Provisionally dubbed Crew, SafetySuit comprises the following personnel; Douglas Brown supplying both vocals and rhythm guitar, Dave Garofolo strumming guitar, Jeremy Henshaw occupying bass, and Tate Cunningham behind the drumkit. Their tale began when Brown, Henshaw, Cunningham and two other individuals entered a local Battle of the Bands contest at the eleventh hour, and promptly won the event (Garofolo joined the fold awhile later).
Their popularity increased throughout the year to follow, and the group drew up to a thousand attendees a night via the local circuit. Seeking a fresh direction, SafetySuit
relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. The product of a chance meeting, an EP was cut in the summer of 2005 with producer Greg Archilla
(Matchbox Twenty, Collective Soul, Buckcherry). Playing gigs two to three times a week, the fanbase grew. By default, such developments garnered label interest.
SafetySuit performed numerous gigs at local Nashville haunt 12th and Porter, and one such gig was attended by none other than the Executive Vice President of Universal. Following that performance, the quartet inked a record deal with Universal Records. With a deal in tow, the next logical step was to record a debut album.
SafetySuit conducted talks with a myriad of known producers, finally settling upon the familiar Archilla to handle production duties. Recording sessions spawned inaugural full length "Life Left To Go", hailed by the customary press blurb as "unabashedly catchy". Not such lightweight fare as information may suggest, the album's title track concerns the thoughts of someone wishing to end their life. The composition then presents the friend's viewpoint, essentially begging them not to go through with such actions. Hitting stores on May 13th, "Life Left To Go" has much expectations to live up to.
To illustrate this point, take one such bold statement from SafetySuit's press agency which proclaims that the group's "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". With music listeners' curiosity piqued, SafetySuit frontman Douglas Brown kindly granted an email interview to Ultimate Guitar.
Ultimate Guitar: The group began in Tulsa, Oklahoma under the name Crew. What were the reasons surrounding the group's formation, and how did the group come to fruition?
Douglas Brown: We actually came together as a result of luck. I wanted to play some of my songs in a Battle of the Bands contest, so I asked a couple of my buddies to help me out (Tate and J, plus two others - Dave came later). Eventually, we won the contest. For roughly a year, we were one show away from splitting. Finally, we said; "Maybe we should just do this full time".
The name Crew was changed to SafetySuit. Why was the group's name changed, and what does the name SafetySuit mean to the band?
Trademark issues were the reason behind the name change. However, the name Safetysuit means a lot to the band. We loved the word safe, and I think this is due to the fact we want our listeners to feel that way. Sometimes, it's easy to take for granted the fact that you have great friends or a great family, or a place where you always feel safe. This isn't the case for everyone though. If we can achieve this for someone through music, then I feel we've achieved something special - hence the name Safetysuit.
The group uprooted from Tulsa to Nashville, Tennessee. What were the motives in moving there, and what dividends did the move eventually reap?
We wanted to move to one of the three major music hubs, namely New York, Los Angeles or Nashville. Eventually, we chose Nashville. When we visited Nashville, we noticed a budding rock scene which we knew we wanted to become a part of, and help grow. The move definitely paid off; we were able to meet so many great artists, build a great fan base and get noticed by people in the music industry. This eventually led to our record deal.
In the summer of 2005, SafetySuit cut an EP. Looking back, how would you summarise the musical worth of the EP? What improvements do you feel could've been made with the benefit of hindsight?
I think that it was a really good EP. We had good songs to work with, and we learned a lot about the recording process. I think the biggest lesson we took away was to be over-prepared, and that's as everything always takes longer than you plan. There are a thousand things we would improve if given the chance, but the important thing is that we didn't make any of the same mistakes twice in writing and recording the full length. In creating "Life Left To Go", we found new mistakes to make.
This was the first time SafetySuit worked with producer Greg Archilla. How does he approach working with the group in a studio setting, and what is his personal method in gaining the best possible results from SafetySuit?
|"We loved the word safe, and I think this is due to the fact we want our listeners to feel that way."|
He let us experiment, yet he wouldn't let become too comfortable. He made the record that we all collectively wanted to make, and didn't merely veer us towards the way he wanted the record to sound. Greg is just a very talented guy. What separates him from a lot of people is that he is so laid back, yet still has confidence nonetheless. He's able to unearth the great elements within you, but without all the ego. That kind of leadership in the studio really allows a band like us, who have a very clear direction of where we want to go with the songs, to learn, grow and stay open minded while making the record. It was the hardest, yet greatest, experience in our musical lives.
