Published Mar 11, 2009One of the most influential figures in underground culture, singer/guitarist/visual artist Rick Froberg ends a long musical lay-off with his new Brooklyn-based band Obits. After collaborating together for decades in key San Diego bands like Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, Froberg and friend John Reis (Rocket From the Crypt, the Night Marchers) couldn't find common ground living on opposite coasts, and have gone on to pursue different groups.
"I have to work and music has never really paid my rent," Froberg tells Exclaim!, explaining both his musical lay-off and relocation from California. "Occasionally you might come back from tour and have some money but I work and most of what I do is illustration, visual artwork, and animation. It's not real exciting but it helps pay the rent. I wanted to play music still. I really like to play music and had friends who weren't doing anything so we got together and did it."
Upon Hot Snakes' dissolution, Froberg asked new Brooklyn neighbour Sohrab Habibion (formerly of Washington D.C. band Edsel) about playing music together. After a few membership changes, the two guitarists were joined by drummer Scott Gursky and bassist Greg Simpson, which solidified Obits as a new band. "Once that happened the band moved along really quickly; before that it took two years to, whatever, get our crappy sound down," Froberg laughs. "We played one show, someone bootlegged the show, and people heard it and there was small demand, so we started playing and working on a record."
The result is their debut full-length, I Blame You, which will be released by Sub Pop on March 24. The excellent record's songs are rather streamlined, somewhat primitive and punk but also quite vibrant and inventive. Froberg suggests that, based on past experiences, there was a specific intention in crafting a sound for Obits.
"We wanted to concentrate more on songwriting itself. When I started playing music, the first things I heard that made me want to play was post-punk music like Sonic Youth or something. The first time I heard their song 'Brother James,' I was like, 'Oh, wow, this is great, this speaks to me, and I could conceivably do this.' I had a guitar and it seemed much more possible to play music like that. I don't want to say that this is a regressive thing but we're trying to not just base it around guitar textures or riffs; we're trying to actually write some songs. That's something that's a new challenge! We're trying to make more palatable songs and put together good songs."