For most of its existence, Secret Cities has created its brightly detailed psych-pop long distance. The group started as a pen-pal tape trade between guitarist Charlie Gokey and keyboardist Marie Parker, who lived in different parts of North Dakota. Alex Abnos, a Kansas Citian, came on as drummer after meeting Gokey and Parker on an Elephant 6 fan message board on the Internet (for real). Since then, Secret Cities has toured the country, released two records, and won the praise of such tastemakers as Paste, Stereogum and Carrie Brownstein. The band embarks on its first live dates of 2012 this week and kicks things off here in KC at RecordBar. We caught up with Abnos ahead of the show for a status update.
The Pitch: So where are you all living now?
Abnos: We've all switched locations again since the last time we played here. I live in New York City now, Charlie lives in D.C., and now Marie is our KC contingent.
What's everybody doing in their respective cities?
Charlie is starting his third year of law school at Georgetown this fall. Marie is a music teacher in the KCK [school] district. And I just finished my M.S. in journalism at Columbia. I'm currently working as a freelancer in NYC.
How do you think being isolated from one another like that informs the band and the music?
In the past, being so separate allowed us time to rethink our songs and get as many random tangents into them as possible. Now, after doing nearly two years of touring together, I think we're looking at it more as a step than a method. It's been really nice to get together and work some of these new songs out in the presence of one another before going our separate ways and going into our own worlds.
What can we expect from the shows on this tour?
This tour is going to be an interesting one. When we started playing live regularly two years ago, we had five members: the three of us; Trevor, [our] second drummer; and a touring guitarist. Neither of two touring guitarists worked out for various reasons, so we toured with just the three of us and Trevor for the last year. We worked it out, it sounded good, everyone was happy. Now, due to unforeseen circumstances, Trevor won't be able to come on this tour ... . So for the first time, Secret Cities will perform as a three-piece. We've pretty much had to go back to the drawing board in terms of our live setup. Whereas before we kind of relied on pure volume, we'll probably be a bit quieter this time around. We're also working to involve a greater variety of instruments. For example, I'll be playing some ukulele in addition to drums. But it's tough to say right now. We're still kinda pulling it together.
Any new songs, new material?
We will be performing a fair amount of new songs on this tour, but again, it's hard to say exactly how many right now. Marie has three or four, Charlie has three or four. I am actually super-excited about stripping things down like this. Having less options means we'll really have to make the best out of what we have. I think we'll end up discovering some useful things that we can carry over into recording something new. Which is an altogether different mountain we'll have to climb after this tour.