Sweat It Out

Secret P.E. Club can rock an innocent ice cream social or a seedy hotel bar

At Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor in Dania Beach, sunburned kids sit with cones that drip thick, creamy goo between their fingers, and moms and dads scarf down hot dogs. Waiters serve diners kitchen sinks filled with ice cream and topped with sparklers. A siren goes off when they're delivered to your table. And if you can get to the bottom of the sink, it's rumored you will see a portal to hell.

Jaxson's is a meeting place for folks with some sweet in their tooth and some junk in their trunk and for the Secret P.E. Club. While the name conjures up images of hot pants-clad fitness enthusiasts or dodgeball-wary stoner kids skipping out on fifth period, it's also the name of the all-girl band stuffed into a cozy wooden booth, slurping root beer floats the size of a dodgeball. They lovingly refer to one another as "skank" and "ho" -- terms of endearment that only those close to you could get away with.

The friendship started back in 2002, when former New Times Broward Palm Beach writer Emma Trelles, freelance photographer Mindy Hertzon, and art director Andrea Vigil all happened to be working on a story for Street Miami about indie record label Spy-Fi. When Ed Artigas, Spy-Fi's owner, called Trelles and suggested the girls start a band, her initial doubt turned into determination. Trelles, a musical virgin, picked up the bass. Hertzon had years of practice with original noisemakers the Laundry Room Squelchers and decided she would play guitar. Vigil dabbled briefly in the giggle-worthy, semi-fictional Oprah's Dildo ("The band never really existed," she says. "We couldn't make it through one practice where we weren't just like, 'Fuck it. '"), so she got behind the kit. They began practicing in an abandoned gym in Miami, and Secret P.E. Club was off and running.

Sweet tooth, dirty mouth: the ladies of Secret PE Club.
Raul Rubierra Sr
Sweet tooth, dirty mouth: the ladies of Secret PE Club.

As their obscenely large floats start to melt, SPEC decides to ditch this ice cream stand and head for a seedier environment -- the Entrada, Hollywood's best-known no-tell motel. Trelles is recognized by the staff from a story she once did here, and we are escorted to the gated (and, inexplicably, heated) pool to chat about the rock and the roll.

"We never said to each other that we wanted to sound like this," Trelles says. "We just thought, 'Oh, let's learn how to play. '" The band's sound is a well-balanced diet of sugary, poppy hooks, sometimes-sultry vocals (split equally between Hertzon and Trelles), and a healthy dose of rock enthusiasm. The mix makes for a catchy, melody-flavored soundtrack, but this doesn't mean the girls don't wail. On a song called "Fake Jake," Hertzon lets out her inner Cookie Monster and screams over her guitar, calling the object of her ire every name in the book -- including "nut nuzzler."

The ladies have gotten used to being in the spotlight and not lurking in the crowd. "Yeah, I think it's weird," Trelles says. "It's been difficult to be on-stage, especially for me, because I'm so used to being in the shadows. But I'm getting used to it. Now I'm just scared and not terrified."

The only recorded material the gals have is "The Goodbye Song," which they were asked to record for a compilation. But a proper full-length CD titled Hot Plasticis in the works. "We joke that there is a Secret P.E. Club mystique because we've been out for, like, two years now and nobody has our CD and you can't really hear us elsewhere," Hertzon says. But the ladies still get props from their own club. "We've gotten incredible support from all the bands," Trelles says. "We've seen them play for years, and now they've just been like our cheerleaders."

After a few drinks, the real questioning begins. "Ho bag!" Vigil calls out. "What are you doing later?" Hertzon smiles and explains: "We all have cute nicknames like that -- all of it completely untrue, of course."

Where do the girls pledge their allegiance, rock or reporting? Here's a little Q&A to see how they stack up:

NT: Who do you think would win in a fight: Connie Chung or Courtney Love?

All: Courtney Love.

Vigil: She'll get dirty about it.

Trelles: She's a maniac. I'd put her up against most guys that I know.

NT: What about a match between Lois Lane and Joan Jett?

Trelles: I think I might have to go with Lois Lane on that one. She's thrust upon supervillains and holds her own at all times. I think I'm just being loyal to women writers.

Hertzon:Joan Jett. She has her own T-shirts.

NT: On a typical night at home, would you rather watch Spinal Tap or All the President's Men?

All:Spinal Tap.

NT:OK, so you're at a show and you see the singer of some band passed out in the bathroom and he or she is about to play. Do you grab your notebook/camera and document it or help him out and offer to play the set?

Vigil: Uh, all of them.

Hertzon: Well, I would make sure that the guy's not dead and then prop him up.

Trelles: I'd help him up or go get someone to help him up -- unless it was the bathroom at Churchill's.

 
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