SLUG: Have you noticed any major differences between the US and UK metal scenes?
Nagle: Distance in driving for sure, which is just unbelievable. We’ve already had four 12-15 hour drives, which you might have one if you’re unlucky in Europe. In the UK it’s completely unheard of; the longest drive you can have is six hours. Crowd-wise, I’d say the Americans we’ve met so far have been really forthcoming in terms of actually coming up and talking to us, whereas some of the UK fans can be rather shy. Which is good, we want to hear feedback from people. The drive in Europe is better, yes, but this is a new thing for us. Seeing the different and yet similar culture is the interesting part that comes with it. When you’re coming to the States—especially each different state—it’s interesting to see the different people that come out to the shows and the reactions you get. One thing about Europe: if we had a bad show, they let us know about it. [laughs] But we haven’t had any major hiccups here yet.
SLUG: The thing I love most about progressive metal like what you play is that so many talented bands can take the same similar elements and yet create out of them their own unique, layered sound. What is it, in your opinion, that gives The Safety Fire its unique feel?
Nagle: Protest and Periphery and us, we can all be lumped together within that kind of progressive metal, yet still have very different sounds, and still share the same fan base which is obviously great. For us, we incorporate more of a pop sensibility to our music. Everyone has their hooks and stuff but we have our influences that come from a very different place that’s not metal or progressive in any kind of way. The reason something’s progressive isn’t because it’s influenced by prog, it’s because it’s influenced by pretty much everything. It’s that combination and arrangement which really brings a new fresh sound, as it were. For us, it’s the idea of not having any set rules in terms of what we want to do musically, but also keeping a kind of frame of mind that we want a good, well-written songs as the main point, rather than saying, “Oh, this is a technically amazing part here, this is a showy part here,” or whatever. It’s about the song, so that someone who doesn’t necessarily know about the technicality or what you’re doing musically can listen to it and say “That’s a really cool song.” That’s what we go out to do.
SLUG: So the release of Grind The Ocean has been delayed a little bit. I was hoping to ask you how you think the album has been received, but instead I will ask: have the songs you’ve played from this upcoming album been received well live?
Nagle: We’ve been playing songs from the album live, and there’s a few songs people know, like the single “Huge Hammers,” and you’ll see a good reaction to that. But we get a lot of people afterwards coming up to us at the merch stand saying “We’ve never heard of you guys before, it was amazing, I want to buy the album.” That kind of response has been great, to have people who’ve never heard of us before and have that reaction where people want to spend their money on us is awesome. Even seeing day-to-day that fans have bought the album and think we’re amazing, you can’t really ask for much more than that.
SLUG: Sometimes, the singing reminds me of Fear Factory, especially when it’s over certain sections of guitars, and that causes a weird and yet comforting flashback moment when I’m listening. Were they one of the band’s inspirations, or am I just hearing things? Who would you count as inspirations to your sound?
Nagle: We’ve had that before—none of us are Fear Factory fans! [laughs] Sean [McWeeney, vocals] also gets Lemmy from Motorhead, which I don’t hear at all… maybe it’s the English accent. We’ve gotten Sting quite a lot, too. Vocally for Sean, he’s inspired by singers like Maynard from Tool, and Bjork. Lyrically, I think he’s more influenced by books and social surroundings than anything else, like Samuel Beckett. Our music influence is such a wide base: Carnivore, Between the Buried and Me, then more pop-related stuff like Prince, Peter Gabriel, Kaki King. As a guitarist, I take a lot of influence from a lot of fusion guitarists, which doesn’t necessarily translate as a sort of straight influence, but it does translate in note choices and how you write things.