A Conversation with Obungus
I recently had the chance to interview Arizona Native band, Obungus. I spoke with Ben and David from the band about their latest debut album, new music, merch and more. In bold are my questions and their answers follow. Check it out!
Why Obungus it's such a unique name? What's the story behind the band name?
Ben: So basically there was this meme that was going around a couple years ago called obunga and it was just some dumb meme surfing around the internet and Damien, who is the bass player of the band, like mispronounced it and every time he would say obungus instead of saying obunga. So I started making fun of him for it, like I made that his contact name on my phone and one day we were doing the talent show at our high school and they ask us “What's your band name?” I didn't know what to say so I just said “Obungus!”
So it was just something that happened out of a joke...
Ben: Yeah it was just a spur of the moment thing, we originally didn't have a name when performing together we were just like “oh it's just the three of us, you know” but after that, that was our name. It was the only thing to pop into my head because I was the only one with a mic.
That is interesting, funny. So you said it started off with a talent show, so how did you team up to be the unit you are today? Starting off your debut album and other EP you guys came out with, how did you guys come together to be one?
Ben: Well we had a couple of members come and go, like some people, like you know when we first, first started it was not the same people that it was. But you know when we eventually came together, to the line up that is now, we intend to keep it that way but how we came up to what is now. I actually know John, the drummer, for a very long time and he was one of my friends in school so since I knew he drummed and I needed a drummer one year. And Damien, I met him when I was a sophomore in high school. And we hit it off pretty cool, I didn't actually meet David till September of 2019 where I performed for a battle of the bands and met him after the show. So yeah all together we've been working since September of 2019 but the band had previous members come and go since 2016.
That's insane, so who are the originators of the band? How did that come up, and how did you guys keep going?
Ben: The originators of the band it was myself and Jonathan, and we had another friend named Jordan who used to be in the band with us but is no longer in the band but it was kind of hard to keep going because people, obviously people get older and want to do more things, especially through high school trying to figure out what to do for the rest of their lives and music had always been a hobby for the two of us, me and John so we stuck with it the most and we just never gave up.
That's really cool, I know how you just talked about how people are so focused on their future and finishing up high school, so aside from music, what is something you and David want to pursue in the future?
Ben: So besides music I was originally going to go to trade school for electricity to be an electrician but right now I think because things, like the current circumstances are different so I figured the band is doing really good and want to see where it takes me, and I can always go back to school if I really wanted to.
David: Well for me, I recently moved here from California so i'm not Arizona native, and I moved here around August of 2019 and I'm really hoping the band really blows up because if not i'm going to be working some part or full time job elsewhere because my intent is to be a musician in small town Yuma, Arizona and here I am with Obungus.
You guys just released your debut album I.D’s and Late Teens, so take me though your writing process, how does it work for you, what comes first?
Ben: So most of the time it starts with a guitar, some songs we weren't all together to write but for the ones we were. It would be me, Damien and David so I would be playing something on guitar or David would start playing something on guitar and we just hum a melody to see what would work with it and add lyrics to it. It's usually always Damien who is like “so what is the song going to be about?” and we say oh we don't know and we start singing random stuff and whatever pops into our head, I guess that’s what the song is about. Songs like New Banger, the title does not match at all to what the song is saying. We got lucky with that song because it's a weird title but the song is a love song but the title has nothing to do with it. So that's what we like to do, kinda have it weird because people will be more interested in it. So when we write we try to make stuff as relatable, mainly heartbreak, because everyone goes through that and we are no strangers to that.
That's true it's very relatable of course, so all of you go through heartbreaks and stuff like that or is there one of you that's ain't-love, or all of you pretty much, let's go through the heartbreaks?
Ben: Yup, we get some good songs out of it too!
I can tell, I can tell, so besides all that,with all your break up and love songs what is your guys personal favorite track off your debut album?
