Obits - Biography
Brooklyn indie-rock stalwarts Obits emerged from a year-long stint in a rehearsal studio to becoming an overnight cult force of rock & roll in 2008, when a fan recorded and bootlegged their first ever show and circulated it on the Internet. Having made names in previous independent projects, guitarist/vocalist Rick Froberg (formerly of Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes), Sohrab Habibion (formerly of Edsel) and drummer Scott Gursky (formerly of Shortstack) began rehearsing Froberg-penned songs after he’d just switched coasts from Los Angeles in 2006. Their foray as Obits skyrocketed out of the gate with the bootleg of a show played at the Lower East Side’s basement venue the Cake Shop, and the buzz was immediate. Making the most of it, Obits took two of the cuts back from that show and made them available for listening more officially on their MySpace page.
Serendipitously, the live tracks captured in their raw essence ended up attracting alt-kingpin Sub Pop Records and A&R guy Chris Jacobs, who—after having the band play the label’s 20th anniversary party in Seattle—signed Obits to a contact. Since then, the quartet has released a pair of singles and one full-length album, while having toured North and South America and Europe. Obits also appeared on the television show Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, performing their single “Fake Kinkade.”
Having relocated to New York from his native California after his post-rock outfit Hot Snakes disbanded, the well-spoken Froberg set to the task of writing new material—material that was admittedly more conventional and more tuneful than previous forays with John Reis-led Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu. With Habibion and Gursky on board as a sort of underground indie-superband, Obits considered adding a third guitarist during their initial rehearsals, but instead opted for Greg Simpson to come in with the more traditional bass. Taking their time in developing their sound—straight-forward blues-informed rock & roll/garage punk, with a prominent and fierce guitar interplay between Froberg and Habibion—their first public performance wouldn’t happen until January 2008. “We wanted to take out time,” said Froberg in an interview. “We try to keep things slow-paced.”
Meanwhile, with the buzz of the first show strong and the mystery of their debut still intact, Obits was being heralded critically as “The Next Big Thing” by media and fan alike. Sub Pop released an Obits vinyl single specifically for Record Store Day (“One Cross Apiece”/“Put It In Writing”), yet it would be another 14 months before their official Sub Pop debut would come out, the Sanoff-Janey produced I Blame You (2009), which featured Froberg’s artwork on the cover (Froberg is the artist behind Rocket from the Crypt covers, and other Swami Records releases). The album, on the strength of tracks such as “Two-Sided Coin” and “Lillies In The Street,” climbed Billboard’s Heatseekers chart to #47. in 2011 the band released Moody, Standard and Poor.
Obits had a second vinyl single released on Record Store Day 2009, “I Can’t Lose”/“Military Madness.” The band has continued to tour regularly in the United States and Europe in support of their Sub Pop releases.