Sunday, May 17, 2009
Obstruction - One Step Closer
A hardcore band at Notre Dame?!? You better believe it! Ron Garcia, Andy Yang, and Ted Hennessy tell the tale of Obstruction!
Ted: Obstruction began back in the fall of 1996. I remember having written a couple songs on guitar that were a little too hard and fast for the Mad Dogs. Somehow I was referred to Mr. Ron Garcia (affectionately nicknamed "Hardcore Ron") who, unbeknownst to me, played a mean heavy metal bass.
Ron: I'm guessing Rachel referred you to me, since I think she's the only person who had ever seen me play the bass (in my dorm room, yadayadayada).
Ted: Actually, when I learned of this, I became quite angry. Angry because HC Ron had been on campus for over 3 years and was never invited to play in a campus band. I mean, seriously, what the hell?? Ron and I quickly decided we needed a way to focus this anger, and the best way to do that was to start a hardcore band. Thus began Obstruction.
Ron: I did consider trying out for Pinch Point once, but I never answered the ad they put in the Observer.
Ted: I think it was also Rachel who came up with the band name.
Ron: It was one of you two. I remember you saying, "Ron, we need to start a hardcore band named Obstruction!"
Ted: Initially, we tried Bear out as our drummer, but it didn't quite gel. I think we scared him off by playing our songs so fast that we could barely keep up with them ourselves. That's when we enlisted a man with the guns to fill the bill: Andy Yang, a refugee from the recently defunct Catatonics.
Ron: Damn straight.
Andy: I don't think I ever really kept up with the hardcore tempo, but I had a damn good time trying. I pretty much improvised a fast tempo drum beat that seemed to have a mind of its own at times, not always in time and far from perfect. I remember having to screw some wooden blocks to the carpet that my shitty drum set was on to help stabilized the damn thing to keep it from running away.
Ted: And then there was Ron's singing... I think this surprised the shit out of everybody. Here was this sweet, super-soft spoken young gentle-man... who was suddenly transformed into a font of fiery onstage screaming rage. Wow. A pleasant surprise indeed, with very, very effective results.
Andy: That was the best part of Obstruction! Ron's piercing yell ruled!
Ron: Our first show I don't remember if the PA was working, so I'm not sure if anyone heard the vocals. The second South Bend show (at Clifford) got some stares. I didn't know I had it in me.
Ted: Yeah, the first show... it was on the same night as the last Cuba Five show (3/13/1997). We were booked for a Bowling Green, OH fest a week or so later, so we really needed to get some stage time under our belts. We played about 6 songs, in arguably one of the shortest sets in South Bend music history. Most of the songs were under 2 minutes long. It was the only time we ever played "Shenanigans," an ill-conceived instrumental "tribute" to the ND song and dance troupe of the same name.
Ron: Hahaha! Awesome. Many strings were broken at that first show (bass strings, guitar strings). Drum sticks? We tore shit up!
Andy: Good times! Yeah, I remember being pretty pumped up and racing away on the drums. We definitely upped the tempo even more at the shows.
Ted: BG fest was fun, even if we were a trifle nervous and screwed up a lot. It was a good sized crowd. Chris O sang a few extra songs with us there as some hacked off version of the Mad Dogs.
Andy: Yes, our first gig away from SB and it was our second show. We weren't really prepared, but it was fun, for sure. We were definitely feeling the jitters and screwed up good, but all in all, a good time.
Ron: I remember we didn't have a carpet so the drumset kept trying to run away.
Ted: We probably only played a handful of other shows from there on out, a few times at Clifford and maybe the Green House. Obstruction dissolved when I left South Bend for the greener pasture of Austin, TX in the summer of 1997. Several months later, I stopped back in town for a tape release/reunion show at the Canary House on Halloween, with the Mad Dogs and the Butterfly Effect.
Ron: That was an awesome reunion show.
Ted: Indeed. Probably the best we ever played.
Ted: Though often oversimplified, we tried to add "political" overtones to our music. "Eyesore" had something to do with television inadequately reflecting the diversity of real life.
Ron: Hardcore bands (and angsty youth in general) have traditionally oversimplified their politics. Who were we to shirk years of tradition?
2. "Stabbed in the Back"
Ron: Poking (pun intended) fun at the classic hardcore motif: "I thought you were my friend, but now you've stabbed me in the back." Plenty of bands singing about their bleeding hearts spend their weekdays dishing out the same medicine they complained about in verse on the weekend.
3. Holy Martyr
Ted: Written in reaction to attending too many HC fests overrun by macho, sexist, straightedge buffoons.
Ted: Don't ever try to tell Ron what to do with his life, unless you want the beatdown! Clocking in at only around 30 seconds, this song was often over before people knew what had hit them.
Ted: The lyrics to the verses of this song were taken from quotes on redneck bumper stickers I witnessed during my days as a pizza delivery guy in SB.
Ted: Our anti-joining-the-military anthem, or something like that. Always a crowd favorite due to the mid-song guitar breakdown and shouting of "Go! Fight! Win! Die!"
Ron: Let's not forget the absolutely crucial "Obstruction Go!" You can't be old school without throwing your band name in at least one of your songs!
Andy: My favorite song to play. I was able to just beat the shit out the drum set, broke a few sticks here and there.
Ted: This song was initially titled "Gun Shy," until it was brought to our attention that that was also the name of a 10,000 Maniacs song. Whew-- dodged a bullet on that one. (ba-dump bump!)
Ted: "Underscore" and "Last Goodbye" were written towards the end of the band's brief existence, but showed promise of where our sound was heading, had we continued on.
Ron: Underscore was named because it was an untitled instrumental that we put on setlists as "_______". Apparently my sense of humor has little progressed.
8. Last Goodbye
Ron: This was the obstruction love/heartbreak song. Hey, hardcore bred emo, so we HAD to reveal our tender sides for the fans.
Ted: I'm glad we nailed this one in the studio, because we always struggled with it live. You can hear Andy exclaim at the end "that was the best ever!" cuz we finally got it right! For me it's the highlight of this tape.
Ted: This cassette, tongue-in-cheekily titled One Step Closer, was recorded in May of 1997 at Clifford the Big Red House, with Travis assisting under Ron's direction. Faye, Leslie, Doug, and Mike (aka the Obstruction Youth Crew) helped with the background shouts on a couple tracks. It was a split release with our good friends the Mad Dogs, who's contribution has already been chronicled in a previous blog post.
Ron: Here's a point of irony. I've lost my voice for the third time in my life this weekend (due to a cold). The last time I remember losing my voice was when we recorded the Obstruction tape. During the vocal recording session, Mike Larmoyeux was running the sound board and I was in the basement screaming my heart out. It was graduation weekend so his family came by Clifford while we were recording. As Mike told me, they seemed perplexed, so he explained that we were overdubbing tracks for a recording, and I think his mom, or aunt or some other said, "But why is someone yelling in your basement?!?"
Obstruction on MySpace