Desperately Obvious revamps lineup

Desperately Obvious revamps lineup to pursue more traditional rock-band sound.
Desperately Obvious has revamped its lineup to pursue a more traditional rock-band sound.
Desperately Obvious has revamped its lineup to pursue a more traditional rock-band sound.

On a recent Sunday in an overheated, stuffy second-floor apartment on Broadway in Schenectady, local indie rock band Desperately Obvious was settling in for its first rehearsal in two and a half months.

The five-piece group was preparing for a performance at the Moon and River Cafe at 7 p.m. Saturday with the Red Lions. “We’ve known about this show for four months, and we’ve just decided to start practicing now,” said drummer Ryan Stewart in between songs.

“Well, obviously we don’t need to practice,” responded Richard Nolan Jr., the band’s vocalist, guitarist and occasional pianist. “We’re going to the top.”

Desperately Obvious

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Moon and River Cafe, 115 S. Ferry St.


MORE INFO: 382-1938 or

The band had just finished tearing through a bouncy, full-band rock version of “Lack of Communication,” one of the highlights on their mostly acoustic 2007 release, “Fall.”

Recorded by Nolan at home before the present incarnation of the band had completely gelled, the album’s songs nevertheless offer glimpses into the quintet’s freewheeling sound and its members’ playful senses of humor.

New material

Desperately Obvious’ revamped lineup, consisting of Nolan, Stewart, bassist Jesse Horton, organ player and guitarist Kamran Riyadh and guitarist Matt Ferguson, is writing and recording songs for a new album, the third to be released under the moniker and first with a traditional rock band setup. The band’s albums are available online at, and at Last Vestige in Saratoga Springs. Nolan has been the driving force behind the band’s past work, but that dynamic is changing with new songs such as “God and Ghosts.”

“Everyone writes their own parts,” Nolan said. “I’ll come up with a riff. Ryan is musically the brains, he studied at SCCC for percussion. We’ll tell him an idea, and he’ll tell us what’s wrong with it.”

One thing that has remained consistent throughout the group’s history is its members’ loose camaraderie; Nolan and Ferguson grew up together in Ballston Spa, and along with Horton make up another band, the trio Beware! the Other Head of Science. All of Desperately Obvious’ current members make musical appearances on “Fall,” along with a host of other musicians and friends of Nolan’s.

“There’s quite the cast of people who play with us,” Nolan said. “Some played through the Internet; Lee Pender [of indie duo Franny and Zoey] sent vocals through the Internet.”

The band’s name comes from a lyric in the Taking Back Sunday song “You Know How I Do.” “It’s not something I’m proud about, but I like the band name,” Nolan said.

Nolan first began using the Desperately Obvious name in 2005, when the group was an acoustic collaboration with vocalist Heather Ericsen. This incarnation is featured on the group’s 2005 debut album, “Spring,” along with a handful of tracks recorded with Albany band The Mathematicians.

The duo got a taste of the road soon after the release of their album, when they toured the country with the Mathematicians. Ericsen’s departure soon after the tour led Nolan to record “Fall” essentially solo, although Ericsen does appear on the album. The group’s current lineup officially formed after the release of “Fall,” and has been playing out on the local club circuit and throughout New England off and on for the past year. So far, they have recorded a split single with Beware! titled “Can You Spot the Difference,” pointing out the irony of essentially recording a split with themselves.

“Me and Jesse put together the full band for six shows, that had everybody plus Heather,” Nolan said. “When she stopped playing, we did a couple of very weird shows; we did a storytellers show where we told stupid stories. [The current lineup] formulated when Jesse and I started Beware!”

The group’s new album, which could be titled either “Winter” or “Summer,” depending on which faction within the band wins that argument, should be out early next year.

Wide influences

Influences within the band range from standard bearers such as Neil Young and Otis Redding, to more obscure independent artists including Okkervil River and Man Man (“Five guys with mullets and mustaches who all wear white; it’s absolutely crazy,” Nolan explained). Nolan describes Desperately Obvious’ sound as similar to “the end of an ’80s teen movie when everyone’s dancing,” although at least one of his band mates seemed to take issue with that.

“Dancing to ’80s music? We don’t play ’80s music,” Stewart said.

“I’m just trying to make ourselves sound actually interesting,” Nolan responded.

With so many coinciding projects going on within the band, the group’s members will be attempting to sort out all of their respective projects once the new album is released.

“Matt and I talked about, next year, after we get the stuff together, allocating time throughout the year for each project,” Nolan said. “It makes more sense to gain momentum that way.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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