David: My favorite definitely has to be Don't Get Used To This and the reason why is because we were just messing around I had a few projects I was working on and I played something and Ben was like wow that was really good and I said yeah thanks it was something I was writing. And he said if you ever release it I want Obungus to cover it and I said no I want Obungus to write it. So we wrote it together it was really fun to come up with the melody and the cool thing about the song is that it starts off in fourth fourth then goes into a sixth eight and it's super fun playing live too. We get so much energy from the break from four four to sixth eight, it's a very explosive song and it's really catchy that's why I love that song.
Ben: Picking off what David said, when he said he was writing that song and we were going to cover it, when I first met David he was a solo artist and then we decided to be a band together because originally the line up was just me, John, and Damien so that's why I was saying if he ever released it Obungus was going to cover it, because that was before David was actually in the band with us. But anyway my favorite song, it has to be New Banger because its so fun to play live and it was so easy to write and when we were writing songs together especially the upbeat ones before we get tired of playing it so much and it's in the genesis of being written it's always so much fun to play those songs and like its so funny because it's so angsty and that’s why it's my favorite because it's so helpful.
That's pretty cool, so what were the hardest tracks to write, trying to get all of you guys all together. Or maybe at least favorite songs, if there is one. Do you guys have anything on that?
Ben: Oh my gosh, so one of the hardest songs, I wouldn't say least favorite because it's a good song, I think the hardest one we've ever had to record was Doormat cuz it sound simple the guitar part which is the lead the part, it took us maybe four hours to play it because we would record and something like, it was magic, whenever we would hit record we would always mess it up and it was so hard to sing, because when I first started singing music I was singing in a softer kind of voice and then when I started doing vocals for Obungus it took a toll on my throat because I have to scream sometimes so Doormat was kind of one of the first songs that i realized oh gosh I gotta work on my singing, that and the guitar was really really hard to record. Doormat, not our least favorite because it's good to play live because we've been practicing more but when we first started recording it my gosh that took so long. We actually released a version of it then took it down because it was so bad and we re-recorded it.
That's good you guys did trial and error until it came out the way you guys wanted, so your fan base keeps growing, your music keeps evolving from when you guys first started so what are your hopes for the future, any new music, any changes? What are you guys thinking?
Ben: Right now our hopes are that we want to get merch cuz now I think it's really cool that we have a growing fan base all over the United States and even different countries like Canada and Mexico, so I would really like to give back to them because there's only so much we can do on Instagram you know. So we would love to have some merch on a website that we are actually developing right now. We could release merch now but due to coronavirus we wouldn't want someone to order a shirt and wait like 30 years for it to come in. Right now we are working on summer music, we just got a new music program that we hope will be a significant upgrade from what we used to record with and we are so excited for that.
David: The EP we plan out to release is a super fun kind of different sound. We got new guitars for the EP and we are just ready for what the fans think about our music and ready for anything really.
Ben: And we really want to tour. I know that's kind of a long shot right now especially, but we've had people ask us to come to the Bay area and San Francisco and Ohio but right now we don't have the means to do it, but we wish we did but that's what we hope for the future we can go to other places other than in Yuma where we can meet and perform for another audience, and get to meet our supporters in different states and countries.
That's exciting and I hope we can get to see you guys live in concert one of these days, but you mentioned summer music, any inside you can give us when the new music is going to be released or is that still in the air?
Ben: No no we can actually say, we want to have it out in June, mid June. Because we feel that's when everyone, hopefully things open back up, people will be out in the lake or beach or something and the music is going to have a vibe where you play it on a Beats Pill and your out with the family at the pool or something, that's the type of vibe we're going for. We know it's going to be three songs for every mood. We got a sad one, a pretty happy one and a mellow chill one.
That's cool, we will be waiting for mid June, is there anything else you'd like to add before ending the call?
Ben: We would like to say thank you so much for letting us do this interview with you and we really hope that people that are listening to this on Austin Underground go check out our music and we really appreciate the help you've given us with the article and interview. We really appreciate it.
David: We also want to give a huge shout out to the fans as well!
Of course, thank you guys so much for the time, we will keep looking out for Obungus in mid June. Thank you guys for tuning in, till next time this is Malanie Gardea with Austin Underground.