Secret Mezzanine back with new album
Living across country does not stop group from sticking together
Secret Mezzanine is not letting distance break them apart.
The indie rock band of Cai Caudill, Rob Greene, Garrett Spoelhof, and Jacob Sherfield formed in Fort Wayne, but as the years have gone by, the members have become scattered across the country. Six years after the quartet came together in the Summit City, Greene is the only one that remains, with Caudill in Bloomington, Spoelhof in Chicago, and Sherfield in San Francisco.
“For most of our gigs, we will play a three-piece, where we’ll be in Bloomington, and Garrett and I will drive down there,” Greene said. “We have found that a nice middle area is Lafayette, so we’ve been playing a lot there. We did small tour a couple months ago, and Jacob flew to Chicago.
“He’s just willing to do it,” he said about Sherfield flying cross-country for some gigs. “It’s not like we’re doing this for money. It’s mostly just for fun and the enjoyment of playing.”
Even though they are spread across the country, they’re still creating music. Their third full-length album, Field Guide to American Houses, hits streaming services on Friday, Jan. 20.
Learning on the go
Prior to recording albums, Secret Mezzanine was just Caudill and Greene playing music together after meeting at Canterbury. Noticing that they liked similar music, they began playing together with Caudill learning on the go.
“I didn’t know how to play an instrument, but I built one,” Caudill said. “I built a ukulele out of a cigar box, and I figured I should learn to play. Rob taught me, then we just started playing together.”
Shortly after, they were performing around the city with a pair of ukuleles before Spoelhof came aboard. The trio went on to win a Battle of the Bands competition at the University of Saint Francis in 2014. The win allowed them to record a five-song EP, with Sherfield working as their engineer as a Saint Francis student.
What they recorded was Passing Dream, which Greene does not really consider part of the band’s catalog.
“It’s one of those things where you go back and listen to it now, and you laugh about a lot of things,” he said. “You hear the mistakes you made, but it was a really great experience. It’s just about learning at that point.”
With Sherfield coming aboard on drums, and Spoelhof, whom Greene refers to as a “Swiss Army Knife,” on keyboard, the current Secret Mezzanine was formed.
The four recorded their debut album, Ash to Ash, in 2017 while Caudill, Greene, and Spoelhof were seniors in high school, Caudill and Greene at Canterbury and Spoelhof at North Side. The three went on to enroll at Indiana University in Bloomington, and the EP Thought of Man followed in 2018. Their second full album, No Context, came out in the winter of 2021.
Recording and mixing process
Like they did for No Context, the group recorded Field Guide to American Houses at Russian Recording in Bloomington, which has worked with such acts as Built to Spill, M. Ward, Deerhoof, of Montreal, Why?, and Mac DeMarco.
Following the seven-day session last spring, Spoelhof began mixing from Chicago, keeping everyone in the loop on how things were coming along thanks to the internet.
“I know nothing about how to make things sound good, but I have a pretty good ear,” Caudill said of helping Spoelhof mix. “So I would tell him what I felt, with me being the one that wrote a fair amount of the record and him being the one to know how to make it happen.”
The finished product is something Greene feels reflects on how the four have grown.
“It’s definitely more mature than our older stuff,” Greene said. “It’s the first time we’ve had control over the sound with Garrett mixing it. He really has it dialed in on how we want it to sound.”
Greene says being able to play more live shows than they were able to with past albums has helped with streaming numbers, beginning with the first single, “One More Night,” released on Nov. 4.
“In the first couple of days, it had more streams than all over our previous stuff,” he said.
“Backseat” was released on Dec. 9, and “Did It Rain” was the latest number, hitting major platforms on Jan. 6.
As far as live local shows go, Caudill played solo gigs at Deer Park Irish Pub on Dec. 30 and 31, but unfortunately Greene was out of town. They hope to book a local show during a tour they’re putting together for March, which hits the East Coast and Great Lakes.
As for the guys, they say distance doesn’t affect them much as their friendship takes precedent over the band.
“We’re all just the closest friends each of us has,” Caudill said. “We love making music, but we would go out of our way to see each other even if we weren’t playing together.”