red Deer Royals marching band uniforms the musicians wear during every performance — complete with cylindrical busby hats, resembling those worn by guards at Buckingham Palace.
Anderson said he loved playing the alto saxophone as a Royal while growing up in Red Deer in the 1980s, so he jumped at the chance to buy some old uniforms when his mother called to tell him they were being replaced by the local marching band.
He was able to buy 20 of the red-and-white outfits at a greatly reduced rate. He was seriously considering buying all 200, but sadly discovered the rest of the uniforms had been ruined. “They were being stored in a basement that flooded.”
Anderson had envisioned making a music video where the entire audience was dressed in the same jaunty attire as the band.
“I have very fond memories of the Royals. I loved it very dearly. And I remember when those uniforms were brand new and we first pulled them out of the boxes.”
Everyone thought they were so striking, said Anderson. “They arrived just in time for the July parade and we were so proud to be wearing the red and white.”
He still loves their vintage look, which recalls the 1970s or even 1950s. Anderson remembers the Red Deer Royals wore those uniforms when supplementing the cast of The Music Man, when the musical was staged at Red Deer College (where he took Theatre Studies).
“We filled the stage and the aisles during the 76 Trombones number. … They were perfect Music Man band outfits.”
Now Anderson believes they’re a great way to invoke a “sense of whimsy and nostalgia — and also theatricality and showmanship.”
When an audience see The Wet Secrets musicians (including vocalist/bassist Bell, keyboardist Paul Arnusch, trumpeter Kim Rackel, trombonist Emma Frazier, and sax player Christan Maslyk) wearing marching band finery, “they know they’re in for something out of the ordinary.”
Anderson is best known as being an independent filmmakers whose shorts were screened (and sometimes awarded at) film festivals including Sundance, Hot Docs, SXSW, the Berlin Film Festival, and others. In 2012, he was selected to study under master filmmaker Werner Herzog at his Rogue Film School.
Anderson doesn’t see any conflict between being a filmmaker and a musician. In fact, with the making of music videos, he even sees some overlap.
The Wet Secrets have a new split single If I Was a Camera/I can Swing a Hammer coming out in January. The band’s next album, The Tyranny of Objects, will be about “how overwhelming the physical world sometimes feels,” with the weight of materialistic goals and expectations, said Anderson.
“It’s about being alive in the physical world, and thinking about the metaphysical world.”
So does Anderson believe in metaphysics, which is described as “the science of the world beyond nature”?
“No. I’m a skeptic. But at the same time, you can’t make art without operating with some belief system,” he added. “It’s about not having any easy answers. Because easy answers aren’t good for art.”