Eric Oblivian, also known as Eric Friedl is the owner and founder of a place you may have heard of called Goner Records. Goner Records is out of Memphis, Tennessee and is an independent record label and record store home to many of our favorite artists here at 50thirdand3rd. But before I get ahead of myself let me start here…
Like most of my time since I started writing with the guys at 50thirdand3rd, I spend many nights listening to music I am just now discovering. Music they have been listening to for years. I get sucked into their stories and the pure love for the music. I get all excited when they ask me about certain artists and bands and I say I haven’t heard of them, because I know what’s coming next. They go off and get lost in these stories of seeing the band live or where they discovered those bands and artists. I love that. It is what keeps me going and keeps me writing, for the love of the music. Which brings me to Eric Oblivian, founder and owner of Goner Records and one of the founding members of the Memphis garage-rock band, The Oblivians. Our website was majorly inspired by The Oblivians music and one of the first artists in music I was introduced to when I started writing on this site. The Oblivians started recording in the early 90’s and their bluesy style, aggressive and gritty recordings made them one of the most spectacular and most prominent bands in the underground garage-rock scene. Their music is stripped down and harsh in a way that was new and desired in that time period of music. Eric, joined with members Greg Cartwright and Jack Yarber to form the band and their sound was made. I could go on and on and regurgitate everything I have ever read on The Oblivians and Goner Records but I got the chance to ask Eric some questions and so I will let him tell you in his way, the best way.
Can you give us a little background on how you met jack Yarber and Greg Cartwright?
In the early 90s I used to work at a record store across town and Jack & Greg used to come in and hang out, I was a big fan of their bands PAINKILLERS and then COMPULSIVE GAMBLERS. They had great musical sensibilities, really different from mine, and we liked goofing around. Eventually I got to get onstage and bash along with some Compulsive Gamblers versions of Billy Childish or Mummies songs. After that band broke up, eventually the Oblivians wriggled into existence.
How do you pick the covers you did as the oblivians? Were there any songs you liked performing live more than others?
We liked doing songs that no one else was doing, songs that might have been overlooked for whatever reason. Greg loved Trio and “Sunday You Need Love” is really fun to play. I like playing “Hey Ma, Look At Sis” by Uncle Ben. The way the riff works with the drumbeat is really cool and always sounds great. Greg picked that, too.
What was your first album you ever had? What song or artist made you want to be in a band?
I had been in a band in high school with some folks who eventually went on to make records and tour and such, but yeah, the Oblivians was the first time I was on a record. In the start, we just did a recording session hoping to get some singles out of it, and ended up with an album- Soul Food. We never thought it was a “real band.”
Do you think it is more difficult for a new band or artist to get signed in 2016 compared to 20 years ago?
It’s harder and easier- it’s easier to record your own music and easier to get it to labels- it’s harder to get any attention because anyone/everyone can do it. The way things get done is basically the same now as then- someone hears a band or sees a band and word of mouth gets them noticed by other people. If you can get it together to get out and play for people, it makes a difference!
Can you tell us something about Jay (Reatard) that most people might not know about him? Craziest/most memorable show with the Oblivians?
Hmm… I think the main thing was that Jay really cared about his music and worked really hard on it. The lashing out and wild behavior might make it seem like he was just a crazed guy, and he was, but he was also very meticulous and a very hard worker. The craziest show I can think of with the Oblivians was in Germany, in a club in Stuttgart, I think. It was in a really cool basement with arched ceilings, the only entrance was from the back of the room and people were just packed in the place, it was summertime, super hot and everyone was drunk and excited. There was a PA for vocals, we set up started playing and the “soundman” came across the stage turning all of the knobs on our amps up to 10. People kept getting pushed onstage because there was no room in the room… and then when we wanted to quit the crowd wouldn’t let us. We did a couple of encores, played all we could, and the crowd wouldn’t let us leave, they just pushed us back when we tried to get off stage. And then Jack was gone- he’d stood on his drum stool and pulled himself out a window behind the stage. That one monkey sure did stop the show!
What’s a normal business week like for Goner?
Kinda chaotic, we take everything as it comes. We’ve got certain stuff we do for the store all the time – check inventory, work on orders, make sure the bank account looks right, price records, pack & ship orders- but then someone will walk in with 1000 45s and we need to go through those, or we need to concentrate on a release for the label and get press stuff out or graphics done or whatever. It’s never monotonous, for sure.
You have said you burned yourself out putting so much energy into the shows. Do you look back and wish you would have done anything differently?
I don’t remember saying that, but I don’t remember a lot of things nowadays… I wouldn’t have done anything differently other than take it easy afterwards on myself- I used to be completely depressed at putting on a bad show. Being a bad guitar player, you gotta learn to live with it! I did the best I could!
What do you love about Memphis? Do you see opening more stores across the country?
Memphis has a great underdog approach that appeals to me- there’s space to do things without money here, and people don’t have an attitude like they do in bigger scenes. In Memphis, if you can’t put on a good show, do a good painting, or whatever you do, no one cares . Being hip matters not at all. That said, it’s hard to get any attention here and most bands get followings out-of-town before people here notice. As far as opening other stores, we’re just trying to keep our one store going for now.
Who picks the bands for Goner Fest? What goes into planning it?
Everyone who works here helps pick bands, recommending them after hearing or seeing them live. We’ve got a lot of things that stay the same each festival, but also planning 30-35 bands each year is always challenging. We aim to have bands with the same kind of attitudes we do- if they’re here for the right reasons, it makes everything a lot easier.
What’s next for Goner Records?
New Nots album & 7″, new Blind Shake album, Gonerfest 13, Goner represented at the Fuzzville festival in Spain in September (http://fuzzville.es/), Gonerfest compilation album, and lots more goodies still to come.
More to come indeed… A huge thanks to Eric for this interview and taking the time to answer my questions! I wish I could ask about a million more. Check out their website for more updates about Goner Fest and their music. Goner Fest 13 will be happening in September, so make plans to head to Memphis. I am sure we will be keeping you updated on all the artists making an appearance. Follow Goner on Twitter and Facebook…