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The Obsessives: Two Guys on the Same Page.

May 13, 2016


Text by Tim Mulhern. Images by Magdalena Papaioannou.

The Obsessives’ approach to performing live is a good analogy for the years the duo has spent together as friends and musicians.

Guitarist and vocalist Nick Bairatchnyi uses a signal splitter to run his guitar through a guitar amplifier and bass amplifier to give his fingerpicked melodies more depth. Drummer Jackson Mansfield anchors the band’s sound, hitting his drums as hard as he can.The Obsessives’ approach to performing live is a good analogy for the years the duo has spent together as friends and musicians.

They don’t perform with anyone else because they don’t need to. They have each other and that is more than enough.

Virtually inseparable since meeting in 8th grade drama class, Bairatchnyi and Mansfield began making music together at the after-school music program, School of Rock, in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The two experimented in bands with other musicians in the program but always felt most comfortable writing, recording and performing with one another. It wasn’t until they saw “Under Great White Northern Lights,” the 2007 documentary centered on The White Stripes’ tour of Canada, that performing as a two-piece seemed feasible.

“I think you meet a couple people in your life who you’re on the same page with,” Bairatchnyi says.

After a short stint as a blues-rock band – not unlike the aforementioned The White Stripes – Bairatchnyi and Mansfield quickly discovered influences like Say Anything and The Sidekicks, which inspired them to play the emo-leaning punk found on their most recent recordings.

“We went to go see Say Anything and then we were like, ‘Maybe we should try open tunings,’” Bairatchnyi says.

In their current iteration, The Obsessives cut their teeth playing shows at Northern Virginia DIY spaces The Lab and The CD Cellar, where the idea of touring in support of their music was first presented to them. During the summer after their senior year of high school, Bairatchnyi and Mansfield embarked on a 40-date U.S. tour.

Devoting a majority of the last two years of their time in high school to the band meant they were committed to making music, so it wasn’t a surprise when the two suggested taking time off before college to focus on the band.

Bairatchnyi and Mansfield knew that Philadelphia was a good place for the band to develop, so Bairatchnyi messaged friends in the area in an effort to find roommates. Ryan Collins, who provided them with a place to stay in the city on their second tour, and who currently works with the band as tour manager, offered Bairatchnyi and Mansfield a room in the Michael Jordan house in West Philly. Eager to make the move, the two accepted.

The duo addresses the often-hard-to-swallow realities of adolescence on Heck No, Nancy, their debut LP. Recorded during a two-day stint in a Fort Wayne, Indiana studio, their initial effort was released with the help of Near Mint, a label based in Virginia and Indiana.

Bairatchnyi says the band’s involvement with the label is one of the primary reasons he and Mansfield are still pursuing music.

James Cassar, the band’s manager, and Corey Purvis, who together run Near Mint, discovered the duo through a Bandcamp keyword search of “emo” and “Washington D.C.” Cassar was hoping to find a band local to northern Virginia, where he attended high school and lives today, to help launch Near Mint.

“Pretty much all Corey and I wanted to do was help build a band,” Cassar says.

Purvis was hooked on the band’s sound, but Cassar was not immediately convinced. After listening to Manners, the duo’s 2014 EP, Cassar and Purvis decided to reach out to the band.

Later, after hearing rough demos of Heck No, Nancy tracks that Bairatchnyi sent him, Cassar was convinced The Obsessives would follow in the footsteps of seminal punk and emo bands that came before them.

Bairatchnyi and Mansfield were on separate vacations at the same beach with their families when they received an email from Cassar and Purvis asking to re-release Manners, which would be the label’s first project. Later, the label released Heck No, Nancy.

The passion and dedication the band has for their art is evident. They are aware of their roles as writers, musicians and performers and they take the responsibility seriously.

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