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Secret Shame vocalist Lena Machina emerges from the shadows of her mind and microphone

Secret Shame vocalist Lena Machina cutting tracks at Drop of Sun recording studio in West Asheville.
Sophie Campins
Secret Shame vocalist Lena Machina cutting tracks at Drop of Sun recording studio in West Asheville.

It’s an afternoon on the last Saturday in February, and Lena Machina has a large recording room all to herself. On the other side of the glass are two of her bandmates in Secret Shame and studio owner Alex Farrar, who is producing what will be the band’s next album.

Machina is layering vocals on top of one another for a song titled “January.” The studio in West Asheville is called Drop of Sun, but Machina’s lyrics are so gloomy and barbed, we can only put some of them on the air.

“We didn’t try to write a concept album, but I guess that’s kind of how it turned out,” she said.

Machina explained that during the pandemic, she was diagnosed with anorexia. She said most of her lyrics for the new record are about that and her mental health around it.

“The songs are not specifically about the pandemic, but some of the songs make references to being alone and trapped with yourself and not being able to get away from yourself and your mind,” she said.

Machina was still in her teens when she first stepped into the band. She recalled being so shy about her voice, she didn’t sing at all for the first half-dozen rehearsals. She said a fear of vulnerability compelled her to push her vocals back in the mix on the band’s 2019 debut album, “Dark Synthetics.” She devoted much of that music to the abuse and drug addiction of her partner at the time.

“For Dark Synthetics, the songs were so vague, people got them all wrong,” she said. “People took those songs as being about my drug addiction and the addictions that happen in Asheville in general and how I feel about Asheville as a whole and the addictions in Asheville, and that’s not at all what it was about. [People’s interpretations came] from social media and direct feedback. The abuse was really difficult for me and it took me a long time to get through it.”

With the newer music, Machina said has deliberately stepped forward. At age 23, she can now record soul-wrenching lyrics and emerge from the booth with a smile.

“I don’t want to hide myself anymore,” she said. “I am trying not to be afraid of what people think.”

Secret Shame doesn’t have a title or release date planned for the current album they’re making, but Machina said the band are as prolific in their songwriting as ever and that another album of music probably isn’t too far into their future.

Secret Shame are the opening band Thursday at the Grey Eagle in Asheville for a show featuring the Copenhagen band Ice Age. The band is setting up tour dates for later in the spring and into summer.

“In the past few months, the health of the band has gotten a lot better and we’re more of a set unit together now, and it’s been really good,” Machina said. “For the most part, everybody in this band has so many ideas, I think we could keep writing forever.”

Matt Peiken, BPR’s first full-time arts journalist, has spent his entire career covering arts and culture.
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