“There are certain bands you dream of playing with when you start a band. For us, Converge and Norma Jean were right at the top of the list. The Converge show in Sydney was insane. I hadn’t been nervous before a show in forever, but I was so on edge that when walking out on stage to start the set, I stepped on a mic, rolled my ankle and hit the deck like a sack of bricks, all before we had even hit a note. I think the other guys thought I had passed out. Also, the tour with Norma Jean, Vanna and A Secret Death was one of those experiences where we felt like even if we never did anything as a band again, all the hours, all the miles and all the rough shows we’d played over the years were worthwhile.”
Fun fact: that Converge show was my (the author’s) first experience of Novocastrians Safe Hands. I’d walked into the Manning Bar, seen this dude walk on and fall flat on his arse and thought, “oh, god, here we go.” They turned that shit around, though, putting on a killer set and compelling me to buy their EP and one of their bright pink tie-dye singlets, because hell, why not? Anyway, they’re a real quiet achiever of the Australian hardcore scene and guitarist Anthony Webster was good enough to give us some of his precious time for a chat. When the subject turns to their brilliant debut record, Montenegro, Webster’s view is one of satisfaction devoid of complacency or hubris.
“When we released Montenegro we were extremely proud of what we had come up with and I really don’t feel like much has changed,” he explains. “It was something we wrote as a band together, which I think made it feel a lot more complete than our previous EP. We always try to write music that we like and can be proud of which tends to mean it has plenty of staying power with us, personally. We’re actually about halfway through writing a new record so hopefully that will become an actual existing thing perhaps early next year or thereabouts.”
Sounds good. Safe Hands haven’t stayed domestic, though. The prohibitive cost of touring the US and Europe puts that dream out of reach of many an Aussie band. They seem to forget, however, that there are a quarter of a billion people living just on the other side of the Timor and Arafura Seas. While it’s primarily a holiday destination for sunburnt bogans looking for some cheap blow, Webster enjoyed every minute of it. “Crowds in South East Asia exude positivity. It’s almost overwhelming,” he enthused. “Every show we played, people were so welcoming and enthusiastic, stoked that we’d traveled a long way from home to play for them, especially in some of the more remote areas in Aceh and West Sumatra where they don’t often get touring bands. They just live for it over there, there’s so much positivity. And yeah, we did take the opportunity to spend a couple of R&R days in a private villa in Bali, you know, for our health.”
Of course you did. On a related matter, Safe Hands have got some Aussie tour dates coming up very soon with fellow underrated band, Gatherer. “We’re really stoked to be playing with those guys,” says Webster. “We first played with them so many years ago that I don’t think they’d even remember it, when they were on tour with Fear Before the March of Flames. They since released an incredible record called So Be It (author’s note: it is indeed incredible) and yeah, we’re fans. These will also be our first shows back with our new guitarist Gummo, who used to roll with Coma Lies. He’s an absolute shred machine and goes off like the proverbial frog in a sock on stage.”
And with that incomprehensible Australian slang, it was time to wrap up, but Webster had one last thing to say. “There are ten thousand amazing bands I could rep right now, so instead of naming them one-by-one, I’ll just say go to shows, check out bands you’ve never heard before, listen to them with an open mind and not just a scene points meter. There can sometimes be a foreboding kind of negativity within the Australian scene at times where people will dislike your band before they like your band – you know, you have to win them over. Playing heavy music, we’re already a minority. There’s no point dividing ourselves even further by thoughtlessly writing off bands or venues or shows based on the company they keep or their clientele or whatever your idea of what you’re supposed to enjoy is. Be good to yourselves and each other.”
In the immortal words of Mark Hoppus, “amen, brother.”
Montenegro is out now via Pee Records. Physical and digital copies are available here.
Safe Hands are touring with Gatherer in late August. Dates, venues and lineups available below:
Thursday 28th August – Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle
w/Suburban Haze & King Trio.
Friday 29th August – Factory Floor, Sydney
w/ Death Mountain & Unbranded Animals
Saturday August 30th – Wrangler Studios, Melbourne
w/ Jonesez, Initials & Solis
Sunday August 31st – RAD, Wollongong
w/ Jacob, Jack R Reilly, Northing Rhymes With David and Skylerwhite
*Gatherer not appearing.