Interview: A conversation with The Obsessives
The Obsessives are steadily becoming a household name within the emo scene. Their debut full length, ‘Heck No, Nancy,’ was highly anticipated and has so far received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. I had the chance to chat with guitarist and vocalist Nick Bairatchnyi on the album’s release day and get into the gritty details.
When I asked how it felt to have the album officially released, Nick modestly responded that it was a good feeling and that the reception to the album was pretty much going as he expected. The band already knew where the album was strong and most of the issues being pointed out were ones that they were already aware of. The major difference that the new album has made is with the live shows. Nick said that The Obsessives are happy to finally be able to play these songs live, after sitting on them during their summer tour. “Last night we played in Charlottesville, Virginia and the album wasn’t officially out until this morning, but there were songs where people already knew the words and were singing along.”
The Obsessives’ label, Near Mint, has very much had a similar trajectory as the band. Their first release was The Obsessives’ Manners on cassette and now Heck No, Nancy is the first foray into vinyl, both for the label and the band. Reflecting on their relationship, Nick said that things are amazing. “James [Cassar] and Corey [Purvis] are our best friends.” He went on to that they click in every way, “on a musical level, a professional level… an ethical level.” As far as releasing the album on the labels rooted cassette format nothing is concrete, but fans should keep their eyes peeled.
Diving into the album we began discussing some of the details of its creation. Nick explained that he loves the art of writing in all forms so lyrics are a key focus of his. When he has a simple message to get across, he does it simply. In almost all cases, the lyrics and the instrumentation are written separately and then the band sees where the two come together to compliment and reinforce each other. The root of these lyrics is simply putting personal feelings into words. “It was a lot of loneliness and unhappiness, but eventually pride, too, once we saw that we were doing this whole album thing.” When questioned about what the ideal reaction he hoped to give the listener, Nick said that he has strong feelings on what art and poetry should be. “You basically have to be a master to write something that makes people feel the way you decide,” so the takeaway should be different for each person, both in relation to themselves and the artist.
Nick went on to detail one of the most memorable lines on the album “Zooming out on Google Earth / I become even less significant.” These lyrics come from a very distinct memory of the first time being shown Google Earth, paired with playing the video game Saints Row for the first time. The feelings that this memory holds lent itself easily to the musical direction that the song was moving in. The band’s other member, Jackson Mansfield, wrote the music for the entire first half of the song and Nick wrote the second half. They sought to emulate a sort of sprawling connection between the two pieces as the song draws to a close and the lyrics fit perfectly into place.
Something that always stands out to me is the duality between feelings of isolation, such as those represented in many Obsessives songs, and being part of the DIY community. This is something that Nick said he has really struggled with, too. Being in high school until just recently it has a challenge to deal with having friends all over the country, but having no one to at home to be close to; no one who gets what is means to care about something. At this point, Nick brought up an anthropological article he read recently that fit into this discussion when his phone just sort of broke. After a few minutes trying to reconnect, he came back with this shortened version: “High school sucks and caring isn’t creepy, it’s cool.”
Even though high school sucks, it seems the band cannot escape it. Nearly every review of the album hits on the fact that Heck No, Nancy was written while they were in high school. Nick believes that this is because it’s something that’s easy for writers to write. It helps readers form their identity of the band and chose their expectations. “In reality we’ve been working hard for three years to not sound like we’re in high school.” The truth is that the band finally is out of high school, and recently signed with the APA agency at that! Looking into the future of The Obsessives, I see a lot of touring coming up due to that recent partnership. Here’s to hoping their name and music spread like dandelion seeds across the fields of the United States. If any band deserves it, it’s them.