an end of 2009 interview w/ Sohrab Habibion of Obits
by Bill Pearis
So we asked a load of NYC-area bands to tell us how their 2009 went, via a handy questionnaire. As we get them back we’re gonna post them.
Obits on the Jimmy Fallon show – November 2009
This one is from Brooklyn’s Obits, a band that features a bunch of indie rock veterans, including frontman Rick Froberg (Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu), guitarist Sohrab Habibion (Edsel) and drummer Scott Gursky (Shortstack). Legend has it, a bootleg of their first gig (Cakeshop, Jan 2008) got them signed to Sub Pop, who earlier this year put out Obits debut, I Blame You — one of my favorite straight-up rock records of 2009. Obits’ next gig is New Years Eve Rock n’ Soul Party at The Bell House that also features Eli “Paperboy” Reed (tickets are still on sale).
Sohrab (who you may have caught solo on Saturday when he opened for That Petrol Emotion at the Bell House) was kind enough to answer the questionnaire below… very candidly I might add…
Obits released their debut album, this year. How did that go?
Great. We worked really hard on writing those songs and the way they were recorded accurately reflects our taste and musical point of view. The one aspect I found bizarre, albeit fascinating, was how much people latched onto Rick’s quote that “we’re not into innovation as a band” when reviewing the album. So, to be clear, we’re totally bringing innovation back in 2010.
Obits also made their Network Television Debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in November. What was that like? Had any of you in the band been on TV before?
Well, despite our undeniably striking good looks, nobody in this group had prior on-camera experience. Luckily, everybody employed by the Jimmy Fallon show was incredibly gracious and kind to us so, even with occasional bouts of nervousness, we had an excellent day. And something about the way it’s set up with the studio audience and the huge cameras moving around, swooping in like animatronic dinosaurs, really enhances the drama. Honestly, it was completely thrilling.
What was your most memorable musical moment of 2009?
Putting out an album on Sub Pop. I still can’t quite believe it sometimes. Considering how many of their records I have bought over the years, it is absolutely an honor to be part of their corner of contemporary popular music history.
What about non-musical moment?
Watching my 5 year old son learn how to read and write. The point when shapes become symbols and then those symbols are used to encode and decode information is extraordinary. To be witness to that process in another person is revelatory.
Favorite place to play in NYC?
All are different and we enjoyed them for different reasons, but we had fun at Cake Shop, Union Hall, Bell House, Santos (that was a
surprise, as was finding a coke vial in the toilet paper dispenser in the men’s room there) and Irving Plaza, too, which was a real shocker.
What’s the best and worst thing about being in a band in NYC in 2009?
The fact that people think Dirty Projectors are culturally important.
What were your favorite album(s) of 2009?
Disappears– Live Over The Rainbo
Tijuana Panthers – “Creature”
What was the best show you saw in 2009?
The Soft Pack at Union Pool.
Favorite Michael Jackson song?
Dunno. Depends on my mood, I suppose. My preferences lean toward the funky R&B grooves and fuzz guitar of Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, but if I hear something from Off The Wall or Thriller at a party, I’m happy to get my boogie on.
What is the proper way to incorporate “Meh” into your band name?
Shitgaze, Glo-fi or Dark Wave?
Shit Wave, for sure. There’s probably somebody doing this already (Silk Flowers?), but I’d love to hear a band combine the looseness of Being Boiled-era Human League with the drive of Nag, Nag, Nag-era Cabaret Voltaire and the hooky melody of Genetic Engineering-era OMD. They are all distant or somewhat austere, but still very human. Or maybe a band that mixes 154 by Wire with elements of Suicide and Kraftwerk? That would be something I’d want to check out.
Plans/predictions for 2010?
We’re all excited about going to play in Brazil this spring, getting back to Europe and making our next record. But no predictions and no