Four-piece Denver band Public Safety believe that there is nowhere else for them to go but up. I spoke with them recently at a local coffee shop prior to their show at The Biergarten in Boulder to pick their brains on their roots, influences, and what they might expect on their ascent.
Do you guys want to start off with your background? Where you’re from and how you feel like that shaped the artists you are today?
Bear: Well, Jimmy and I actually founded Public Safety back in Charleston two and a half years ago. We were down at the College of Charleston, and he and I met and we started [Public Safety] as more of a college party band. And then, I decided I wanted to transfer back here and do music and asked him to come with me and he came and we re-formed Public Safety with you guys. (looks to other band mates)
Jimmy: Yeah, we started in September of 2015.
Do you feel like Boulder is a better platform for your music?
Bear: We’ve only played Boulder like, three or four times. We mostly perform in Denver; yeah we’re out of Denver. That’s where I was born and raised and he came six months after I moved back and I kinda got my feet wet in the Denver scene.
Jimmy: This whole area, just like Colorado, is way more of a scene than what we had in South Carolina where we were at, so definitely a good decision to come out here.
Bear: And it’s crazy how quickly it’s growing, too.
Ethan: Oh yeah, the scene is getting a lot bigger for sure.
How do you guys like the scene here in Colorado?
Bear: I don’t know the Boulder scene too well yet, but I’ve definitely seen a lot of bands in Boulder and a lot of bands come out of Boulder. But the Denver scene is crazy, it’s just exploded. It’s so fun to be a part of.
Ethan: There’s some people doing some cool stuff in Boulder, like the Cosmic Collective guys who we just did a podcast with a couple weeks ago. [Eric] is doing some cool stuff, he’s a super nice guy.
Agreed. What kind of environment do you guys like to create when you perform?
Bear: Rowdy! I like it to be lit to the max! (laughs) But, I’m very into hip hop and that stuff so I try to make it really hype.
Ethan: It’s definitely a party feel.
Jimmy: We definitely like people dancing.
Bear: I hump my mic stand quite a bit. (laughs)
Lem: This will be my first time [performing with Public Safety].
Bear: Yeah he’s brand new. Only his second show with us. We had a different drummer for a little while, and we found this guy right here, and we felt he matched the vibe a lot better and I think it’s just the right move. We’re about to record the first really album at Coupe Studios here in Boulder, actually. So we’re excited about that.
What can your listeners expect from that album coming up?
Bear: What do you guys think? (turns to bandmates)
Jimmy: I think it’s gonna be rolling with a way tighter sound; more production. We’ve taken the time to put the songs together in a better way. Last time [we recorded] we didn’t really have an idea of what to create in the studio and this time we have a way more clear vision. If anything else, it will just be upgraded with the drums, so it’s just gonna be way better.
Bear: Just fuego. There’s gonna be some fire in there. There’s some sensual songs, there’s some darkness in there, and then there’s a couple rock songs. A lot of angry songs about my ex-girlfriend.
Ethan: It’s a lot of emotions! The whole spectrum.
Bear: Yeah, if you watch the progression of my lyrics, they’re very indicative of what’s going on in my life. If I’m in a bad mood, I’m writing songs like ‘Retrograde’ just about being mad. ‘Impulse Control’ is about being mad too.
Ethan: (laughs) You’re just an angry individual!
Bear: I’m actually a very jovial man, full of joy and happiness.
Ethan: It’s good to vent.
Bear: It’s good to vent. Yeah, what better way to get back at somebody who’s hurt you than to throw it in a song?
Ethan: Make a bunch of other people sing it with you.
Bear: Yeah, have a bunch of people sing along.
So do you write the majority of the songs Bear?
Bear: Jimmy writes music and I write lyrics for the most part. It’s kind of interchangeable as well. He’s written some verses for ‘Night Call,’ which is a song I’ve been working on for a long time; it’s gonna be on the album. I had the basic outline and he comes in and is like, ‘Alright, well I hear this’ and we put it together. That’s why I think I had Jimmy come out here because we had such a good connection with songwriting and performing.
