Obits’ Sohrab Habibion On Mellow Recording, Sub Pop And The Dangers Of Bacon
(CBS Seattle) — This past September, Brooklyn’s reverb-happy, rock ‘n’ roll outfit Obits released its third full-length album, Bed & Bugs.
The release bares the same blend of garage, surf and psych the four-piece has been honing for the past seven-or-so years, but also has the band leaking a wider array of its influences. Three songs into the record, “It’s Sick” brings out a taste of the late 70s/early 80s punk band The Flesh Eaters — and the dizzy harmonica that kicks off “Operation Bikini” halfway through the record gives a nod to teen punk from the 60s.
Deeming the album as “experimental” is a stretch, though. Songs like “Malpractice” has the band returning to its home base of tight and luring riff-centered pieces behind frontman Rick Froberg’s matchless voice.
Translation: Buy this one if you haven’t already. It’s rad.
Guitarist and co-founder Sohrab Habibion called in to talk about the new album and the band’s return to Seattle:
I was thinking back to how the first album (I Blame You) was filled with short-and-sweet songs, and then comes along Moody, Standard and Poor–
Shorter and sweeter?
Yes! Exactly. Anyway, on Bed & Bugs it sounds like you guys got a little more adventurous. Did recording the record at a friend’s house — as opposed to a formal studio — allow you to be more experimental?
Yeah, actually, it was really fun. Our friend’s apartment is now a recording studio, so it was pretty relaxed, which was really great. We’d be hanging out in his living room and he’d be like, ‘alright, we’re ready to go, give it a shot,’ and we’d knock out a couple takes, then come back, have a cup of coffee, etc. That environment was really good for us because we’re a pretty relaxed group of people. Being in an environment that’s super uptight does not necessarily spark the best performances …. When we got to Nikhil’s [Ranade] place it was really just a matter of getting a good performance.
Your song, “Machines,” has the sort of haunting, Sci-Fi, 13th Floor Elevators vibe to it. What is the story behind it?
I actually recorded most of that one in my apartment. I had originally done it and I was just going to show the guys kinda the outline of what the idea was. But everybody was fine with the way it was …. So, we basically took my home recording and put it on the 8-track machine and Alexis [Fleisig] and Greg [Simpson] overdubbed their parts. I was glad that it worked out that way too — it gave it a different kind of vibe on that song.
Well, it was a nice surprise towards the end of the album.
Thank you. I am glad the band is it a place where we can experiment a little bit and not be uptight about it. It forces more musical possibilities which is cool.
All three LPs — and I believe the majority of your singles — have all come through Sub Pop. I take it you have a great relationship with the label…
You’re in Seattle, right?
Do you know any of those people?
No, not personally.
You should get to know them on a personal level, they’re awesome people. I mean, ya know, they’re fun to hang out with and they like our band. They also get the band in the sense that their expectations of us are based around who we are and not who we might be if we were a different band [laughs]. I think a lot of record labels fall into that weird trap where everything has to be about having successful bands and finding successful bands. So then everything has to kinda work on that same scale and we’re just don’t fall into that framework. Ya know, we’re the scrappy band …. I think with us and Pissed Jeans, Metz and Mudhoney, we’re sorta carrying on the rock ‘n’ roll flag — because clearly, Sub Pop has expanded into a lot of other corners of the music world …. But it’s nice to be on ‘team rock’ or whatever you wanna call it [laughs].
You had said coming to the West Coast (on tour) is a bit of a relief when it comes to being a vegetarian. When you’re here in town, where do you venture?
I should say my wife has been known to call me an ‘allegitarian.’ I will eat fish sometimes — and if the bacon is really good, occasionally I will dabble.
Bacon is the one that turns vegetarians into meat-eaters. It’s the gateway drug.
It totally is. It used to be much harder in the 90s with my old band when we’d tour because driving across the country — there were just not options. Whatever it was at the gas station would be what you could eat. You’d get a bag of pretzels and that would have to last you for six hours. When you got to the west coast there was always fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. All of a sudden you could have a real avocado. So as far as Seattle food …. one of our favorite places there is called The Crumpet Shop in Pike Place Market. I know it’s super touristy but I swear it’s a great place. They make these really great sandwiches on crumpets and they have really good soup. I’ll be an uncompensated spokesperson for The Crumpet Shop.
When I Yelp it, I’ll be sure to include a quote from you.
Sohrab says it’s good [laughs]!
–Chris Coyle, CBS Seattle
Obits performs Friday, November 15 at Neumos. Tickets can be purchased here.
Survival Knife and Dream Salon open.
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