What is your full name?
Jeffrey Leighton Owens
Do you have any aliases?
I do not.
If you had an alias what might it be?
Haha I don't know. Probably David Omens or some dumb shit like that.
What bands are you actively involved with?
Secret Iris and Goya.
What was the first instrument that you played?
Organ (that's not a pun).
Tell me about one of your first musical memories?
My mom used to sing lullabies to me. I remember her sitting on the edge of my bed with blue sheets, singing 'I've Been Working on the Railroad'. Some 40 years later, I still get a bit emotional thinking about it.
What was the name of the first band you were in?
Iniquity. We later changed it to Agent 18.
Tell me about the genesis of Secret Iris?
This is going to be extremely gratuitous, but it was a long and convoluted path that got me here.
In early 2016, the relationship I was in fell apart. Roughly a year later, my dad died. All of this had me pretty discombobulated. I thought everything was fine, which was strange in and of itself, but looking back, I had really lost my bearings. Out of that came a whole bunch of new Goya songs about death, loss, and grief. I planned to play only those songs going forward, but Sonny wasn’t too enthused about that, so I relented and decided to start a new project. In retrospect, Sonny was totally right. As I recall, Marcus and I worked on that group of songs for a while. I honestly don’t remember much about the band in the following 2 years, which is unfortunate.
In late 2018, I wrote ‘What Are You Waiting For’, and I knew that was what I had been trying to do the whole time. I scrapped every song I had written in the two and a half years before that, but not after rehearsing a lot of those songs a lot of times with a lot of different people. Slowly, ‘What Are You Waiting For’ became the oldest song in the catalog, I began rehearsing with Tanner on bass and backups, and eventually I approached Matt to make this 7” and the upcoming album with us.
As for my bearings, I never found them.
What inspired the name Secret Iris?
I had been looking for a name that wasn’t taken for a long time, and was pretty ambiguous. One night when I was watching a movie or something, Secret Iris hit me. One of the guys I played with said it sounded like a metaphor for vagina, which was appropriate since I’m a giant pussy, so that was it.
How long did it take you to write and record What Are You Waiting For?
The first audio files I have of it are from October 14, 2018, and the first completed demo I have is from October 30, 2018. I’m not sure at what point in there the song was fully written. I believe the studio time we booked for the 2-song 7” was 4 days. I recorded the vocals myself at Switchblade Sound, and that took a lot of additional time, so I’d say probably just under a week total with set up, tracking, and mixing for the 2 songs.
If you could insert yourself into any one band what band would it be and why?
Queen, so I could harmonize with both Brian May and Freddie Mercury.
Have you ever heard a song and immediately wished you had written it? If so… What was the song and artist?
I have not.
Do you have any non-metal musical inspirations?
Almost all of my inspirations are non-metal bands. The Band, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Jenny Lewis, Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, Bad Religion. This list will get very long if I don’t stop there.
What’s a non-metal song that you'd like to do a cover of?
There are about 10 Go-go’s songs I would love to cover.
What band have you played with that has really impressed you with their live show?
Do you have a favorite venue to play at?
In town, Yucca Tap Room. On tour, it’s hard to pick just one. Probably either The Lost Well in Austin or High Water Mark in Portland.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
What is your favorite thing about touring?
Sitting in the van, looking out the window.
What is your least favorite thing about touring?
Depends on the band, but usually it’s driving the van.
Is there a city that you love to hit while on tour?
So many. I have consistently had the most fun in Portland. Lots of great people there. The Bay Area is always an absolute pleasure. Anywhere where the people are friendly and accepting.
What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had on the road?
As we were walking into a gas station near Brick By Brick in San Diego (amazing venue), I saw what looked like some paper in a ziplock bag by the pumps and joked to the band, “Look, a bag of meth!” On the way out of the gas station, one of the guys picked it up. It was a bag of meth. Best guess, it was roughly a half ounce. I have no idea how much meth weighs, but it was the most I’ve ever seen by far.
The year is 2006. Where are you at and what are you listening to?
I’m either working at the comic shop or at a show, and I’m probably obsessively listening to Potemkin City Limits by Propagandhi.
What advice would you give young musicians that are just starting out in the music business?
I am really bad at business. Like…really, really, really, really astoundingly bad. And I hate it. I’m the last person anyone should ask for business advice. If you want my advice on music, which I think has nothing to do with business, despite the fact that the two things are unfortunately married today, follow your heart, and do your best to be honest. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, as long as you’re satisfied with what you’ve created.
What is an absolute band killer?
I’d love to say, “Bad music,” but it’s all subjective. Sometimes, you just don’t like something because it’s your own personal taste, which there’s no accounting for.
Have you ever recorded a song that you really didn’t like, but somebody else in the band really did?
A number of times.
If you were to start your own music festival what would be the name of that festival and who would be the three headlining bands?
This is an impossible question, so I’m just gonna rapid fire Propagandhi, Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis, Black Sabbath. Jefffest 2022.
What’s the longest time you’ve gone without bathing?
Around a week. I was 17.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I think Kristen Bell is the coolest.
Is the Fistful of DOOM show in the top 10 of your favorite music podcasts?
Do unicorns sleep standing up?
Yeah, but not on their legs.
You’re driving cross-country and you can only listen to one album the whole time. What album will it be?
Tough to choose just one album by The Band, but probably CAHOOTS.
You are writing a book about your life thus far. What is the title of that book?
‘Fuck Me, I Guess’
What is your favorite song by Drake?
I cannot name a song by Drake.
Ghost or Mastodon (if you had to choose)?
Mastodon and it’s not even a contest. That ‘Square Hammer’ song is pretty good though.
Doobies or Boobies (if you had to pick one)?
Waffles or Pancakes (if you had to pick one)?
Waffles or GTFO.
Star Wars or Star Trek (if you had to choose)?
Come on, I’m a pseudo-intellectual here. Star Trek, obviously.
Favorite band t-shirt you own?
Black Sabbath 2016 tour Paranoid
Don’t have one.
Favorite video game?
Either Returnal or The Last of Us Part II.
Mucho thanks to Jeffrey for taking the time to answer my questions. I appreciate it. Please, please, please click on over and give Secret Iris a listen. You won’t be disappointed. And on the off chance that you are it’s not like you’ve got anything better to do.
~El Pedo Caliente (aka Uncle Jameson from the Fistful of DOOM show)