Sohrab Habibion (SAVAK) Could Form a Co-op Supergroup

A brief love letter to the Park Slope Food Coop.

Sohrab Habibion is the vocalist and guitarist for the New York post-punk band SAVAK. Earlier this year, for the Talkhouse Reader’s Food Issue — out now digitally and in print — Sohrab spoke with us about his love for the famous (and infamous) Park Slope Food Coop. SAVAK’s latest record, Flavors Of Paradise, is out now. 

— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

I’ve lived in Park Slope for more than 20 years. I knew about the Food Coop before moving here, though, because I had friends who’d already been in the neighborhood and it’s a place that people inevitably have very strong opinions about. People tend to have strong opinions about food in general… favorite ramen spots, must-have pizza slices, brands of salsas, unacceptable textures (my wife does not like bananas for this reason). Thanks to a punk transplant from North Carolina to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, I became a vegetarian when I was 15 and learned really quickly just how intense folks can be about their diet, particularly if they feel like you’re criticizing their choices — whether you actually are or not, actively or even passively.

My wife, who went to culinary school and is an excellent cook, was interested in joining the Co-op because of the quality of the produce and affordable prices —the markup on most things is significantly lower than at standard grocery stores. We knew that it likely came with a lot of baggage, but decided to check it out and, well, we’ve been members for two decades at this point.

It is members only, though, so you have to work to be able to shop. I’m currently on “alert” because I owe a shift — you need to work a two hour and 45 minute slot about every five weeks. I’m certain 76% of the members are on “alert” at any given moment. It’s great and ridiculous at the same time. The things that people criticize and make fun of the Co-op for are all there, but in the end, on balance, if you have a sense of humor, it’s more than worth it. The place can seem very issue-oriented, and that bothers some who don’t want politics on their dinner plate. But it is political. The very act of what we buy, what we have available to buy, who we support, who has access to these choices, is incredibly political. It can be ignored, and Koch Foods and the Sysco Corporation would appreciate that, but I prefer not to.

One thing I really like about the Co-op is, because of where it is, it gets folks coming from all around Brooklyn. There’s a big Caribbean contingent from Prospect-Lefferts, Hasidic families from Borough Park, your uptight white people from Park Slope. I also discovered that there’s tons of other musicians who are members. It’s always a nice surprise to see Mark from Pavement or Guy from Fugazi or Captain Kirk from The Roots. Once, I stickered lemons with Trevor Dunn from Mr. Bungle!

The Food Coop is a fun and funny place. There can be a genuine feeling of camaraderie and community despite also being somewhat finger-wagging at the periphery. It’s like punk rock in that way. At the heart of it is this beautiful thing that exists for a reason. Even if it gets cluttered with people who embrace it more as a lifestyle brand or want to constantly define it for you or drag all of their own insecurities into it, the spirit of it is kind of incorruptible. You just have to be willing to not be cynical and maybe even come off a little corny sometimes, but I don’t mind. Either way, you could put together a pretty solid Co-op band if you wanted to.

Sohrab Habibion is the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for the New York-based post-punk band SAVAK. Their latest record, Flavors of Paradise, is out now.