Ask anyone about why they like a certain genre of music and they’ll tell you about a certain sound or a specific band, but it usually comes down to them describing the vibe of a community and a special culture with which they feel at home. Sharing an experience with other like minded people makes it unforgettably genuine no matter whether it’s heavy riffs or melodic beats. Asbury Park’s community has a rich history of unique musical experimentation and energy, but over the past few years there has been an emergence of successful companies that are extensions of the community itself.
For Obi Fernandez, his work and love for music are much the same.
“It’s easy to pursue the art or the song or the painting or the lyric.” Obi said. “We think the art is the magic. But in reality the work is the magic. The work you put into your craft and discipline and community so there’s a place for your art. Those are the things that help you shape your voice and help you make really smart decisions from a career perspective.”
Having that genuine approach to your work, as an artist or in running a business goes a long way. Obi is currently the Product Manager for Bands On A Budget (BandOnABudget.com), an Asbury Park based online merchandising store that sells to tens of thousands of bands, brands, and businesses nationwide.
Writing His Riff
Obi’s obsession with music started in high school. He listened to bands like The Slackers and Counting Crows. Early on Obi saw a future — saw it had potential.
“The Punk Rock and DIY culture is what really jumped out at me back then,” Obi admitted. “I didn’t do what others did on weekends and it was all really about the community.”
As a high school kid, Obi was always attracted to and influenced by social movements. This helped him figure out how to tell stories and be poetic through song.
And over the years Obi had to learn how to nurture that and evolve with his love for music.
“I’m fortunate enough to fall in love with something and also make a living doing it. Whether it’s creative directing a project, doing something for The Front Bottoms, or playing music I always turn it into something I enjoy. As an artist, you need to make it yours for what you aspire to accomplish.”
Obi started touring with his band Westbound Train when he met Tim Armstrong from Rancid and got signed to the label Epitaph.
“I was a Creative Director for another small label in 2010. But believe it or not just because you have ‘creative in your title doesn’t necessarily mean you do a lot of creative thing,” Obi laughed.
After leaving that job, Obi was solely focused on his music and started recording at Lakehouse, ran into one of the owners of Bands on a Budget, Bret Morgan and from there it developed into his current position.
A New Gig
When Obi joined the Bands on a Budget team, a mission to streamline operations and experiment with different bands evolved with the role. Over the course of a few months and working with the organization to focus in on playing to their strengths – the outcome was a more effective team and workflow.
“After seeing what we put together for other organizations and bands around the globe we wanted to start making our own stuff,” Obi said. “Merchwerks Touring and Made By BOAB do just that — it’s a premier service for bands and provides customer service for them nationally and internationally.”
Obi is really excited about building Merchwerks Touring and building the roster of touring bands and how to service them. Currently, The Front Bottoms, Louden Swain, Brick + Mortar, and Young Rising Sons all are part of the Merchwerks Touring Family and they are looking to add a few more bands in early 2017.
“At the end of the day I’m on a mission,” Obi said. “Understanding that there are things that I want to accomplish and achieve Spiritually, Professionally, and Relationally. And everything I do at Bands on a Budget gets me one step closer.”
When not working to build a stronger music community, Obi spends time with his wife, Stefanie, and baby girl, London.