Last updated: 08/02/2013 06:25:53 AM
Anything—and everything—about SAFETYSUIT can be summed up by the band’s name.
“I think the key word is ‘safety,’” explains singer/guitarist Doug Brown. “The four of us in the band have been friends forever. We feel comfortable around each other. We’re in a safe environment…and that makes us feel free to be who we are. And, if we can inspire that moment or that feeling in our fans, we’ve succeeded.”
Which begins the story of SAFETYSUIT, an extraordinarily talented, musically confident young band that does, in fact, inspire. Their songs capture the grandeur and depth of U2, with an imaginative pop sensibility at its core and a dizzying wall of guitars as its backdrop. “It’s not rocket science,” says Brown. “Quintessential good melody and good lyrics, that’s what makes a song.”
Oddly, the band’s influences share very little with the group’s final sound. “Hey, I like Rob Thomas – the way he twists a melody has always caught my ear. I grew up on the Allman Brothers and the Beatles. I like a lot of modern rock. And the Eagles – you won’t hear that in our music, but there’s a band that really showed me what a group of people can accomplish musically.”
When Brown speaks, it’s with assurance, as if he knows what he’s doing and where he’s going. It’s a feeling that began in, of all places, Tulsa. Here, before there was a SAFETYSUIT, there was Crew. And this early incarnation of the group was, indeed, friends. Their journey started the moment Doug, drummer Tate Cunningham and bassist Jeremy Henshaw (along with two other guys; guitarist Dave Garofolo joined a little later) entered a local Battle of the Bands contest at the last minute…and won.
It continued throughout the next year, as Crew became a local phenomenon, drawing up to1000 people per night on the local circuit. But to grow as a band, the band needed a new direction. “We wanted to move, and move to one of the three major music hubs,” remembers Brown. The group wanted space to think, to grow and, most importantly, to focus. With that in mind, the usual rock music meccas (Los Angeles and New York) gave way to Nashville.
Despite the new locale, the lack of a local fanbase, no deal and no manager, the group assembled in Tennessee and obsessively began to rehearse. After a chance meeting, they recorded an EP with Greg Archilla (Matchbox 20, Collective Soul, Buckcherry) in the summer of 2005. “When we were done with that, we felt we were as ready to play as ever,” says Brown.
So the gigs began – at nice places, dives, theaters, clubs, wherever, often 2-3 times a week. And, as expected by the band, the fanbase grew. Labels started sniffing around. And the group discovered what would become its second home, a local haunt called 12th and Porter, where the group began a residency. “Actually, the best show we ever did was at 12th and Porter, and it was the night Universal showed up,” says Brown. “Everyone brought everyone that night. Twenty minutes before the show, somebody came into the green room and announced there was a line around the block. All I remember is …I walked out on stage that night, the lights went up, I saw the crowd…and the whole thing was a blur afterwards. I was in a zone the entire time. When the last note of the last song hit, I sort of woke up. It was …amazing.”
With a Universal deal in hand, the band met with a number of big-name producers, before ultimately deciding to stick with Archilla (“We’re stubborn,” says Brown. “We like Greg. He doesn’t mess around, he tells it like it is…and he plays golf. So that’s awesome.”) The final result, Life Left to Go, is unabashedly catchy. It feels like that album that’ll live in your car stereo for months on end. But the title, like the band’s name, has its own story. “It’s named after our last song on the record, which is our least commercial song ever,” admits Brown. “It chronicles the thoughts of someone who wants to end their life. Then it presents the counter of that, the person begging them to stay. It’s a song to let people know that, no matter what, somebody notices them, that someone cares.
“That song is a big deal for us,” Brown continues, then pauses. “I don’t want to wave any sort of flag, but the focus on music is always so ego-centric. We wanted to flip that. I wanted this to be a song about the artist giving for a change.”
It’s a feeling you’ll hopefully discover when SAFETYSUIT heads out of Nashville this spring and hits the road. As Brown promises, anyone who comes to their show should feel better afterwards than before they came in. As is with their music, it’s an inspiring thought.