Pitched somewhere between The Cramps’ Smell of Female and The Stooges’ seminal Metallic K.O, comes Die at the Zoo by OBITS – a rare recording made in Brisbane in 2012 during the band’s inaugural visit to Australia.”Die At The Zoo” marks the first live LP from the Brooklyn-based stalwarts who originally formed in the mid-2000s off the back of voracious discussions about pizza, rock music and everything in-between. We sat down with guitarist Sohrab Habibion to look back at this unique experience and recall their notable work with OBITS.
“I mean, this is a few centuries after European colonies pushed out the Lenape in the area,” explains founding Edsel vocalist/guitarist, Sohrab Habibion. “So naturally when Rick and I got together, the electric guitar was our central subject. His other group were starting to wrap things up, and we decided it’d be a hoot to play together.”
The “Rick” in question of course, being Rick Froberg; venerable guitarist, songwriter, artist, and leader of some of rock’s most influential nonconformists in Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes.
Following a small but respectable number of sweaty and noisy live shows in and around Brooklyn, and through a slew of iterations of the group’s early line-up, Obits settled into a home at Sub Pop where they released three essential albums; I Blame You (2009), Moody, Standard and Poor (2011) and Bed & Bugs (2013), along with a handful of indispensable singles. Many of which can be found right here on Die at the Zoo, captured in a manner befitting their awesomeness. Loud, melodious, alive, and amplified for paying punters who quite simply knew just how hard Obits rocked.
And as Habibion sums up Die at the Zoo best, “If you know our band and went to one of our shows, this will sound familiar. If we’re new to you, but you have equal amounts of affection for AC/DC and CCR as you do Wire and The Wipers, then together we shall set the dingoes free.”
Pressed on limited-edition pink vinyl and with artwork by Rick Froberg, Die at the Zoo is an absolute must for Obits fans old and new and can be pre-ordered now ahead of its official release on 30th July on Outer Battery Records – HERE.
Interview with Guitarist Sohrab Habibion
What are your recollections of playing this particular show in Brisbane? Around this period, what would fans have experienced/seen/heard/tasted at a typical Obits live show?
Rick had been to Australia with Hot Snakes in 2005, but this was our first trip there as Obits and we were excited. A decent portion of the music that influenced our band had roots in Australia: The Scientists, feedtime, the Victims, Radio Birdman, X, Boys Next Door, the Celibate Rifles, Hard-Ons, The Saints, Lime Spiders, Beasts of Bourbon, Sunnyboys, the good AC/DC records, etc. Brisbane was home to The Saints and The Go-Betweens, so all the more reason to stroll the city, pet the koalas, visit TYM Guitars, and sip a lager with our local pals, Tony and Scott.
I’m not sure our live show ever changed that much, which is to say there was never much of a show. No stage antics, no fancy lighting, not a lot of banter. Our thing was just to play our music. We loved to travel, meet people, and dip into the regional food and drink. But for about an hour every night we would do our best to lock in with each other and explore whatever tunes were in our repertoire at that particular time. Given the right combination of biology, gastronomy, chemistry and timing, it all wove together pretty believably. If someone liked our music enough to come see us, I think they probably had a decent time. Some nights we were better than others, but there was never anything too awful or stupid or embarrassing that I can recall. Though that may be a strike against us. People like drama.
How did your visit to Australia come about?
We were contacted by Jen Crowley at Gaunt Gigs. She had a few exchanges with Mahmood Shaikh, our booking agent, and it all got sorted pretty quickly. I think it was maybe 3 or 4 months between the first conversation and our gig in Melbourne, which is unheard of these days, when most things are scheduled at least 6 months in advance. Jen brought us back to Australia in 2014 and again Mat Watson helped get us around and provided good cheer. I can’t wait for another opportunity to visit—Australia is a beautiful place with a deep appreciation for the four pillars of civilization: avocados, barley, coffee beans and rock’n’roll.
As a set, Die at the Zoo collects together a lot of tracks from your first two records. Is there a chance we might get a similar live release in the future focusing on music from Bed & Bugs… and beyond?
There’s a 2014 recording of a show we played in Tokyo that includes Bed & Bugs songs. If we can figure a way to improve the sound balance a bit, I could imagine putting it out, even if it’s just digital. A while ago I found a stash of live recordings that I may try to make my way through at some point. It goes back to our earliest shows, which could be interesting (loose interpretation). I don’t think any of the songs we were working on when we called it quits were played live. There is a stray, live/alternate-version of “You Gotta Lose” in France from 2010. We were calling it “No Amount Of Love” and it’s got a decent pub rock hook we later stripped out:
What’s the likelihood of us seeing an Obits reformation or is that a chapter in your career that’s been consigned to the history books?
I don’t think it’s off the table. We all still like each other and are in contact. If anything, this new live record has been a great excuse for us to resume our email thread, which is a predictable mingling of relevant information (9%), links to music we’re listening to (15%), and lots and lots of dumb jokes (76%). Also I’m nearly certain that no history book wants us.
What do you miss most about your days in Obits?
Hanging out with that particular group of people and the folks whose jurisdiction we shared. We toured with great bands (Disappears, Orphan, Constantines, Aliment, Heavy Times, Night Marchers, METZ), everyone at Sub Pop was incredibly generous to us with their time and enthusiasm, our booking agent was as much a friend as an agent, and the comrades we made in Barcelona and Prague remain vital to us to this day. Obits got to go to Europe a couple of times a year, we toured Australia twice, we played shows in Brazil and Japan. We weren’t exactly popular, but we were given access to certain experiences that made a big impact on our lives. But I’m not a nostalgic person. I like to live in the present. At least when I’m not reading Cold War espionage stories.