Ian Holubiak, Steve Conroy, and Chris Corsico may call themselves The Worst Humans, but they sure are good at making music. Their New York rock band says it caters to the “lonely,” “lost,” and “listless,” and their songs back up that claim: “We’re On Drugs” is an anthem for “tainted souls,” while “What I’m All About” and “Gimme Poison” take on feelings of boredom and emptiness. Yearning vocals and grungy guitars create a sense of sincerity in every verse.
We recently had the chance to chat with Holubiak, The Worst Humans’ lead vocalist. We talked about the “We’re On Drugs” music video, his interesting careers, and yuppies; we also dove into his iPhone notes. Follow along with the conversation below.
TYF: Your song “We’re On Drugs” has a cool music video to go with it. What was the process of filming that like?
Ian Holubiak: We did that with my friend Colin Kelly. We did it in a warehouse kind of around the corner from where I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He came to me with the idea, and then the idea [got] much bigger, and then over time we kind of whittled it down, so now it just features the band and the girl and my two other friends. The process of it was all right. Filming music videos is always kind of daunting in and of itself, so doing it was kind of just like every other music video, I suppose.
TYF: Your song “What I’m All About” is also great. You’ve mentioned in several other interviews that that one is all about boredom. On that note, have you found any good ways to kill boredom?
Holubiak: (Laughs) I imagine that all these streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are your solutions to boredom nowaday. I usually just smoke a bunch of weed.
TYF: Do you ever write songs while you’re smoking weed?
Holubiak: Yeah. I smoke weed all day, every day, so every song I write is on weed. (Laughs)
TYF: “We’re On Drugs.”
Holubiak: (Laughs) It’s funny, and it’s funny because that song’s not at all about illicit drugs. It wasn’t supposed to be. Eventually people started adding their own meaning to it, which is fine, but it started off as, like, people taking antidepressants. I was always blown away at how people were like, “I don’t take drugs; I don’t do any of that. I’m fine. I’m sane.” It’s like, “You’re on drugs just like everybody else.”
TYF: That’s very much the vibe that I got from it. Like, if people are on prescription medication, they are on drugs in some sense.
Holubiak: Well, then you’re one of the few who got the meaning right off the bat.
TYF: What’s the story behind your song “Gimme Poison”?
Holubiak: That one was actually a co-write with my friend Jen Newman. She is an extremely talented singer-songwriter, also in Brooklyn. And she had come up with this sweet melody and these really cool lyrics, and I went into the studio with her one day with my friend Rob Guariglia. And we were kind of just hashing out the song, and I added a couple of lyrics to it, but the majority of the lyrics are actually hers… Which is something I never, ever would do for a Worst Humans song—I have to be the lyricist on it—but her lyrics were really good and the melody was really good. So she gave it to us, and that’s where that song came from. So the meaning behind it… I don’t know. You’re going to have to ask her.
TYF: That’s pretty cool. You’ve said that you write song lyrics in your iPhone notes; what are some of the most interesting things that you’ve written down in your notes recently?
Holubiak: (Laughs) I could probably tell you. Let me look… Let’s see. (Laughs) I was writing down a series of one liners that I would want to use to start a song. And I was thinking about putting them all into the same song. The first one is, “You know we can see you get a blow job when there’s a window on the door, right?” And that’s from when I go to bars and there’s, like, stained glass on the front of the door, so all you can see is a silhouette. Constantly, I’ve seen someone’s silhouette and been like, “What the hell are they doing?” And then I see that someone had come up from the bottom of the window. It’s like, “You know, we can all see it.” Another one I wrote was, “Nihilism and realism are two sides of the same coin. One gets you wasted, the other just wants to make a point.” Um… “The emptiness of most things makes it hard to drown yourself in them.” (Laughs) Um… “Given the current status of our social landscape, I’m afraid we’ll all die from an earthquake very soon.” Um… “Those who have died before me are the only ones who caught a real break.” And “I’ve been calling weed ObamaCare because I’m unable to afford health insurance.”
TYF: Oh, dang.
Holubiak: (Laughs) Whenever I’m at a bar and I’m having some bullshit conversation with someone who I don’t know and we’re just networking and making friends, I’m usually just on my phone, like, “Yeah, totally,” and I’m writing these things down because that’s what keeps me sane.