A scout for Universal saw the band perform at a local venue called 12th and Porter, and so SafetySuit bagged a label deal. Why do you feel Universal saw potential in SafetySuit, and how would you assess this working relationship thus far?
It actually wasn't a scout that found us, and I only say that out of respect for the person who actually found us. While pitching SafetySuit to prospective labels, we were fortunate enough in the respect that there was a lot of discussion about the group happening. As a result of those discussions, Bruce Carbone, the Executive Vice President of Universal, came to the gig and saw us. We met with him after the show, and just hit it off. Immediately, we knew that he was the one we wanted to work with. The working relationship has been great. He and everyone at Universal are true professionals, but more importantly true music lovers. They're in this ship with us, and we are all chasing after the same goal.
Debut full length "Life Left To Go" will see the light of day on May 13th 2008. Can you shed some light on how SafetySuit came to birth this release, from its initial beginnings to the final result?
The process which spawned "Life Left To Go" was long, yet amazing. We continually wrote, rehearsed and demoed in an endless fashion until we had the tracks to comprise a great album. An incredible experience, life in the studio boasted extreme highs, extreme lows and everything in between. In all honesty, the product of that toil is an album we believe in from track one to track twelve - we're excited to let the world hear it.
In preparing for the album, SafetySuit met with a number of producers. Why was the decision made to use Greg once again, and not use one of the producers which SafetySuit had met with?
Greg was the best.
The album has been described as "unabashedly catchy". What "catchy" elements can you personally identify which the album possesses, and how do you feel this benefits the music itself?
In my opinion, the hook is the central focus. We aimed to pen songs which people could easily sing along to, and could remember. When people can easily sing along to a given track, it lends them an opportunity to experience the song from a whole fresh perspective. I'd like to think that the majority of our songs contain that element.
How does this full length progress both musically and lyrically from the previously released EP?
We just kept trying to push ourselves further and further. Whether it be subject matter or musical production, we didn't want to fear experimenting in areas we were unfamiliar with. I think people will hear extra detail within the music, whereas the lyrical content contains more depth and personal insight.
The title song "Life Left To Go" delves into the thoughts of a suicidal individual. What personal experience inspired the lyrics of that specific song?
Actually, this is a very personal topic. Someone very close to me dealt with those thoughts, and it was one of the most difficult situations I've ever had to cope with.
You said that the track shows that "somebody notices" and "cares". If someone who is contemplating suicide were to hear the track, do you feel those lyrics have the power to make that individual think twice?
|"Everyone at Universal are true professionals, but more importantly true music lovers."|
Yes, I do. I think that words are powerful. Despite the fact that "Life Left To Go" is merely a song, I think that people who feel desperately alone will be able to hear that power - therefore, they'll hear someone speaking directly to them. Don't give up; hold on, as there's life left to go. No situation, no matter how difficult, is worth sacrificing your life for. Besides the song itself affecting someone who bears those feelings, those listeners who don't feel any of those things have a responsibility to look out for those people who are hurting, and reach out to them. Notice the feelings of those around you - we all have a responsibility to do so.
The album was reportedly named after the album's "least commercial song". In choosing this option, what statement did SafetySuit wish to make?
Other than the fact we wanted the album's title to have meaning, I don't think we actually made any real statement. "Life Left To Go" sums it all up; keep striving forward, no matter what happens.
You explained that "the focus on music is always so ego-centric". Can you expand on that, and explain why you feel this way?
Sometimes, artists get so caught up in their own hype. Then, they forget about the people who actually gave them that break in the first place. All of the sudden, it's all about me me me. The focus of music, and the music community, should always be to benefit the listener.
What effect do you feel "Life Left To Go" will have on SafetySuit's success, and what potential does it have to elevate the group to the next level?
I think "Life Left To Go" will lend listeners the opportunity to hear what Safetysuit is all about. At the end of the day, who's successful and who isn't is ultimately decided by the general public. If people like what they hear, and who they see onstage, then I think that SafetSuit is equipped with all the components aside from that to achieve something great. From beginning to end, "Life Left To Go" is a collection of songs that we are proud of. When people witness our passion to make great music, hopefully they'll lend us the opportunity to record a follow up album.
Interview by Robert Gray
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