Frankie and Patrick O’Malley are lucky to have each other. Brothers, roommates, and band mates in Chicago rock ‘n’ roll band, The Safes—nothing comes between them and their music.
Well, except arguments. And when you’re working with your family, they’re bound to happen.
“You can be more viciously mean to the other,” said Frankie.
“When you fight, yeah, it can be brutal, but you get over it fast,” said Patrick.
But even their views on their disagreements differ.
“Sometimes you get over it fast,” said Frankie. “Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes it’s so, and I don’t mean to complain about it, I just want to be honest about it, we get into fights that interfere with…”
“…progress,” Patrick finished.
“Progress at times,” Frankie added. “And interfere with, you know, I had a bad show in Indianapolis once because we basically got in a fist fight before we played.”
“Yeah,” Patrick chuckled. “It was all nonsense. We were fighting on stage.”
It’s easy for them to talk about fighting with each other, but it’s easier to admire each other’s talents.
“Every success we have really goes back to Patrick,” said Frankie.
“I just do research,” Patrick responded. “I’ve been doing the business for a long time.”
“And doing a hell of a job,” Frankie complimented.
Frankie O’Malley and Patrick O’Malley of The Safes hang out in their home that at every turn and in every room, is dedicated to music.
Rock ‘n’ Roll DIY
Their home on the north side of Chicago is a music laboratory. It has everything a touring band would need. It’s a recording studio, practice space, storage for their endless amounts of instruments, and there’s even a room for designing and making tour t-shirts. The O’Malley brothers are involved in every aspect of the music industry in ways that other musicians wouldn’t be able to handle. Patrick is an eternal student of music as he continues to teach himself about the production process.
“Now all this recording stuff, he’s coming back and being like, ‘oh I found out about this piece of equipment and this piece of equipment that Led Zeppelin used and The Kinks used this and this is what the guy who produced Jimi Hendrix records used’ and like he’s studying how they made records,” said Frankie, admiring Patrick’s dedication. “I’m reading all the time and documenting,” said Patrick. “I take notes.”
And it has paid off.
Thee Lexington Arrows, a garage rock band from Baltimore, asked Patrick to produce their newest album that will come out early 2013. The band wanted a brighter, live-like sound and that’s exactly what they’re getting. When listening to one of the tracks, it sounds like the band is playing a live set in the same room.
Patrick also produced the newest single from The Safes, “Century of Saturdays” which features two tracks showcasing a softer side to their usual straightforward rock and power pop sound. These songs have had airtime on PBS program “Roadtrip Nation” but their songs are not unfamiliar to television.
When they released their third album, “Well, Well, Well” in 2007, Patrick made sure they had an instrumental version of the album. Oddly enough, it ended up being a great business decision.
“One of the music supervisors at MTV contacted us via e-mail saying, ‘I read about your record, I bought it, I love this record. I want to help your band. If you guys happen to have instrumental versions of this album, I can put it in the wheel well for all our reality shows,’” said Frankie. “We’re on like, five episodes of Jersey Shore.”
Patrick O’Malley of The Safes plays the drums at a show in March 2010. (Photo taken by katiebot5000 on Last.fm)
The Creative Process
Creating the music can be quite laborious. And the brothers approach that process differently.
“Well, Frankie will write a whole album by himself,” said Patrick. “For real. Like, you know, he’ll be like, ‘check out this song I recorded.’ He’ll have the lyrics, you know, the music, meaning like drums, the bass, the guitar, keyboard.”
Frankie opens the boombox sitting on top of one of their pianos.
“There’s a CD here with like 33 songs of exactly what he’s talking about that I will demo on like a digital a-track by myself,” said Frankie.
“We’re all creative,” Patrick added. “But he’ll write albums. Some people write songs. He writes albums. When he starts creating something, he needs to finish it, whereas me, I’ll let it marinate or ferment, you know, for decades.”
But as always, Frankie plays the big brother role, jumping to his defense.
“And then he’ll end up with the best song you’ve ever heard.”
But that doesn’t mean that once a song is recorded that they shove it aside and solely focus on the next one. Their appreciation for music as an art shines through when they talk about perfecting their sound.
“One song we ended up re-recording all the drums on it after two and a half years,” said Frankie. “I’m like, ‘dude, we need to re-record the drums.’ Do you remember that?”
“Well, yeah, I do,” Patrick snickered. “You wanna know why? It’s because of one drum.”
Frankie grinned and simply responded, “How about that for a perfectionist?”
The Safes have been performing coast-to-coast for almost 10 years. In the early days, they would sometimes play two or three shows in 24 hours.
Steve Segel, a former booker at Chicago music venue, Quenchers Saloon, has secured the guys for around eight to 10 shows.
“This is one of those bands that I think they just get it,” said Segel. “Even though they were all about clearly having fun and playing lots of shows, it was always like, you know, a very professional looking product. I mean, I have like probably 10,000 demos. It’s ridiculous. But I still listen to their album.”
Their next local gig is at Township on Wednesday for their annual Thanksgiving Eve show.
“It’s just a fun night to play,” said Patrick. “No one has to work the next day.”
“And everybody can get wasted,” Frankie remarked.
Frankie O’Malley of The Safes plays for a crowd in March 2010. (Photo taken by katiebot5000 on Last.fm)
All In The Family
In a household nurtured by music, the O’Malley clan included 11 kids—four boys and seven girls—raised by their Irish immigrant parents, one of which was a professional musician. Their father’s band, The Frank O’Malley Band, played weddings, dances, and benefits a couple times a week for years.
And with a father who played the accordion, saxophone, flute and guitar, it isn’t surprising that both Frankie and Patrick can play a plethora of instruments. Both play the drums, guitar, bass, piano, mandolin, and bango, and Frankie can also add the vibraphone, accordion, and violin to that mix.
“Oh god,” said Patrick. “He can’t go into a room. If there’s an instrument in a room, he has to play it.”
“And if I’m like, hanging out with a girl or whatever and I’m like going to her place on a regular basis, I’ll be like, second or third visit, I’ll be like, ‘Is it cool if I leave this guitar here?’ You never know when inspiration is gonna strike,” said Frankie. “And when I show up some place where there’s a piano, I can’t resist. Even if it’s like, ‘don’t touch the piano.’”
And naturally, there’s a story about Frankie’s obsessive need to have his hands constantly on an instrument.
“There was this one time where we played a show for the University of Illinois-Champaign and there’s this big auditorium and this huge piano and it’s in the corner and there are couches around it,” said Patrick.
“There was like a fortress around it,” said Frankie.
“So Frankie climbs over all this stuff, there’s people studying, he climbs over all this stuff and he starts playing it for like, 15 minutes,” said Patrick. “No one seemed to mind, but like…”
“…actually there was one girl who like, clapped and said, ‘thanks’” Frankie interrupted. “Patrick’s like ‘don’t, don’t, don’t’ and I got over there and as soon as I started playing he walked out of the room.”
“I was just like, ‘I can’t be a part of this,’” Patrick laughed.
“It was me needing to be like, ‘I can’t not go over there and play that instrument,’” Frankie declared.
And as he reminisced about that piano, Frankie continued to quietly strum one of his many guitars.
Then all was still for a few moments except for the soft sounds flitting around the room.
It was the first silence to overcome the brothers after three hours. That is until Patrick finally acknowledged Frankie’s earnest devotion to the extravagant instrument.
“It was a beautiful grand piano.”
Thanksgiving Eve concert with The Safes, Decoy Prayer Meeting, and The Dead On
When: Wed. Nov. 21 at 9 p.m., 21 and over show
Where: Township, 2202 N. California Ave.