Huge thanks to long term friend of liveontomorrow.co.uk and regular contributor Carlos Lopez for conducting this interview with Frankie O'Malley of The Safes:
Chicago's garage power pop multi instrumentalists and band of brothers, The Safes, have recently released a heartfelt tribute to the one and only Juliana Hatfield. A limited red coloured 7" on American Laundromat Records with covers of fan favorites 'Universal Heart-beat' and 'I See You' with accompanying vídeos for both tracks that have received the seal of approval from Juliana herself.
(CL) Juliana Hatfield has a very extensive musical career. It goes back to her start in Boston's thriving music underground scene in the mid 80's with The Blake Babies. How did you discover Juliana's music and become a fan?
(FO'M) We first heard Juliana Hatfield played on the best radio station in Chicago, WLUW, regularly when "Hey Babe" came out. We all just loved the songs and the singing so much! We’ve been fans ever since!
Were any other songs considered besides 'Universal Heart-beat' and 'I See You' for the tribute?
No, not really... I mean doing "My Sister" and "Spin the Bottle" was talked about a little after we made our decision to record the other two songs. But it was really an afterthought. So we just went with our gut picks!
How did the rehearsals go learning the songs as a band before recording?
Ha! For The Safes, rehearsals for this recording session were particularly unique! We had asked Ted Ansani and Mike Zelenko of Material Issue (one of our all-time favorite bands!) to be our rhythm section for this single. And working with them was such a thrill! Very easy! Very laid back and 100% professional and tons of fun! Not everyone just gets to pick a lifetime favorite and have them be into it and for it to work so well! It really was special and super fun! Ted and Mike are aces! And learning these songs was a challenge; Juliana Hatfield has so many gifts as a songwriter! The chords in "I See You", speaking for myself, I know I learned some new fingers for that one! Also she can change the melody on every verse and have the melodies improve saving the best for the last verse. This skill of hers is a super unique thing about her songs! Not everyone does this, most songwriters have a melody for the verse, one for the chorus, maybe a bridge but Juliana Hatfield has these songs where the verse melody changes every verse. It's so cool I love it! My brother Patrick writes songs like that too; I wish I could. And learning the left hand keyboard part for “Universal Heart-Beat” was very difficult!
Every bass run is just little different from the other and they are all so on the money.
Whose idea was it to work with Steve Albini who has worked with so many legendary bands like Pixies and Nirvana?
Mine! Seemed such a natural for this single and turned out to be hands down a very good call if I do say so myself!
How did the recording process go compared to your previous experiences making a record?
Um, I'd say very similar in most ways! The Safes are always prepared to knock it out of the park in the studio. No fussing about. Steve was awesome! Very professional, fast, very smart, very easy to work with. Gotta say it was one hell of an experience to record two Juliana Hatfield songs with Steve Albini and Ted & Mike. It's hard to express exactly but it was pretty magical I'll say!
American Laundromat Records have been very supportive of Juliana's recent recordings. Were you surprised at the opportunity to work with them?
I wouldn't say I was surprised because our dear friend Nicole Anguish of Daykamp Creative does a load of artwork for American Laundromat Records and got our music to the label owner, Joe Spadaro! But I was thrilled to find out that Joe liked The Safes enough to release a single of us doing a tribute to Juliana Hatfield for sure!!! Very happy about that!
Your videos for both tracks on the tribute are really fun to watch. Did the band had any input on the concepts or did you let the director surprise you with ideas?
We had zero to do with the music videos other than knowing and being lucky enough to be friends with two super-cool and mega-talented artists who both did amazing work making these videos!
Wendy Norton of Norton Videos created our “Universal Heart-Beat” video:
James William Glass created our “I See You” music video:
From what I have read Juliana really liked your takes on her songs. How did that make the band feel?
Well, we were over the moon when we heard that. Juliana Hatfield gave us such great feedback on our versions of her amazing songs! I mean, that really made me feel great I must say! And I know the rest of The Safes feel the same. Super rad! Thank you Juliana!
Besides Juliana what other bands have inspired The Safes?
So many it's impossible to list them all but here are some that come to mind Andalusian Dogs, The Breeders, Fetchin Bones, The Cramps, etc...
I know you have been touring recently. What's next for the band?
Well I'm proud to say The Safes have maintained a very steady schedule; write songs, record songs, release music and tour in support! So continuing to do that next should always remain what’s next for The Safes until the end of time!
Thank you Frankie for your time and sharing your memories. All the best to you and The Safes.