New local band to perform at anniversary party on Saturday

BY EVAN CLARK | JANUARY 20, 2011 7:10 AM

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When Amanda Miller moved to Iowa City nearly three years ago, she experienced many things for the first time. But neither her first slice of Falbo’s pizza nor first bean-bag game while tailgating will stick with her for good. Attending (and unexpectedly performing) her first show at the Yacht Club is what she’ll remember most.

During a show at the Yacht Club, local group the Uniphonics brought Miller, who was simply attending the show, up to perform with them.

“I was called up by them to get on stage, and they always have a good crowd, because they’re so well-known around here,” Miller said. “I went up and sang a few songs, and it went great. Being exposed through them was really huge and introduced me to many musicians in the area.”

Fast-forward three years; Miller has since started her second band, Amanda Miller and the Super Secrets. The group will play its first Yacht Club performance at 3 p.m. Saturday during the eighth-anniversary show at the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., along with seven other groups. Admission is $8.

Music has long been a part of Miller’s life. She grew up in Davenport, where she developed an R&B style by listening to artists such as Whitney Houston, Erykah Badu, and Joel Scott. She earned a B.A. in classical voice at the University of Northern Iowa, finished a master’s at the University of Iowa, but she jump-started her career that night at the Yacht Club.

“I’ve been a musician my whole life, I guess, but I didn’t start a band until I moved to Iowa City,” Miller said. “The first bar I ever went to around here was the Yacht Club. I started going to all the shows and jams, until I was introduced to Ben from the Uniphonics, and we wound up starting a band that I sang in.”

Miller then went on to form Amanda Miller and the Smoking Section, a nine-piece soul-funk band that played groovy covers with everything from slapping bass to a horn section. The band played many shows around Iowa City until the members decided to end it, leading Miller to form her current band in September 2010. Miller describes the Super Secrets as more of a jazz group and less of the funk that was the soul of the Smoking Section.

“This band is a five piece all-original band with a completely different vibe going for it,” she said. “It’s not quite as funky as my last band, but it has more R&B vocals, like a mix between Maroon 5 and Jamiroquai. Our sound is kind of poppy but still has some jazz in it.”

Miller now focuses on her original music for the Super Secrets, which, she believes, is more honest and personal than anything she’s ever done.

“I always say you’re basically reading my diary whenever I perform these songs,” she said. “It’s literally word for word what happens in the song. If I say someone says this or did something in a song, it’s completely true.”

Nikki Lunden, the bass player in the Super Secrets, believes that working with Miller for the past five months in the band has been a seamless transition.

“A friend of mine had seen a post on Facebook that [Miller] was looking for a bass player, so we got in touch, and that’s pretty much how it all got started,” Lunden said. “Working with her has been great; she’s really laid-back and has great tunes. So far, everyone has a lot of high energy at our gigs, and we’re definitely looking forward to be a part of the Yacht Club’s anniversary show.”

Pete McCarthy, the general manager of the Yacht Club, said he can’t help but smile when he sees local artists such as Miller and Lunden playing at his venue.

“That’s one of my favorite parts about my job; I get to see these things form from the ground up,” he said. “[Miller] is a great example of someone who came into the scene and decided to sail her own ship. She has started two different bands, she organizes shows on her own, and puts it all together and takes charge. Our focus for the eighth-anniversary party is what’s happening locally right now, and Amanda is a good representation.”

Miller said she owes much of her career as an artist to the Yacht Club, not only in terms of gigs and networking but as a place of opportunity.

“Since I moved to Iowa City, I’ve just considered the Yacht Club my home,” she said. “It’s where I’ve met all the musicians I know and where every opportunity I’ve had to play in Iowa City has come from. When my band had no place to rehearse, [McCarthy] would let us practice there for free every Sunday. The Yacht Club means so much to the music scene in Iowa City because so many bands get their start here, and I think it’s a great place to be.”

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