Professional success is a matter of consequence to anyone who takes his or her job seriously, and Frankie O'Malley is no exception. He wants his band, The Safes, to make it big. What comparable level of success is he ultimately working toward? “Oh, for me, The Beatles,” says the guitarist, using the faintest of pauses between question and answer. “I want to be the biggest band ever.” O'Malley makes his aspirations sound a bit more general: “I believe wholeheartedly that we can cross over into the mainstream. Without a doubt.”
In a strange twist, what could keep The Safes from ascending to mega-fame is the music itself. The Chicago trio's unkempt, lively mixture of garage rock and power pop is reminiscent of The Exploding Hearts, Buzzcocks and Iggy Pop—a sound more likely to thrive in dive bars than arenas. Ideally, the time for the group to shoot up in the music biz would have been around 2002, when garage and indie rock were hot pop-cultural commodities. Unfortunately, The Safes didn’t come about until 2003, but arriving to the game late hasn't deterred its ambitions.
The group is composed of brothers Frankie and Patrick O'Malley (the latter on drums) and cousin Patrick Mangan on bass. All three sing and are prone to swapping instrumental duties during shows. The O'Malleys grew up in a musical household—an idea symbolized by the cover of 2003's Family Jewels, which depicts a room in the family's home that's cluttered with all sorts of instruments.
It takes little prodding to get Frankie O'Malley to rattle off the band's accomplishments. Aside from critical acclaim and appearances on TV and commercials, this fall they have two singles coming out on two labels: Merrifield Records (which is run by The Bravery's Mike Hindert) and Wee Rock Records.
O'Malley sees no problem with his material having an old-school, underground vibe. Playing music has been “all any of us have ever wanted to do. The coolest thing in the world is rock and roll. The definition of the word 'freedom' is performing live rock and roll,” he says. “We're going to make music until the day we die.”