You have questions about Obits. This is understandable. They’re an intriguing band. For starters, you ask, “Are Obits ‘indie rock veterans’?” The answer is: yes and no. Yes, they are accomplished musicians who once fronted Drive Like Jehu, Edsel, Hot Snakes, and Pitchfork. But also; No, they are not active or retired members of the United States military. They are not veterans in that sense. It’s good to get these things sorted out. Don’t worry—there are no dumb questions.
Are Obits a young band? They are. Another good question. A child born in 2007, when Greg Simpson joined as bassist, would not yet be in kindergarten. Obits didn’t self-release their first single (“One Cross Apiece” b/w “Put It in Writing”) until late 2008. Their debut LP (I Blame You, on Sub Pop), wasn’t released until March 2009.
Is it true fans bootlegged Obits’ very first show? It is very much true. Does their stripped-down rock incorporate elements of surf and garage? Absolutely it does. The members of Obits are fans of oldies. They generally dislike newies. But their influences simmer in the crock-pot of human creativity; you will find only disappointment if you try to deduce the muse of any given song.
What, you ask, of Obits’ new record? Well, for starters, it’s their second full-length, and it’s called Moody, Standard and Poor. It was recorded at Brooklyn’s Saltlands Studio by Eli Janney and Geoff Sanoff. Sub Pop will release it on March 29, 2011. This concerns you. Isn’t that Vangelis’s birthday? To be perfectly honest, it is. This was a scheduling snafu, plain and simple. There’s nothing to be done about it now.
Will this be a “yelly” record? No, it will not. Rick Froberg doesn’t yell any more. It makes him uncomfortable. Hurts his throat. He’s not going to do it. Unless he sees a fire in the engineer’s booth, or a crazy man with a knife hiding behind one of the amps. And even then, it’s doubtful that Rick’s yelling would make it onto tape.
Is there a tradeoff for Rick not yelling? Absolutely. Obits’ music is more stripped down than any of Froberg’s previous bands. As chief songwriter, he spares the overdubs and spoils the open chords. Sonically, it’s an intimate sound, borderline chummy. It’s like you’re hanging out with them at practice. Only you’re not actually, physically, hanging out with them at practice, so you won’t be made to feel rude.
So how will Moody, Standard and Poor make you feel? The short answer is: great. Not Smoking-An-Eightball-Of-Coke great. But Alive-To-New-Listening Experiences great. This intrigues you. I can see it on your face. You’re thinking, “What about the long answer?”
The long answer is that these twelve songs will take you on a series of emotional road trips. Some will be as brief as a walk to the fridge. Others will be epic pilgrimages to the shady hinterlands of your subconscious. Great records can do this. Moody, Standard and Poor is no exception.
You ask for elaboration, which seems fair. I can tell you that the fuzzy under-drone of “Shift Operator”—one of two songs sung by guitarist Sohrab Habibion—will evoke the joy of driving to grab a taco very late at night, after a storm, finding the wet city roads entirely yours. The bendy twang of “New August” will recall a fiery dusk, long forgotten, when you sat in a different car and came to terms with a difficult romantic or professional setback. The spooky resonance of “I Blame Myself” will remind you of a time when you were alone, and lonely, and trapped in an abandoned zinc mine. Don’t be scared of these emotions. The park rangers eventually rescued you, remember? Everything worked out.
What, you ask, of their songwriting chops? Here I need to stop you. Remember how I said there were no dumb questions? It turns out I was wrong. This one actually is a dumb question. Obits are a group of accomplished indie-rock veterans, not a cut of pork. Please do not use the word “chop” in this context again.
I’m glad we had this talk!
Rick Froberg—guitar, vocals
Sohrab Habibion—guitar, vocals