Pop Punk Balanced

It's a Friday afternoon and indie pop group Secret P.E. Club is getting in one last practice for a gig later that night. Guitarist Andrea Vigil, however, is missing. Scheduled to return from a vacation that morning, Vigil is somewhere between Los Angeles and Miami. Where, exactly, her bandmates aren't sure. There should be the high drama of frantic phone calls and last-minute setlist changes; instead, bassist/vocalist Emma Trelles and drummer Mark Zolezzi are the epitome of chill as they calmly sip Dunkin' Donuts coffee and name off songs they could play sans Vigil. "'Airport Executive,' 'I-95,' and 'Don't Want to Know Why' [by Whiskeytown]," Trelles quips. "So we play a three-song set."

Secret P.E. Club members have maintained this impassive sense of assurance from the beginning, when they would hammer out their feminist pop punk aesthetic in an abandoned gym. After the group spent a year and a half crafting its debut album, Hot Plastic, and released it this past April, guitarist Mindy Hertzon abruptly left. As usual, SPEC kept its cool. "Usually when there's a change, it's a touchy situation, but it wasn't at all in this case," says Hertzon's replacement, Mark Zolezzi, who then took over Vigil's place on drums when she switched to guitar.

Choosing Mark also liberated the group from the expectations of its "chick band" moniker. "We weren't trying to find someone who sounded like Mindy. No one, for example, can do 'Fake Jake' but Mindy," Trelles says of Hertzon's 23-second "fuck you" to a boy who had done wrong, "but Mark brings something different to the band." It's a good kind of different, though, because SPEC, despite its songs about identity, relationships, and love gone to shit, was never about the "chicks that rock" label. "All we've ever wanted to do is play music," Trelles says, reaffirming SPEC's inclination to keep things simple, "and now that there's no more vagina factor, we're able to just be a band."

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Jessica Sick