Simpatico is the six-track debut EP from Blue Mountains psychedelic-funk-pop four piece Safire Palms, released on December 4th, 2020. It’s also an Italian and Spanish word, defined in the Oxford Dictionary as an adjective for a likeable person or a compatible relationship. In the
eyes of the four young men who comprise Safire Palms, their debut EP is named after the musical compatibility that they share spontaneously on stage
and in rehearsal rooms. This is a “melding of musical minds” which results in true collaboration - a sonic experience that has now been presented with
startling clarity and depth.
After the group formed around Katoomba in early 2018, eventually resulting in their definitive lineup of Bailey Brown (drums and vocals), Riley Johns (bass),
Rory Wilson (guitar), and Nic Macken (keys and vocals), L-R in pic below, Safire Palms first released their debut single ‘Jam Sandwich’ in the September of 2019. As reported in the Blue
Mountains Gazette in October last year, by veteran journalist/bassist Michael Smith (DRUM Media, The Atlantics), the recording, production, and distribution
of ‘Jam Sandwich’ was funded by a Blue Mountains City of the Arts Trust Grant. Funding was facilitated for the band with the immense help of local
creative advisor Willem Hendriksen, known mainly as a former radio host of Retro Rehash on Radio Blue Mountains 89.1FM and as the current director
of Retro Rehash Presents, an artistic event agency. (And yes, that's one of his popular catchphrases, affectionately embedded into my headline.) Earlier
this year, Safire Palms returned to a secret studio location to begin the recording of what would become Simpatico. One main goal was for
the band to capture the energy of their wildly popular local live shows, with additional recording sessions occurring at Nic’s share house and at his
dad’s studio. After thoroughly absorbing the full 28 minutes of their first major body of work, I’m happy to report that the commitment and talents
of the group have certainly paid off.
Heralded by a four-count of light ride cymbal hits, ‘Intro’ neatly segues into Simpatico’s second track, ‘She’s Got The Shakes’, after first gliding
into formation through some sublime guitar chords and mellow keys. After the ‘Intro’ provides just enough time for one to sit down, put their feet
up and pour a refreshing beverage of choice, the EP suddenly bumps up a gear with a sudden fill into the main groove of its second song. Underpinned
by expansive guitar and bass, drummer Bailey’s busy micro-grooves provide enough rhythmic jerkiness to keep things sizzling, before we hear the smooth
and velvety tones of lead singer Nic, on mellow keys. He proceeds to deliver lyrics written by his friend Lily O’Connor, based on the personal experiences
of her young friends and herself i.e. typical youth topics of wild intoxicated parties and health issues. Bailey’s silky vocal chops get a chance to
shine on Simpatico’s third track, ‘Self Esteem’, a slower, deep-grooving number that sways below psychedelic keyboards and ironically intense
lyrics, based on the complex feelings of “dancing with a cute girl who’s just not into you”.
In order to shake things up once again, Safire Palms reserve the fourth track for one of their standout songs, ‘Hazey Days’, a popular live number composed
of many twists and turns. Previously released as a studio single alongside its acoustic B-side, ‘Mud’, ‘Hazey Days’ is re-released here as my favourite track of the EP,
followed by ‘Self Esteem’. The boys pull out all the stops for this one, incorporating a rocking guitar intro, frenetic drum fills, tight bass melodies,
improvised jam sections, a subtle rise and fall of dynamics and tempo, and a surprise pause. After the song suddenly ends on one of his numerous, rapid
drum fills, we hear Bailey exclaim “that [take]’s gotta be it man..f**ck!” There’s no censorship for raw passion. Fifth track ‘Togetherness’ is a grand
musical and lyrical showcase which ends the majority of the EP’s electric songs and epitomises the themes of the record, according to the band themselves.
After phasing in through layers of refreshing crystalline guitar, ‘Togetherness’ is crammed full of nimbly cascading keyboard notes, surprising time
signatures, fun polyrhythms and dynamically tight fills and pauses. As a final piece of lovely lingering, ‘Everything’ is a heartfelt, solo acoustic
number from Nic Macken, recorded/mixed/mastered by Oliver Morley-Sattler (Paperhill) in his DIY mobile studio, which features an ambient recording
of a waterfall in the Blue Mountains bush.
honour these well-honed grooves with a fine production job, Safire Palms enlisted the help of Nic’s dad, Michael Macken, a member of the Spooky Men’s Chorale,
(alongside Nic), who also worked on mastering other albums such as Frenzal Rhomb’s Forever Malcolm Young, in 2006. Funnily enough, some
more surprising punk credibility can be lent to Safire Palms through knowledge of Bailey’s six-string work with Sydney pop punks What You’re Made Of, and Rory’s years of guitar playing
with cosmic garage group Alienativ.
As one can imagine, Michael’s studio experience has resulted in an exceptionally fine job for the recording, mixing, producing and mastering of Simpatico.
The smooth sonic moods of the EP conjure an overall atmosphere of comfort, fun, and relaxation, while further audio techniques allow for a finer meditation
on rhythmic intricacy, to keep listeners in high spirits. The spectacular cover portraits of the band are the work of four local female artists,
Bonnie McArthur , Sophie Miller,
Sama Cooper, and Grace May. Emerging young illustrator Zoe Duff was responsible for creating Safire Palms’ logo and their customised track-listing.
You’ve probably seen Safire Palms’ iconic logo sticker plastered on many poles, guitars, and shoes around the upper Blue Mountains.
Now firmly grounded in December 2020, Safire Palms will be releasing Simpatico in a launch event at Wentworth Falls Country club from 6:30PM on
this Friday, December 4th. You can buy a few of Simpatico's 500 physical copies for $15 each at the bar, with burger specials and cheap entry
to boot. It’s guaranteed to be a night of vibrant funk and fizz!
Words by Corin Shearston
Pictures courtesy of Inertia Photography,
Callan Huggard Photography,
and Safire Palms