What genre would you guys classify yourself as fitting into, or not fitting into?
Bear: We say rock and soul.
Jimmy: It’s a big variety. It’s definitely rock-based, for sure. It’s definitely hard hitting, but we like to get soulful too.
Bear: We get down and dirty. We also get hype.
Lem: I’ve wanted to play rock too and this is the first band I ever get to play rock with. As much as I’ve wanted to, I just always get R&B or gospel or funk. So this is awesome to change it up.
How long have you been playing?
Lem: Professionally, for like thirteen years. But pretty much since I was three.
Bear: Somehow he wanted to end up with this band, somehow he said yes.
Lem: It worked out.
Is there anybody that you feel like you make your music for?
Bear: The ladies. I think that we fit into the multiple niches or sections of music. We have the rock stuff, almost Royal Blood. We have one song that’s almost like Rage Against the Machine. But we also fit into the pop scene with Kaleo or Twenty One Pilots that you hear on the radio who have a lot of musicianship but also have that sing-along pop. We have more deep tracks as well.
Are those artists that you named who you draw a lot of inspiration from?
Bear: I think we all have different people who are inspirations to us.
Ethan: I know there’s a lot of bands that I listen to that they don’t. We definitely all pull from different music genres and have a lot of overlap. Like I listen to a lot of classic rock, a lot of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, that kind of stuff. Jimmy listens to a lot of Jimi Hendrix and a lot of rock’n’roll.
Bear: I really like Motown. James Brown is probably, on stage, my hero. That’s the guy I really look up to, how he takes control of the stage, takes control of the entire arena. That’s amazing for me.
Jimmy: I think the one thing we all have in common is that we love jamming. The song is the main goal- at the end of the day we just wanna have a good song to start from.
Bear: [Lem’s] best quote ever is, ‘It’s about the feel not the fill.’
Lem: I know that sounds strange- most people are like, ‘What do you mean?’ I mean the feel- like the soul, feelings, emotions you get versus doing a whole bunch of licks on drums. That nostalgia that you get.
Ethan: It’s more about the melody than anything.
Bear: I was sold when I saw that [quote]. I knew he needed to be in the band. That is the quintessential piece. Something I’ve noticed about all these guys is this drive to be better and know that we can always be better. That’s something that I really respect from everybody here. No one’s ever really happy after a show- we find areas where we need to work on. On stage there’s so much confidence and [we] come out with a bang, but at the end of the day we’re always looking to get better.
Ethan: I think we’re our own hardest critics for sure.
Where do you see Public Safety going?
Bear: 13 nights at MSG.
Ethan: 17 in 17! We just gotta wait for 3017.
Bear: I wanna be one of those bands. When people think about the Colorado scene exploding, and they think about The Lumineers, Nathaniel Rateliff, Motet… I wanna be in that list. I think we’re on our way. There’s been a lot of traction, it’s just about finding the right people to get in our corner.
Ethan: I think the only place we’re going is to the top, honestly. There’s nowhere else to go.
Lem: It’s definitely the dream. It’s all we’re trying to do forever, and ever and ever. We have to go to the top.
Bear: We work, we show up to gigs on time, we don’t get shitfaced before shows. Everybody is on it, we know our parts. We have a contract and a bunch of agreements we’ve made. I’ve been in good bands but never had the confidence like I do in us right now. All [of us are] excited about what we’re doing which is really inspiring and motivating.
Ethan: We’ve only been playing seriously for about a year, and it’s pretty cool to see all the crazy things we’ve done in that limited time. We’ve toured around a bit; played some festivals in front of a few thousand people.
Bear: We’re headed down to the East Coast, back to Charleston in March doing a 14-stop tour. We’re pretty excited about that, that’ll be a lot of fun.
To the top it is. Keep up with Public Safety here.
All photos per the author. All videos and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.