Regulars to Peggy Hanifan’s Whitewater Wednesday Jam Nights at Flipper’s Pub are familiar with her song, My Favourite Son. More recently they’ve also been able to see and hear the subject of that song, Patrik R.J. Lethbridge.
As The Secret Project, Lethbridge has been performing regularly at the jam and recently at the Folk Society Coffee House. Joined by his cousin and fellow Friend Called Five alumnus, Derek Wyatt, they perform in a mellow, indie folk-rock style that’s a far cry from the screaming hardcore punk they’ve previously been known for.
Lethbridge sips his huge coffee, leans back in his chair and begins, “When I was 16, my father bought me a very beautiful acoustic guitar. Around that time, Derek got one, too. That was when we really started hanging out and playing instead of just being cousins.
“But I wanted to be a rock star, so one day when he was at work, I brought it down to the hock shop and traded it in for a really cheap, really ugly electric guitar. When I did that, Derek got a bass and we started a band. That’s where The Secret Project actually started. We’ve been carrying around the idea for this band since our early teens.
“We played in so many bands in our home town, Sault Ste. Marie and in Guelph, Ontario,” Lethbridge continues, recalling their many musical projects. “Derek and I reunited musically here in Whitehorse in Friend Called Five. I had a great time playing with them, we had fresh sounds and the kids were really into it.
“The highlight for me was playing the youth stage at Frostbite. That was my last FC5 show and I knew it was, so I gave it everything. That’s why it stands out.”
After that show, Lethbridge moved to Vancouver to pursue a solo music career. “I played a few gigs in Vancouver, coffee shops and art shows, but something was missing and, now that I’m playing with Derek again, it’s back.”
Wyatt, who’s just joined us, agrees: “I’m the missing element. I make it sound good.”
After they get caught up, I ask Wyatt how it feels to be playing with Lethbridge again and if there was any residual animosity after his abrupt departure.
“No, not at all,” he says, with his characteristic reticence. “We go way back. After all, we’re cousins. The hardest part of playing with Patrik now is getting used to the style. I’ve basically been punking it out my whole life.”
Lethbridge explains: “We’ve always been inclined to rock out but I also have a softer side, which is probably the influence of my mother.
“I remember being really young and she’d be playing and singing and I thought this was what I really want to do. And I wanted to play at her jams, someday, but I had a fear of going on her stage, that I wasn’t going to make Mom happy with it or live up to her expectations.”
And what does Wyatt contribute to The Secret Project? “I think I make it indie. Patrik was planning on working with electronica, which we’ve done with I’m the Ghost. Basically, we play guitars, but there’s always room for experimentation.”
In this way, The Secret Project is related to Wyatt’s solo music, Drokness Monster, which he describes as “whatever instruments I have at the time, no matter how good or terrible they are.”
Peggy Hanifan, more than just being a proud mother, is also a fan. “If you check my Facebook profile,” she says, “you’ll see under Favourite Music just one entry: Patrik Lethbridge.”
And judging by their Wednesday night and Folk Society performances, online videos and basement recordings, they might soon become Whitehorse’s favourite music as well.
Check out The Secret Project’s music at www.myspace.com/thesecretprojectunicorn and The Secret Project group on Facebook.
Also, be sure to listen to Drokness Monster at www.myspace.com/droknessmonster.
Five things you should know about The Secret Project:
- Lethbridge loves rainbows, kittens and unicorns. Wyatt likes kittens too.
- Before playing music, they would get together and pretend to be rock stars, singing into hockey stick microphones and singing along to Guns N’ Roses.
- Lethbridge says he taught Wyatt the dance moves he does in their Underneath the Bridge video. Wyatt claims they’re all from the 70s.
- Lethbridge sometimes wishes that he and Wyatt were a dance duo, but they’ll settle for music.
- They’ve started an art project, Project Unicorn, to temporarily convert every horse in the city into unicorns. “We’ve done one so far,” Wyatt says. “Try to find it.”