I first met the band Safe Hands not long after their debut album Montenegro was released. I quickly became a fan of the band, their passionate music and energetic performances.
When it comes to my band Paper Thin, I am a novice in the cult of Safe Hands; the rest of the band have been fans of years, and Aidan Roe even spent some time as a touring bassist.
Despite being interconnected for years; this Sunday is the first time Paper Thin and Safe Hands will have had the opportunity to play on the same show. I caught up with frontman Ben Loutit outside Welsh Blacks on a sunny Sunday Morning to have a chat:
Ben Loutit (Safe Hands): You guys recorded your new EP with Mat Taylor, who we’ve worked with a lot in the past. How did you find working with Mat for your release?
Spencer Scott (Paper Thin): Yeah, it was really great! One of the reasons we chose to record with Mat was because we loved how the Safe Hands album sounded. The first thing we did with him was record ‘Scared Of Flying’ as a single, which we did at a holiday house my grandmother owns in Hawks Nest - and it was 40 degrees in a tin A-frame house for a whole weekend.
BL: I was going to say it looked quite nice and not sweaty, quite idyllic to decamp and do something like that
SS: Which was definitely the idea! We wanted to have an opportunity to only focus on the recording. So we recorded the single, and it sounded great so we decided to record the whole EP with Mat. We did at his new house out in Paterson, and there was this little granny flat outside - just two rooms and a toilet, and he has set it up as a recording studio.
It was really great. Mat is just a bit of a wizard, and just excels in non-traditional recording spaces
BL: I remember when we recorded Tie Your Soul To Mine, the drums were recorded in Smiths Lake at an Air BnB there, and we just cleared everything out of the main room to do it. t wasn’t a place you’d normally record drums, but he just knew where to put microphones, he’s able to do so much with constriction.
SS: That’s it. The granny flat wasn’t sound proofed at all, but he just has a way of pulling great sounds. (Paper Thin guitarist) Wil was saying that it’s fun working with Mat Taylor because he’s better at every instrument than the band [laughs]. He’s better at drums, guitar, bass, and recording than all of us.
SS: So this time around you recorded at Woodriver Studios, which is completely different. You also worked with Lincoln Le Fevre, how was that?
BL: It was great. After our usual modus operandi of cobbled together recording sessions all over the place - to actually go into a recording studio with a set amount of time turned out really great. I’ve been a big fan of Lincoln Le Fevre for a long time, both his recordings and his music obviously. It’s easily our best material I think. But really, you always want your new material to be your best - you want to keep getting better.
The whole EP was born out me wanting to have more songs to fill the set out - we were a little sick of the Tie Your Soul To Mine songs, especially the heavier ones. We’re mellowing out a bit; the more melodic stuff we approached timidly on the album inspired us to lean a bit more on that side. That Weekender show was the first time we have played a couple of them live, and you always get that sort of rush when you play them live for the first time.
SS: What was it like playing Poison City Weekender? I’m sure like me that record label holds a pretty significant place for you.
BL: It was awesome. I tagged along with Jen (Buxton) back in 2012. I was blown away by the general vibe of it; the camaraderie and that everyone seemed to be doing it for the right reasons. The fact that we managed to get on there was unreal, I had the biggest smile on my face the whole time we were playing.
How was it for you guys, playing The Old Bar? You’ve done it solo before right?
SS: Yeah, so I played solo at The Old Bar in 2015 - which for me was like the thing to do. From the first time I heard The Smith Street Band, I became super invested in Poison City Records. It went from listening Smith Street and Luca Brasi, to Tyre Swans and Like...Alaska, and even now I’m buying every release they put out. So playing Weekender has always been one of my biggest goals, and being able to do it again with Paper Thin was really special. It was one of those things we talked about when we first started jamming. Everyone was really excited about it, and it was the first show we did after our EP came out which mad it even better.
BL: Yeah, it’s a nice little milestone - for us too. Especially because I am on the opinion that we hit our peak about four years ago [laughs]. We scaled everything back and started doing things weirder and different, it was nice to have a moment like that.
SS: I think one of the great things though is that four years ago, you probably wouldn’t have played. Just because of what type of band you were?
BL: Well, funnily enough, the year that I first went, they had a show with I Exist and Extortion. So I thought maybe we might have been in with a chance. But it was nice to finally be able to do it.
SS: So, you have a new EP out called Disenchanted, I’m Sure. And the cover features you singing The Killers at Hamilton Station Hotel Karaoke, and me, having some sort of meltdown about it. Why?
BL: Ah, it was just one of those photos that popped up a long time ago, and I just wanted to use it for something. I’ve been using it constantly - I think it was the header for my birthday party a few years ago, it’s just a classic photo. I barely remember the circumstances of the show at all
SS: Do you remember anything about it?
BL: Was it after a show at The Lass?
SS: Yeah, so I was convinced it was after the Jeff Rosenstock and Camp Cope show at The Hamo early last year. Because I remember Georgia and Jen singing karaoke, and I just assumed it was from that night. But then, it was revealed to me that it was actually from a Lass show in December 2013
BL: Someone did an Instagram deep dive to find the original
SS: Yeah, Wil from my band went and found it. It was a Lincoln Le Fevre, Ben David, Bec Stevens show, and we had made our way to The Hamo after that gig at The Lass. I just couldn’t believe that photo was so old.
