It takes a brave band to redefine and restructure their body of work. Once you have your core fanbase, they are usually opposed to any change and the risks can outweigh the rewards.
Newcastle quintet Safe Hands recently took this chance with their sophomore album Tie Your Soul to Mine, but guitarist Anthony Webster is adamant that change for the right reasons justifies any decision.
“When we started we were obviously younger and followed in the footsteps of bands like The Chariot and ones like that who have a very intense live show,” he explains. “I don’t know whether it was through naivety or trying to find a place but we used to get right into our shows too and throw our instruments around and stuff like that, which brought about certain feelings in the crowd and that type of thing. It really worked, but then our music leveled out a little bit as well as ourselves and we just really wanted to ensure the people at our shows were all feeling safe to be there and were happy. There’s all sorts of trash you hear about,people getting hurt and women getting sexually assaulted in the crowd at shows and it’s really not on. The whole purpose of these shows, especially with this kind of counter-culture, is for everyone to be accepted in their space, and for people to not be going to live shows because they don’t feel safe is insane.”
After gaining a reputation for their energetic and borderline violent stage shows, Webster says the band made a conscious effort with their latest album to break away from the hardcore style of aggressive music and toward a rock sound with elements of post-hardcore. “I think a lot of it is to do with maturity as well,” Webster says. “We’re all aging, but also having new band members helped as well. I think if we had tried to redo what we did with Montenegro on this album, with the new set up, it wouldn’t have had the same flavor. I think we all felt right about the fact if we were going to continue going with some new members. to let it organically build with that group of musicians. The whole record was pretty much written in the studio by all of us so it’s really organic and it just came out that way.”
The change in personnel also helped ease the pressure of delivering a follow-up release and makes Tie Your Soul to Mine feel like a new beginning. “The fact we had a few member changes since the last full-length definitely helped ease the pressure,” Webster admits. “It’s just myself and Ben (Louttit), the vocalist, left. Everyone else kind of shuffled out so for the new guys it really wasn’t a second record. We didn’t have that second record pressure on us that a lot of bands do. We had the freedom to do what we wanted to do and that shows.” Despite the shift in sound, Webster says that Safe Hands let their creative instincts lead the way. Although a different beast altogether to Montenegro, there wasn’t a conscious decision to veer in a different direction.
“I’m not sure we had any goals, aside from just write music together,” he muses. “Especially with the previous members from the Montenegro days, Sandy and Mick, leaving. They were really important to the band. There was even a brief period there when we weren’t really sure if this was going to lead to being an album or if it was just pissing in each other’s pockets until we dealt with the inevitable. But, the group of people that we had came together really well and felt really good and positive so there weren’t any particular goals. Just to make music and to be real to ourselves.”
Acknowledging the effect their change in direction may have on their existing fan base, Webster admits this did cross their mind. However, he hopes the fans will embrace their new direction. “So far so good it seems,” he smiles. “I know there will be some people that will switch off, which is fair enough, but so far people seem to feel there’s enough of the old stuff there to keep them interested in that and the newer direction is pulling more people in.”