Safe to Say


Music critics love when bands mature—it gives them a story to tell, a puzzle to solve—but most loyal listeners hate it. For fans of pop-punk, maturity poses a particular problem, since it so often means stepping away from the eternally adolescent genre they love and into territory that may be too new, too different. It’s rare, then, that a maturing pop-punk band can satisfy both the music critic and loyal listener, but Ontario’s Safe to Say finds the balance on their second full-length Down in the Dark.

This balance wasn’t struck without some toil, though, says singer and guitarist Brad Garica, who spent a year privately piecing together melodies on voice memos and scraps of paper, choosing not to share the songs with the band, even as they entered the studio. Though the writing process made recording more complicated, it also allowed Safe to Say’s creativity to flourish. “We were tracking drums last,” Garcia says, “so it gave us the freedom to exhaust all of our ideas before solidifying anything. We also weren't entirely done writing, so the album started to solidify itself as we tracked it. I remember finally getting around to drum tracking and having to pick up an unplugged guitar and orchestrate the ups and downs and tempos and vibes to a song [drummer] JJ [Sorensen] had never heard.”

The result of this unconventional process is an unconventional product, one that embraces the pop-punk that Safe to Say mastered on their previous EP Hiding Games even as it breaks its own rules. Songs like “Only Rain” and “Afterglow” display that band best, the latter’s scorching chorus heated by chords so hot that they’re lined by streaks of acoustic to keep them cool. But even “Gone to Ground,” its cautious tempo driven by Sorensen’s sparse beat, builds toward a reeling, cathartic chorus that epitomizes pop-punk. Other songs push those conventions—the corkscrewing melodies, the explosive emotion, the sleeve-sewn lyrics—to different places; “Tangerine,” with its somber guitar and swells of strings, may be the most powerful song on the album, however subdued the song may seem. It, along with piano-leaden “Hiraeth” and delicate closer “In a Room,” make Down in the Dark a dramatic, dynamic record.

Instead of relationships, so central to pop-punk, Garcia focused his lyrics on the concept of time, using them, along with melody, as a means of making sense. “When we were recording our last EP,” Garcia says, “our assistant engineer asked how old we were and immediately followed by saying, ‘You are going to start seeing a lot of your friends and people your age start dying. It’s tough.’ I don't really remember the context of the situation but that stuck with me. Because, whether he meant physically dying or not, growing up, you see the death of adolescence everyday—in your failed relationships, people moving onto different interest, friends parting ways, people giving up on the things the love, depression, anxiety, and everything in between. Down in the Dark, to me, is a way to show how we can all change for better or worse when very adult situations get dumped on you, when you're really still just a kid.”

Clearly, Down in the Dark reveals a band that has evolved—whose music has moved beyond its genre limitations, beyond rules about songwriting and record recording—because its members have matured as both musicians and individuals. “There used to be so many times I'd question something I’d write that came so naturally because it was uncomfortable to stray into certain sounds,” Garcia says. “But I'm not the 20 year old kid who is trying to impress a girl, and I'm not the 22 year old who is fighting for a relationship.” And this is why Down in the Dark strikes that stubborn balance: Safe to Say’s melodic and lyrical maturity appeals to the music critic, tells an interesting story, but there’s still enough pop in this punk—and enough punk in this pop—to appeals to their loyal listeners. But regardless of what this maturity means and who it impresses most, the record also reveals a band who’s grown beyond these concerns. “At the end of the day, everyone will compare one thing to another, and I've learned to be okay with that because I know how genuine and personal these songs are,” Garcia says. And, for him, that honesty is far more integral than genre. “Safe to Say is four people who happen to grow and write music together. And, to me, that's just rock and roll.” —Dane Erbach

Band Members:

Brad Garcia (Vocals/Guitar), Josh Hicke (Bass), JJ Sorensen (Drums) and Cory Bergeron (Guitar

Press Photos

Safe to Say Promo Photo 2016


Album Art

Down in the Dark Album Artwork