TYF: Inspiration comes from all around, for sure. Speaking of which, I read that your band name was inspired by street art. If you were to create your own graffiti, what would you paint?
Holubiak: (Enthusiastically) Ohh! How would I create my own graffiti? I don’t know. I’d probably just do, like, a Basquiat thing and be very basic and write quotes everywhere. Do really basic freehand spray paint. I would just put, “Is this it?” with, like, a question mark in very basic white spray paint. I guess [I’d probably put] more emphasis on words instead of the art and the dexterity of my hand.
TYF: Got it. Are there any other particular quotes that you would like to put on walls?
Holubiak: Um, yeah, I’ve thought of one. I wanted to put it on the back of my jacket because I myself am a yuppie. I wanted it to be “Fuck you, yuppie bitch.” I’d write that everywhere.
TYF: I also read that you used to write about the arts for a newspaper. What was that experience like?
Holubiak: It was fun. They sent me to Lincoln Center a bunch to go cover ballets and operas. And I always got to go for free. [The shows are] pretty expensive, and they’re trying to make it less expensive because they’re losing all their viewership, everyone who comes to attend those performances, because they’re just falling out of favor with kids nowadays. Everyone wants their Top 40 music, and all the arts are kind of falling behind. That’s actually why I stopped working at the paper. The paper ran out of funding. Organizations across the country are losing funding and all that. They’re all closing. It was an omen. But my time there was… It was great. It was a nine-to-five. I can’t do a nine to five because it makes me want to blow my brains out. So it was good as it could be.
TYF: Yeah. Are there any performances that stood out as your favorites?
Holubiak: I went to go see Othello. Misty Copeland performed in that. She’s the principal dancer at ABT. That was sick.
TYF: On your Twitter account, you mentioned having students. What do you teach?
Holubiak: That tweet was… Some kid said something to me and I was like, “You better check yourself, son.” Then I was like, “Damn.” That wasn’t me being like, “What’s up, son?” It was me being like, “Get off my porch, son.” I felt like such an old guy. And I was joking with the kid, and he took it as a joke, but out of context, it would seem very serious. I teach kids music at the School of Rock in Long Island, and it’s a wonderful experience. I enjoy it very much.
TYF: That’s fantastic. Do you get any choice in what songs you teach the kids, or is that up to them? How does the program work?
Holubiak: It’s a bit of both. They put on these [shows] for kids where [the songs] all follow an overarching idea. So one of them will be, like, “The 27 Club”; one of them will be “Women in Rock”; one of them will be “College Rock.” It’s, like, 15-30 [kids]. They all come together and there’s a select few songs the director usually picks, which is me or someone else who teaches. And all these songs follow the same idea that the thing’s supposed to be, like “College Rock.” So “College Rock” would be Weezer, Pixies, Nirvana. And you get these, like, 30 kids and they all form a band over each individual song. And then at the end of it, they usually play at a place called The Bitter End in Manhattan. And they put on a show, and people come and watch and all that. And it’s pretty cool. So to answer your question, yes. I do get to teach them songs that I picked, and sometimes they get to choose their own.
TYF: That’s awesome. You’ve mentioned your love for folk music; what are your favorite folk songs?
Holubiak: It’s hard to name songs specifically. Folk music is something that I got into when I was in college, and it sort of took over my life when I was in college because it was something that I hadn’t really listened to when I was younger. And the simplicity of it and the community behind it really impressed me, attracted me. I was going to school in New York, and that’s where the folk revival happened, and that’s what produced your Bob Dylans, your Peters, Pauls, and Marys, stuff like that. I don’t know if I have a favorite. I don’t know what my favorite folk songs are… There’s one called “The Last Thing on My Mind” from Tom Paxton. It’s a fantastic song. My favorite song in the world is “Mr. Tambourine Man,” but that was during Dylan’s rock era. It wasn’t even his folk era. So from his folk era, I guess something like the “The Times They Are A-Changin'” would probably be one of my big ones, or “Ballad of Hollis Brown.” Um, I’m trying to think… There’s that blues singer-songwriter girl who’s also in the folk genre, Odetta. She wrote some really cool things, covered some really cool songs. I don’t know if I could honestly tell you my favorites. It’s just a big mishmash of stuff.
TYF: All right; thank you so much for the interview. Is there anything else that you’d like to say to the readers and fans before we wrap up?
TYF: Nope; you’re all good?
Holubiak: Yep. Thank you very much.