BL: It’s timeless though. It was just an insane moment. I think, given the nature of the release, which was a surprise, we tried not to overthink it - and that extends to the artwork; it’s just a cool photo and we slapped the band name and EP title on it. I think you’ve done more promotion for it than we have [laughs]
SS: [Laughs] Well Olly, who runs the record label we are both on was really excited about it. He would just send me messages like “Have you seen the new Safe Hands EP yet? I can’t show you but it’s great”
BL: We didn’t want you finding out until the day, we didn’t even show it to Wil until the week before.
BL: Speaking of Lost Boy Records, how did you send up getting into contact with Olly and working with him?
SS: So we met years ago, because me and him were super into The Smith Street Band.
BL: Yeah, I remember Olly being the guy who would own every pressing of every release on vinyl
SS: Yeah for sure! I think he may have given that up around Throw Me In The River? Just because they got too popular to keep up.
So we met through Wil Wagner, in what I could only assume was pairing us off so we would bug him less [laughs]. Ever since then we have been super involved with each other. He put out my Split with Georgia Maq, and he said whatever I did after that - he was happy to be involved. So when Paper Thin rolled around it was a no brainer.
He is just a really nice, caring dude who feels passionate about what he does. I think it’s a cool label, it’s got a very strong catalogue of releases in my opinion.
BL: I admire his sort of...caution to the wind way of doing things. When we sent Lost Boy Tie Your Soul To Mine, he admitted that when he started the label he wasn’t going to put out anything that wasn’t Emo or Acoustic stuff. But he said he liked it so much that he felt he had to. Which was such a leap to take; we aren’t a proven commodity, we don’t have a massive fanbase or anything like that. He just wanted to see it put out there, which is a debt we are forever grateful for.
SS: Totally, it’s the heaviest release on the label by far. But he appreciates quality. It wasn’t a fit for what he thought the label was going to be, but I think it made sense
BL: It’s nice to know there are people out there who will take a chance like that. So now we can’t break up until we sell another 100 copies for him [laughs].
BL: So give me a primer on Self Talk. You toured with them last year, and they’re playing this EP Launch on Sunday
SS: Okay so, I first heard Self Talk ages ago when I started working with triple j Unearthed, I got really into them. They put out this EP called Seeing What I Want To See, and it’s just really good. My favourite thing about Self Talk is that they are really good [laughs]. It’s like Indie Rock, but there is a bit of Emo and Synth in it. They’re all just super lovely and great. Their new EP is fantastic too, and it’s on Lost Boy Records
BL: It’s a little bit of a Lost Boy Showcase
SS: Yeah! When we were organizing the EP Launch we realised we could ask you and Self Talk and do that. Also, it’s the first time any of us are playing in Newcastle since our respective EPs were released - so it’s kinda like a Triple EP Launch!
SS: You guys have been a band for ten years now, and especially around the time Tie Your Soul To Mine came out, there was this shift; you released this statement on Facebook about how things were going to be changing. When that came out, Paper Thin had just started, and we were pretty inspired by it. Did you ever think about changing your name from Safe Hands to something else?
BL: At the time, no. But I feel in retrospect we should have changed the name. There were pros and cons for both though; at the time we were still doing a little bit of heavy stuff. I think if we knew we were going to go more melodic, we would have changed the name. I feel still having the name Safe Hands is a bit of a barrier with people’s first impressions; still assuming what we were instead of what we are now - back when we supported Norma Jean or Converge.
SS: I think the first time I saw you play was supporting Parkway Drive.
BL: Yeah, so people are a bit shocked at how we sound now - but they enjoy it all the same, it’s just not recognizable fromback then. At the time, I was adamant about keeping the name; the conversation never came up. I thought changing the name closed more doors than it opened to be honest.
I think more recently, to alleviate my mental health a little bit, we stopped trying as hard. Just trying to get back to making music and creating art, and not worrying about what happens to it after that. I can obsess every single day about why it isn’t better received or stuff like that - but that shouldn’t be part of it I think. If you just approach it as creating art, I think that’s the happiest you are going to be.
SS: Yeah, it’s definitely something that I have had trouble with - just managing expectations. Which is something I am not great at in general, but specifically when it comes to music I find myself getting very caught up. Like, asking yourself why you weren’t asked to play this, or to do that, and then getting into the hole of comparing yourself to others
BL: You get bogged down in this thinking. Like, if one of your mates gets a support, instead of thinking “Oh wow that’s great” you think to yourself “How did they manage that? What are we missing?”. It’s a horrible mindset to have, and it really ground me down - so I am trying to get back to just playing music and being happy with creating, and not expecting any more than that. I told all the guys that recently, and they are very much in the same boat.
SS: I think it’s also about mindfulness. You can get so caught up in stuff like that.
BL: So you’ve just released Living With. Being Without., and you’re going on tour for that at the end of this year. What are your plans for after that?
SS: We have an All Ages show at The Commons on December 1st, and that will be our last Newcastle show until March next year. Partly so we can just have a little break from shows - because we’ve been going pretty consistently since we started in August last year. The other reason is so we can start writing for an album. We have done two EPs now, so the album is the next step for us. So no shows for three months, but a lot of writing in the downtime. What about Safe Hands?
BL: I’d like to get another album out. The EP came pretty fast so I think we could get Album #3 out next year, or at least written entirely. I think I’m excited to take a whole weekend to write soon; because it’s so rare nowadays - we are all fathers and partners and small business owners. But, I’m fully content with this band being a hobby at the moment. It’s a creative output, and I’m happy with that.
Paper Thin - Living With. Being Without. EP Launch
With Self Talk (Melbourne), Safe Hands, Wicking Out DJs
Sunday, October 15th @ The Cambridge Hotel, Sidebar