Tulsa pop-rockers Safety Suit return to the state as pop stars

Safety Suit
with Parachute and Graham Colton
7:30 p.m. Friday
Diamond Ballroom
8001 S. Eastern
(866) 977-6849
$10 advance, $14 door

Editor’s note: Parachute & Safety Suit’s management have agreed that for safety reasons the artists’ vehicles cannot travel to the state of Oklahoma due to the current inclement weather.  The Friday, 1/29 Diamond Ballroom Show is NOT canceled ““ only postponed.  Hold all tickets for rescheduled date.  All complimentary tickets that have been given for radio and TV promotions will be honored on the new date as well. Check http://www.dcfconcerts.com or http://www.diamondballroom.net for updates. 

They weren’t even officially a group, but college friends who felt they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play the local sports arena, with its smoke machines and laser lights. The Tulsans entered a local battle of the bands, and to their immense surprise, actually won.

With that victory, SafetySuit began its march toward pop stardom. Its members still weren’t a band ” each belonged to another act ” but the buzz kept growing.

“We’d play a show and a couple hundred people would come out,” said bassist Jeremy Henshaw. “Then a few days later, we’d get a phone call, ‘Hey, could you guys come and play this?’ We didn’t even have a band name, really. It happened organically, then after a while, it was like, ‘Guys, we’re playing for 1,500 people every time we play. Why don’t we try doing this for real?’ And that’s when we moved to Nashville.”

It was an ambitious move, but fortune smiled on the four musicians, and soon, they encountered Greg Archilla (Collective Soul, Matchbox 20), who would become their producer while midwifing them into the music business. His connections helped land them a deal from Zomba Music Publishing president Dave Mantel.

“That kind of catapulted us from being just another band in Nashville to being somebody on the radar that maybe a major label should take notice of,” Henshaw said.

Within a year, the group was courted by labels on the strength of a four-song EP. When Universal Records’ head of A&R, Bruce Carbone, stopped to see them en route to the Grammys two years ago, everyone hit it off so well that the choice seemed obvious.

“You have to try to end up somewhere where people believe in you, what you’re doing and your future together,” Henshaw said. “We really felt we had that connection with Bruce the same way we did with Dave Mantel. It felt right “¦ so it made sense.”

In May 2008, having changed their name from Crew to SafetySuit, the quartet released its debut, “Life Left to Go” on Universal. Throughout the album, the guys mix gentle, dreamy, keyboarddriven soundscapes and pulsing guitar charges, segueing easily from quiet to surging crescendos with momentous choruses. The textured tone, synth-heavy hooks, trilling guitars and plaintive crooning recalls acts like Snow Patrol, Starsailor and The Fray.

But perhaps the most distinctive aspect is the group’s lyrical positivity, best reflected in the album’s title track, an admonition against suicide.

“One of (lead singer Doug Brown’s) very close family members was struggling with suicidal tendencies and he actually tried to commit suicide twice ” unsuccessfully, thank God,” Henshaw said.

“It was kind of where we were taking all the other songs on the album, and we wanted that to be the focus, which is why we named the album ‘Life Left to Go,’ because there is always hope no matter what’s going on. The sun’s going to still come up tomorrow and you get to choose how you’re going to attack that day, so you can be a victim or you can take your situation and go from there with it.”

That same uplifting attitude can be felt on tracks like chunky rocker “Annie,” which tries to look past media conceptions of beauty, assailing superficial attitudes.

“We always want to make music that has a positive message with it. Even if it’s a song about ‘you broke up with me and I hate you,’ there will always be a bridge or a last chorus that has some kind of redemptive factor in it,” he said. “Even ‘Down,’ which is very much a ‘I’m not going to be awaiting around for you’ kind of a song, kind of a slap in the face, but then it’s, ‘I’m better for it, and I’m going to be able to move on with it as a better person.'”

Success hasn’t changed SafetySuit, although some of the credit goes to the members’ friends, some of whom joined them in the trek to Nashville. Within a year of relocating, more than 20 of their college buddies moved there.

“We all had heard stories about leaving college and being, ‘Oh, man, those were good ol’ days’ and we all looked at each other and were like, ‘Why does it have to end?'” Henshaw said. “It wasn’t as much about us as it was about the whole group. We all make each other better people as long as we’re together, and hopefully, that can go out from us to whomever we interact with, too.”

That spirit of camaraderie emanates from SafetySuit, making its music proudly exultant, drawing fans in with a close sense of community. Back in Oklahoma for Friday’s show at Diamond Ballroom, Henshaw’s expecting a great performance.

“It’s really exciting any time we can play in the area, because we have all our family and friends,” he said. “It’s a really high-energy show anytime we get to do that.” “Chris Parker

Chris Parker

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