Having a working musician as a father, and a record collecting mother, the brothers O’Malley –Frankie, Patrick and Michael – grew up playing their parents’ instruments while dreaming of following in their footsteps. Then, Cheap Trick at Budokan, a beloved album, birthed dreams of Japan after repeated listening. Two decades and six albums later, the band of brothers that became The Safes is making its Japanese tour dreams come true. Guitar-playing vocalist, Frankie, and touring bassist, Curt, talked with Weekender about their past, their present, and their ideal future.
Your bio states that you are a band of brothers from Chicago. Could you please introduce each member and tell us what each one of you brings to the band?
Frankie O’Malley: The Safes are the O’Malley brothers (Frankie, Patrick and Michael) along with our drummer Dex Fontaine and bassists Curt Schmelz and David Elliott. Dex and Curt played on our Hidden Volume Records release Tasty Waves and will be touring in Japan.
Could you please tell us a bit about your history?
The Safes hit the ground running in 2003 with our first release Family Jewels and we have been writing, recording and touring ever since. We’ve added musician friends to the band over the years for recording and touring with myself and Patrick being the two constant members. So far we Safes have played shows in over 100 cities in 37 states in America to widespread critical acclaim. One avenue The Safes have had success is with is licensing our music to film, television and advertisements; this additional income and exposure has helped grow the band since our first record. We’ve also been fortunate enough to have worked with many respected recording engineers and producers on our albums and with some of our talented and generous family and friends that have created, directed, filmed and edited our music videos for each release! It’s been an ever-changing adventure with unexpected success thankfully popping up along the way.
Who are some of your favorite influences?
This one’s really hard to answer because we love all good music! There’s that true Duke Ellington quote, “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.” But to get to the point, Cheap Trick, The Kinks, The Replacements, The Clash and many more have influenced our sound!
Your new album is called Tasty Waves. Why did you choose that title?
It’s a funny story: we had the cover art mocked up but no title. Patrick and I had a long, long list of album titles we could not agree upon. Then one night I could not sleep, like so many nights, so I turned on the TV and Fast Times at Ridgemont High was on. I heard one of the great Jeff Spicoli quotes: “All I need is a cool buzz and some tasty waves and I’m fine.” So I jokingly sent Tasty Waves over to Patrick and he loved it and my vote no longer counted.
You have five tour dates in Japan between February 23 and February 26. Why are you choosing to tour Japan at a time when foreign music sales are perhaps at an all-time low?
Well, we had no idea about foreign music sales in Japan to be honest. But The Safes touring Japan has been on our list of goals since we started the band! And we’re so happy that this dream has come true and can’t wait to make it to Japan!
We understand that your record label – Hidden Volume Records – also puts out records by some Japanese rock ’n’ roll bands. Did that connection to Japan have some influence on your decision to tour this country?
Yes, 100%. This tour is a result of having the great fortune to work with Hidden Volume Records whose international roster includes four great Japanese bands: The Fadeaways, The Routes, Swamps and Gorilla! We could not have done this without the combined efforts of Hidden Volume and these killer bands who also hooked us up with a show in Osaka with another great Japanese band The Bryan who are not on Hidden Volume.
What are some of your favorite things about Japan?
Frankie O’Malley: Patrick visited Japan in the past and would always tell me about how friendly the people were and the striking landscapes. I remember hearing how he enjoyed going to an onsen and how one day swimming outside in a creek near Fukuchiyama was so much fun.
Curt Schmelz: My favorite thing is the food. You can’t get food as delicious as Japanese food here in the United States. Also the music scene of course. Many of my favorite bands are Japanese: The Spiders, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, Teengerate, PERFUME, Looprider … there are so many great bands/groups. I also love the way it feels very much like I’m in a different culture, but so much still feels familiar. Plus Japan has the best trains in the world and biking on the Shimanami Kaido is one of my favorite days ever.
What do you hope to do personally, and accomplish professionally, on your upcoming Japanese tour?
Frankie O’Malley: Personally I hope to have as much fun as humanly possible and to see and absorb as much of Japan as I can! Professionally? Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t take this opportunity to go the Cheap Trick Live at Budokan fairy tale ending route! Ha ha! But realistically playing rock ‘n’roll with great bands and making as many new fans as possible at each show by putting on the best performance we can each and every night. Then we will accomplish everything we want professionally for this tour! And maybe if we’re lucky, international superstardom will be the result. That would be kinda cool. But sharing our music, making new fans and friends is really what it’s all about for The Safes.
Do you have any final message for your current and potential fans in Japan?
Yes! Hello we can’t wait to meet you at the shows! Thank you for listening to our music and supporting The Safes; it really means the world to us! Let’s party!
Thank you very much for doing this interview with Tokyo Weekender.
Thank you, Laurier. It was my pleasure!
The Safes will be playing Tokyo on February 23 and February 24. Click on the dates for more information about each show.