It’s always a treat to hear a promising young band release their debut album with such hype and acclaim and completely follow through, starting their careers with an enthusiastic sprint out of the gate. The Safety Fire‘s debut album Grind The Ocean is already one of the best releases we’ve heard this year, and if they’re this strong as it is now, then these British prog/tech metallers have the potential to be giants in the genre in a few years time. While out on their first ever American tour alongside Protest the Hero, Periphery, Jeff Loomis, and Today I Caught The Plague, Noyan caught up with The Safety Fire in their Baltimore stop to talk to guitarist Derya “Dez” Nagle about the tour, their humble origins, and their debut album Grind The Ocean, out now on InsideOut Music.
So, your new album is out. How’s the reaction from the fans so far? How’s the tour?
It’s been amazing so far. Being the first time we came out to USA, we didn’t know what to expect; so to come out to shows and see people knowing the songs is a massive thing for us. We had no idea that there’d be such a positive reaction. Also, people who didn’t know us turned around and getting into the music and having comments like, “Wow, I never heard you before but now I’m buying the album,” from seeing us live is amazing. It’s been great so far.
So, you guys dropped onto the international scene out of nowhere, so what’s your story? You guys are kind of an enigma.
The band started literally when we all got our instruments at 15, and it’s been the same lineup since then. We progressed in an oldschool fashion like bands like Deftones and Alice in Chains kind of thing where high school friends become bands. That’s what we are, instead of finding other musicians with the same color that then make a band, we developed altogether. It was a long process. The band as The Safety Fire kind of started maybe in like 2006 or 2007 when we started to write music kind of in the style of what we write now.
Yeah, you had an EP titled Sections and some songs from that are also on the album…
Exactly, when Sections came out in 2009 that was the first time we started to make a name for ourselves. That was all very much a grassroots effort. We were promoting ourselves, doing everything — no label, no management. In the UK we started to build up a little bit of steam, but worldwide there wasn’t much. We had some people online who liked us but not anything too concrete. It got to the point where we recorded the album and we started looking for labels. Because the album was done and everything was ready for people to see, we got a lot of interest.
You also have something going on with Guitar World, how did that come to pass?
They reached out to us and they enjoyed what we were doing and thankfully we have a great PR team working with us that makes that kind of stuff happen. We did the initial playthrough, and then we started doing some articles with them which will carry on. And then when we go to New York, we’re going to see them and do some “lick of the day” kind of stuff. Should be fun.
You should do some “Betcha can’t play this!”
So, this is your first “worldwide tour”, right?
Yeah, we’ve done Europe before and we’ve done UK quite a few times but this is the first in the US. Being on such a lineup with such great bands and all the amazing people, we couldn’t really ask for anything better than that!
How’s it going? Is it different than your regular UK or Europe tour?
Um, the drives are much, much longer. The UK drives are like an hour or two, maybe six hours at the longest and that’s only once per tour; whereas seven hours is pretty much standard and you have eleven to fifteen here. Which, in what we’re driving in, which isn’t one of these kinds of buses [points to massive tour bus] …
Yeah, I saw the van you guys came in on. (It was just a regular minivan)
Yeah, so, it’s fine, but sitting and sleeping isn’t the most comfortable thing to do.
Do you have any interesting, crazy tour stories?
Nothing that we’re able to talk about *laughs*.
Haha, have you had any interactions with the other bands on tour?
We’ve been hanging out, we went to some awful, I mean hilarious, club in Cleveland last night with the Periphery guys and danced up to whatever seems to be clubland classics at the moment, which was good fun, but kind of strange at the same time because it’s not really the typical things we’d be doing. But it was good.
We basically wanted to do something different. We have certain budgets to work to and we felt that if we did just another performance video — which we did to the best of our abilities with Huge Hammers — we wouldn’t be doing anything new. Whereas what we did with ‘Floods of Colour’ kind of showed people a different side of our personalities, and what we like as people as well. I think this makes it stand out a little bit more.
You’re the kind of people who drink weird colored things and throw up all over the place?
Well, *laughs* more so like the comical side of it. Just to have a Foo Fighters kind of vibe instead of being ultra serious.
I thought it was cool! So, what are the concepts behind the songs? Are there any meanings to be taken home from the songs? Because the lyrics are very interesting.
I think Sean, our lyricist [and singer!], has a lot of input and he talks about numerous things which are influenced by social surroundings and society itself or a lot of literature he reads where he finds his inspirations in terms of his outputs and views on the world. So there is a lot of actual, deep thought-out meaning to a lot of it. But if you’re asking for an overall theme for the album, there are some loosely based themes but nothing concrete necessarily.
Is there an individual thing going on in each song though?
Yeah, definitely. We like to describe the songs with colors. Each song has its own color, and quite vividly different from the next one. Musically and lyrically.
And what’s with the fish on the album cover?
Actually, a friend of ours recommended Kim Taylor. We saw his work and were blown away by what he was doing. We gave him the album and said, “you’re gonna do what you wanna do with this, we trust your vision,” and we saw it, we loved it, and there was nothing we really wanted to change. His idea of the textural side of how he’s composed the piece is kind of like the idea of how our music is, and obviously the image has to do with the title and kind of ties everything in.
It’s cool, it’s unique, I like it. I believe you write the songs?
I generally compose the majority of the material and bring it into the rehearsal room and then we discuss it there. It’s a framework and the structure, and then [we shape it into] the final demo versions before we go to record the album.
Is there a process you have for writing the song?
No, there’s definitely a route that I take. When I have an idea I know where I want to develop it to take it to the endpoint, but in the initial stages different forms of inspiration comes from everyone. It can be the case of me just sitting down and having something in my head and then I go, “I need to get this out!” then I have a theme which then can develop into a full song.
Where did the idea for the tuning come from? [They use an unconventional tuning of AADGBE instead of a standard tuning, or a regular drop tuning that most bands use].
Mainly Pantera and Sikth were the two bands that use that tuning that we know of, and the Foo Fighters use it on a few songs as well. I had a seven string, but I don’t own it anymore because I didn’t really get on with it. Not that I felt it was restricting musically, but it was the kind of thing when I was actually playing, I wouldn’t be writing anything interesting. And I find that messing around with tunings helps, bands like Soundgarden and Led Zeppelin have a wide range of tunings across all the songs they have. It kind of came from that thought process and we really enjoyed doing it.
Anything you want to say?
Do you have any more videos or anything else coming up?
After this tour we’ll probably have some kind of big US tour video which we’ll release, and then we’ve got a few festivals we’re playing over the summer. And then we’re playing with Between The Buried And Me and Periphery in October in Europe, which we’re really looking forward to. We want to come back out to the states as soon as we can as well.
Keep up with The Safety Fire on Facebook. Grind The Ocean is out now on InsideOut Music. Check out our review of it here, and you can view photos of The Safety Fire’s performance here, and if you’re in Europe, be sure to catch them with Between the Buried and Me and Periphery starting this October!