Safetysuit Talk "These Times"
Thu, 12 Jan 2012 08:02:35
Safetysuit tap into something very special on their sophomore full-length for Universal Republic Records, These Times.
The group reaches an elusive balance between irresistible pop rock songwriting and refreshing lyrical honesty. It's there that Safetysuit truly shine. Dave Garofalo's guitar evokes The Edge, while careening into new territory altogether. The soundscapes practically pop off of the speakers when propelled by Tate Cunningham's propulsive percussion and Jeremy Henshaw's impressive bass lines. Singer Doug Brown carries unforgettable choruses while spilling his heart openly around every bend. In other words, much like U2 or The Police, they're everything a rock band should be…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief and Dolor author Rick Florino, Safetysuit singer Doug Brown talks finding light in These Times, a crazy highway experience, and so much more.
Did you always have one vision for These Times as a whole?
I knew from the very beginning that "Believe" was going to start the album. The song wasn't always arranged this way though. Initially, I had this wicked keyboard synth part. The way that it played just built anticipation. We were like, "This needs to open the record. You can feel the anticipation of it." If I remember correctly, Tate sat down by himself one day and composed that string part that comes up at the beginning. We wanted to change the keyboard and use this string part. It was totally different, but it was much more acoustic and real than the synths. It made for such a nice ambient lead into the whole record. The song itself has a message that we wanted to start the record off with. People have to try to believe in themselves a little bit more.
There's an uplifting message, but you're also honest about the darker times.
I don't think it's healthy for artists to write songs that pretend like everything's perfect all of the time. I also don't think you should just stop whenever you're about how told times are bad. I don't know how much good that does people. Sometimes, people will say, "I heard this totally depressing song. Now, I feel depressed." Then you wonder, "Does that help you get any better if the artist leaves you hanging there feeling bad?" I always try to make the dark songs have at least some glimmer of hope at the end. That way, if you're going through whatever you're singing about, you feel like it might end sometime [Laughs]. Life finishes being terrible.
What's the story behind "Crash"?
If you listen to it, "Crash" is an actual conversation I had. I was driving down the road and I saw a kid thrown from a car by his father. It was on a state highway, and they were going about 45 or 50 miles per hour. I was driving behind this truck and I saw a struggle happening. I'll never forget it. All of a sudden, the door swings open on the passenger side and the kid goes flying out of it rolling down the side of the road. I pulled over and ran out. I was holding this kid's head and he was gushing blood from all angles. I called the ambulance. The song is my conversation with him. He kept saying, "Tell my dad I'm sorry". Listen, I don't care what you did. Your dad shouldn't have thrown you out of a moving vehicle at 45 miles per hour. It was so weird how he was focused on how he had done something wrong. I'm talking to the kid in the first verse. He's talking to me in the second verse. Then, basically the ambulances are there in the bridge.
Is it important for you to paint visual pictures with the songs?
I don't aim to do "storyteller" songs. I don't write about sparrows in a tree and say it's about me eating ice cream [Laughs]. I think it's important when you're writing music, it's somehow relatable. Whether the song and overall tone of the song is relatable or the actual specific words say something, people need to be able to draw from it. I'll leave the ambiguous stuff to someone else.
Where did "Life in the Pain" come from?
That's in the same boat as "Believe". We always knew that "Life in the Pain" would end the album. I thought we did something special when we ended the last record with "Gone Away". I like slowing the record down. I think a record should go up a hill and then come down a little bit so it can fade in and out of itself if you have it on repeat. Any artist's first record is very innocent. You're naïve and new to the whole business. On the second record, we had gone through so many ups and downs of being in this business and understanding it's a lot more work than you would have ever imagined it to be. I wrote that line—"There's something about life in the pain"—when I was at the piano in my house one day. These times are really tough, but there's something about these times that makes life great. Sometimes, people do their very best to shelter themselves from pain and hurt. I think it's best to let yourself feel it all. It makes you appreciate when times are good and it makes you learn when times are bad.
Can you delve into the title track?
"These Times" came at the end of the process. There is this general tone in America that people are down on their luck. Everybody's struggling whether they lost their job, are trying to keep their job, deal with their family, or whatever it is. We're not really a soapbox band, but this is something that should be talked about at least little. That song came out of it. It is tough, but it will pass.
What influences outside of music do you draw from?
I watch a lot of movies. I just read one of the most incredible books ever. It's called Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell. It's the true story of a Navy SEAL who got caught up in an awful mission that went awry in Afghanistan. It's one of the more powerful books you're going to read. As far as influences go, it comes from just about anywhere. It's not always a movie or a book. It can be someone's story you heard in a restaurant.
Which artists do you always come back to?
Bruce Springsteen is my favorite artist of all time. He's the king of writing about stuff that's socially focused but via really good music. He says "something" but it's also incredibly emotional. In his early years of being an artist, he probably experienced some of the downtrodden-ness he sang about. He can still write a song that connects to the average guy trying to get by month-to-month. It's a rare talent. Obviously, there's U2. U2 was quoted as saying Springsteen made them believe they could perform great rock 'n' roll in arenas and stadiums and still connect with their fans. When they were getting big, they didn't want to play with these massive venues because you can't connect with people. They saw Springsteen and saw it was possible. We want to have the magnitude of that show in our show. The standards include Coldplay. The more current characters are The Script. They're unbelievably talented. I love listening to 3 Doors Down and DAUGHTRY. I love Rihanna, Eminem, Maroon 5, and OneRepublic. It's good catchy stuff.
See our review of These Times here!
See Safetysuit perform "Get Around This" on ARTISTdirect.com here!
Watch guitarist Dave Garofalo talk These Times here!
Watch bassist Jeremy Henshaw discuss the album here!
See singer Doug Brown talk the album here!