3 Minutes and 19 Seconds with Stuck: Greg Obis on the Band's Beginnings and Latest Single
Start the clock.
I wake up early to call the government and beg for mercy, or something like that.
They’ve got me on hold and I only have 30 minutes until my shift starts, and my cat is crying for food and some golden coast TikToker wants me to feed him the stuff that’s right off the bone, but the specialty pet food store is across the river and I don't drive, can’t drive, wouldn’t be able to afford to if I did. And my boss wants me to remember to do that thing, and my email wants me to change my password, and my dad wants grandkids, and these kids that don’t even exist are ten years old already and I’m still on hold.
I click through a dozen open tabs: half-finished work, and IKEA shelves my landlord would sooner slit my throat than let me hang, and Instagram—with the news of Stuck’s latest release at the top of my feed.
I don’t even silence my call before I press play.
Chicago-based punk outfit Stuck is playing The Good Will on Thursday, Nov. 17th, as part of their Canada/west coast tour with Blessed (Vancouver). Between this and a precursory east coast tour, the quartet will play nearly the entirety of the US by the end of the year.
Lead singer/guitarist Greg Obis joins me on Zoom a week before the band heads to Toronto.
“It's a lot of touring, but I guess you got to make up for the lost time,” Obis says.
Pre-Stuck, Obis played with Yeesh and Clearance, both of which toured aggressively throughout the 2010s before ultimately splitting in 2017.
“I was pretty ready to not play music anymore,” Obis says. “I didn't want to go on tour and I didn't want to put out records anymore.”
During this hiatus, Obis worked booking shows throughout Chicago, and Stuck was started as sort of damage control.
“If a friend's band was coming through and I was booking the show and I couldn't find a local opener, then, whatever, my band can open.”
Obis was introduced to drummer Tim Green and was eventually joined by guitarist Donny Walsh and bassist David Algrim (of Gentle Heat) before playing their first gig in November 2017.
The group’s early sound pulled inspo from Lithics, Uranium Club, and Preoccupations, with Obis wanting to create something that could do all the classic post-punk tricks, while also capturing the magic of ‘‘90s Chicago touch-and-go, sub-pop, noise rock.’
“I just wanted to explore. I didn't really think that would be appealing to anybody.”
Turns out, it was, and the four well-worked musicians committed to taking the project seriously.
The 11-track noise rock album details grief with an aggression that’s wrapped tightly in dry drum tones and lattice guitar work.
Obis considers how Stuck’s sound has evolved over the years—especially since new Chicagoan Ezra Saulnier replaced Donny Walsh on guitar.
“I think as time has gone on, we've kind of gotten more loopy and light. I don't want to say we're making music that's fun by any means, but definitely music that doesn't take itself too seriously.”
He toys with the post-punk genre, unsatisfied with how broad that term is—its roof providing shelter to everything from Fugazi to Automatic. Still, he admires the DIY sound the category is famous for, and how both Blessed and Fold Paper will bring their own versions of it to this Thursday's show.
“I don't think that anybody should compromise what they're doing aesthetically and I think that you should make as freaky music as you can. Or not freaky. Whatever speaks to you. I don't think that anybody should be placating to anybody else or like the lowest common denominator listener. You can make weird music and people will like it.”
“Do Not Reply,” the group's latest standalone single (featuring vocals from Miranda Winters of Melkbelly), offers a suffocating sound that is punctuated by an eerie, anthemic chorus: And we didn’t ask for much, but now you’re so defensive...I see you thrive, but I just know your soul’s diseased!
“I think it's one of the dumbest songs I've ever written lyrics for,” Obis admits. “It's kind of about class war, specifically the very mundane ways we’re on the frontline. Like being on the phone with a health insurance company for hours and just getting bounced around and feeling completely powerless and just having the life sucked out of you by these corporate entities.”
Your call is important to us, please stay on the line.
The song ends, hangs in the air for a few minutes, and then it’s gone. I’m on hold for a minute more before someone finally, finally picks up.
If you’ve ever waited for a bus in the Winnipeg winter, you’ll know the great relief that comes with seeing a tall pair of lights emerge from the darkness and all that blowing snow. And how sometimes these lights aren’t a bus at all, but rather a snow plow that is clearing a street that will be white again before your bus even arrives. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.
With my ear to the phone and my own hand on my neck, I listen as a crystalline voice answers the call, “my name is Patience, how can I help you today?”
Don’t miss Stuck with Blessed and Fold Paper tomorrow night at The Good Will. Grab your tickets.