Brooklyn-based Obits, who originally formed in the mid-2000s, are gearing up to release their first live LP, Die at the Zoo, coming Friday and premiering here at New Noise exclusively.
Many of their songs from their previous records, along with a handful of indispensable singles, appear on the new live album.
Guitarist Sohrab Habibion chats more about the road to releasing Die at the Zoo and the future of Obits:
How does it feel to finally be releasing your first ever live LP? Why has it taken as long as it has?
Honestly, we never considered it before. Live rock ’n’ roll records are commonly associated with bloated 1970s/1980s, arena rock bands. It’s the breeding ground for reaffirming all the cliches of the genre. Bob Dylan wink-spoke: “Everyone must get high,” and the audience exploded. Cheap Trick introduced a tune with, “This next one is the first song on our new album,” and the cheers were heard from Tokyo to Valley Stream. The Rolling Stones got their ya yas out! Frampton came alive! It’s all pretty goofy.
But the truth is, good rock ’n’ roll, punk or otherwise, sashays in its finest strut in the live environment—it’s where things happen by accident and the real excitement of the form shines. Studio recordings are a different animal. They are quaffed and presented for maximum preening. They create a simulacrum of the art-narrative-document. When done well, they inhabit their own space and time, you can visit and revisit. Live is here and now and imperfect. Which is why all those dumb phone videos on YouTube are useless. Being there is being there. Being there to tell someone you were there is Black Mirror material in its most banal form.
But, anyway, a bunch of our shows were recorded. Some sound good. Some we played better. This one found the middle ground between fidelity and performance and our friend Geoff Sanoff mixed it, so it’s hi-fi, but also retains the charm/authenticity of the ragged qualities of our band. We were a little drunk and buzzing from being in Australia. Strings were broken; timing shifted; accurate tuning was threatened, but the record is exciting for all those reasons, too.
If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
I’m not sure I ever became a musician. I am a highly enthusiastic amateur who is still learning and thrilled to be involved. I contribute to the expenses of my household by doing graphic design work. Books, music, video, web, whatever. It’s all kind of the same thing to me. Finding ways of expressing ideas as accurately as possible. Or inaccurately, if that’s the goal.
Thinking about how each idea can find its way into the world where it will be best appreciated. Designing a book cover isn’t that different from writing a song in a lot of ways. It’s all about what kind of socks you like to wear, and if you prefer coffee or tea, and how comfortable you are being uncomfortable. So, to answer the question, I’m doing exactly what I would be doing right now no matter what. I am me. The thing is not me.
Describe your favorite and least favorite things about being a musician.
Being a musician is like waiting for a bus. Some people check the schedule obsessively because they are oriented towards a destination and place a high value on their time. I step into the street and see if I can see the bus coming. If I do, I wait for it. If not, I start walking.
What’s the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?
I don’t think I’ve ever asked for advice or have been given any. I certainly wouldn’t trust anything a musician had to say. But if you’re asking me for advice, I’d say just keep doing it. You’ll either be rewarded for your longevity or you won’t, but at least you’ll have kept busy.
Are there plans to reform Obits? If there aren’t, what would you want fans to remember about you and your music?
We’re definitely not *not* reforming Obits. We all like each other, and the music we’ve made together, so if something comes up that seems interesting, I imagine we’ll consider it. In the somewhat creepy fantasy world where you can control what other people think about you, I think I’d be OK if folks vaguely remembered our band in relatively simple ways like, “That was a fun night!” Or “Did he just sing the word ‘fundus’?” My greatest hope is that someone thinks our first seven-inch is the best thing we ever did. Even though that dude never heard the demos …
Get a first listen to the new live album here:
Photo courtesy of Obits.