With singer out, Secret Mountains' future uncertain

When Secret Mountains released its long-awaited first album, "Rainer," in February, the band seemed poised to make a leap to higher prominince in the indie music world.

The shoegazed-inspired Baltimore sextet had already garnered positive write-ups from online tastemakers Stereogum and Pitchfork. Even the New York Times joined in the praise with a concert review in 2011. The band achieved all of this without a full-length album to its name.

But lately, things have been relatively quiet with the band, and last week, singer Kelly Laughlin announced to The Baltimore Sun why: She had left Secret Mountains right before "Rainer" was released.

"This is not a new thing," Laughlin, 21, said. "I've been feeling frustrated for a long time. I was continuing because I cared about it, but I don't know, I realized I grew out of it."

Secret Mountains (Laughlin included) will still play its scheduled show with Arbouretum at Creative Alliance on Friday. It is still to be determined whether or not the band will play together again — in this form — after that, she said.

Members have expressed a desire to continue the band, Laughlin says, but certain logistics, such as whether or not the band will keep the name Secret Mountains, have not been worked out yet. She remains supportive of the group, but could no longer ignore the desire to leave, a move Laughlin first considered in the middle of recording "Rainer" in early 2012.

"I don't want to lie to anybody," Laughlin said. "I don't want to get up on stage and not be fully committed to it. It'd be a disservice not only to the audience but most importantly my band members, who really care about it. If they can find other people as dedicated to the project they're interested in making, then I want them to do that."

Secret Mountains has a long history for a band with only one full-length album. The group formed after Laughlin, who was 16 at the time, met guitarist Jeffrey Silverstein on the light rail in 2008. The duo eventually grew to a six-member band that released two EPs, 2009's "Kaddish" and 2010's "Rejoice."

The release of "Rainer" was years in the making. (Album standout "High Horse" has been in the band's repertoire since the singer was in high school.) Laughlin realizes the timing of her decision seems strange since now is the time most rising bands would tour incessantly with hopes of finding a wider audience. Ultimately, the buzz might have been right, but Laughlin wasn't.

"Everybody is just kind of bummed because we did just put this record out," she said. "I would hope there isn't too much animosity. It's just uncomfortable. Everyone really cares about it. I know they wanted to take this as far as we could go. That was my hope for a long time."

Feelings and interests change, especially for 21-year-olds on the brink of graduating college. Aside from recently rededicating herself to school, Laughlin says there were other factors that led to her decision, including the possibility of pursuing graduate school and the fact that two band members live in New York. The latter reason, with the traveling back and forth that comes with it, made writing and practicing particularly tough, especially for a full-time student.

"Having some sort of schedule is really important [as a band] and it's hard with six people," Laughlin said.

Now, it's time for Laughlin and the remaining members of Secret Mountains to move on, separately. The singer says she's "not trying to harbor any negative feelings," and looks back at the experience positively.

"We had really incredible tours and that absolutely shaped who I am today and shaped my motivations of what I want to do in the future," she said.

If you go

Secret Mountains perform Friday at Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. in Highlandtown as a part of the Patterson Resident's Open House. Arbouretum will also perform. Reception is from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Open studios from 7-8:30 p.m. Performances are from 9 p.m.-midnight. Limited capacity. Free. Call 410-276-1651 or go to creativealliance.org.

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