“In my mind, I honestly think we're the greatest band in the world,” Densil McFarlane tells Apple Music. The singer/guitarist for The OBGMs (aka The oOohh Baby Gimme Mores) doesn’t give mere interviews—he delivers each answer like a sermon, projecting an outsize confidence that would make Liam Gallagher seem humble. But for McFarlane, such brash talk is more than just idle boasting; it’s a necessary psychic survival tactic. Though his group has been working around the fringes of the Toronto indie scene since the late 2000s, self-releasing an EP and full-length along the way, The Ends represents the true birth of The OBGMs in McFarlane’s eyes, following an extended bout of self-doubt where he considered walking away from the band to start a solo career. But instead of breaking up, The OBGMs shed their skin, paring down from a synth-spiked dance-punk quartet into a pure garage-rock power trio (with some song-doctoring assistance from their friend Stefan Babcock of PUP).
It’s the sound of a decade’s worth of frustrations—be it the struggle to keep the group together in the face of little reward, or the unsubtle racism they face as Black men performing in largely white spaces—being unleashed in a feral howl that channels The White Stripes and Nirvana in their most primitive states. But the combative, competitive nature of McFarlane’s lyrics feels much closer to the gritty spirit of gangsta rap than the self-loathing of grunge, resulting in a new kind of rap/rock hybrid that’s less about combining rhymes and riffs than fusing attitude and energy. “As a Black man, hip-hop is just in my soul, so that's gonna be in anything I do,” McFarlane says. “But I'm not trying to stay in a box. We don't listen to just one genre, so how are we going to make just one genre? You want to call it rap-rock? Sure. I would just call me a rock star instead.” Here, McFarlane offers a track-by-track explanation of why The Ends is just the beginning.
Outsah “I was like, 'How are we gonna make a song that tells people how I feel right now and not say too many words?' This song is a statement of intent. In the studio, we had almost finished the song, but we had a bunch of extra days, and I brought in my friend Roberto Molina from the band TOnX and he put some bongos on it, and then [producer] Dave Schiffman was at the board, moving things around. It was supposed to be drums at the intro, and he pushed them to the start of the first verse. He dropped the drums in, took a step back, and said, 'That's how you start a record!'”
Cash “I was playing around with this riff for years, actually—it was in a different song with different lyrics. My issue is that I write until the very last day, until I actually have to record the lyrics. So I rewrote this song after we did 'Outsah,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, we're making statements now.’ Like, this album has changed from being an album that's about the end of everything and it's now more about the start of how I want to be perceived. I don't want people to think that we are just guests here; we earned a spot. We're not trying to be the best indie band that's not known. We’re coming for the top spot. So you need to know that when you see us, we're going to ask you to run your shit. We're looking for the cash!”
All My Friends “On this song, I'm telling lies to myself, and the people around me are also telling lies, and I don't know who to trust. But I do know I've got my lady, and we're in it together. So if we're in the car together, we're going to drive, even if it means driving off of this cliff.”
Fight Song “I don't think there's an artist that I look to and say ‘Man, that’s cool, I want to do that’ and try to copy their sound. But I will say that I'm attracted to loudness in things that people are required to pay attention to. And you'll find that in a bunch of different artists across genres—you have Kanye West, you have JAY-Z, you have Beyoncé, you have Pharrell Williams or N.E.R.D, you have Kurt Cobain. Without them saying a word, their music and their image makes you pay attention to them. And I think that's what I want to channel. We're making something new over here.”
Not Again “I am the singer of The OBGMs by glorious default. I never intended to be the singer of the band. When we started, we were auditioning singers for a very long time. I never learned how to properly sing, but I got better over the years. And I was able to demonstrate the things I learned on this album—just cool ways to project, different things to enunciate, and how to flip a song and change your cadence a bit, just to keep it interesting. At the end of the day, I feel this song is kind of vanilla—the aim of it was to show people that we can do a bunch of different things, and see what kind of traction we could get in rock playlisting or punk playlisting. But the thing that makes it stand out is what I do vocally at the end, which is cool.”
Triggered “This song is one of the first songs I wrote when I was coming back to music. I always get caught up in the first line—like, how do I get you to stay here with the first line? So I go ‘zin zin zin zin zin zin!’ Like, who's gonna do that!?! This was when the album was starting to take shape, and I was like, 'I want to be harder. We haven't shown people where we’re at. We're not going to dance around in this happy-go-lucky, bouncy-ass music too much.' Instead of looking in the mirror at myself—because I think I've done enough of that—it's time for me to start looking at you as the problem.”
WTFRU “Something that we run into often is that people question our place in this space, in rock 'n' roll music. I'm very wildly insecure, so any time The OBGMs release a song, I'm reading every single thing that's written about us. And a lot of the comments are like, ‘They're cool, but they're not rock,’ or ‘They're cool, but they're not this, they're not that.’ And a lot of that is just rooted in racism. They don't value us in this space, so it's super important that we question those people—who the fuck are you? And what the hell are you gonna do when I question you about this directly in your face? If you believe something, you gotta have some backbone and believe in it, and wildly, until the wheels fall off.”
Karen O’s “The way I make music is I beatbox the track into my phone, and I’ll think it's the best song ever...and then I go into the studio and it may not translate into the best song ever. So by the time I got to the studio with this track, it started out as my favorite song on the record, and in the car ride there, I was listening to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Show Your Bones. Originally, the lyrics were different—they were literally about how I love Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But this was one of the songs that I changed all of the lyrics to after writing 'Outsah,' because I was like, 'I can't write odes to other bands—we're making this whole album an ode to ourselves.' But I kept the title, just because when I started listening to rock music, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were one of the bands I was pumping the most. And the 'yeah, yeah, yeah' hook was put there for them.”
To Death “We went into the studio with the intention of putting this down as an acoustic song, similar to one on our original record [2017's The OBGMs] titled 'Paranoid Paranoia.' So I rented this nice acoustic, and Schiffman was like, 'Put that shit away! Go pick up your electric guitar!' And the song came out way better than how I thought it was gonna go. The song speaks to a time in my life where I was dealing with a jumble of relationships that went horribly and it wasn’t my fault. I was actually going to name the album To Death after this song, because when I started thinking of the album, that was the theme: This is the last hurrah, the last show. And it kind of just evolved into being something way deeper than that.”
Move On “I didn't know what my direction was. You're talking to a guy that's thought—and maybe still thinks—he's John Lennon. So it's maddening when you think you're doing really well and it's not received in that way. So this song is about moving on from that emotion of feeling like I'm a failure and that I've wasted 13 years of my life chasing a dream that I feel like I deserve. I'd love to move on from that emotion, and go to the part where we are accepted and promoted.”