his Orchestra
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his Orchestra

Los Angeles, California, United States

Los Angeles, California, United States
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First thing you need to know about His Orchestra is that “Field Guide to the Wilds,” the debut album that saw a quiet digital release back in February, is one of the most enchanting indie-pop albums you’ll hear this year. Its winsome mix of string-, glockenspiel- and keyboard-flavored confessionals reminds me of the likes of Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson and the Magnetic Fields (and perhaps the late L.A. quintet Irving). It’s stuff that will soften the hardest heart.

Second thing you should know is that His Orchestra is not an actor’s vanity project. Yes, the band’s seemingly hyper-caffeinated singer-songwriter, Douglas Smith, plays Ben Henrickson on HBO’s Grammy-nominated “Big Love,” but the septet, three or so years into its development and very organic in the way its members fell together, is something of Smith’s parallel unverse.

||| Download: “Antarctica” and (previously posted) “Black Coffin”

And thirdly, there is the band name. No, His Orchestra is not a Christian pop band. “We originally were going to call ourselves Goodbye Ian, but it sounded too much like Good Charlotte,” says Smith, 24, explaining that singer-keyboardist Whitney Martin kept exercising her veto power until, at a coffeehouse, the frontman picked up a CD by Bobby Darin & His Orchestra and suggested simply dropping the first part. “I didn’t think for a second that anybody would think it was a religious thing.”

No matter. “Field Guide” seems controlled by pop’s higher powers, not the least of which was the chemistry that took what largely was a batch of break-up ditties by Smith and transformed them into fully realized and stylistically diverse songs. “A lot of the music basically deals with the ups and downs of a functioning relationship,” Smith says. “But what I’m proud of is how everybody in the group brought their different musical backgrounds and sounds” to final product.

“Doug is always in a creative space,” drummer Raviv Ullman says. “Sometimes we have to step up and say, ‘Wait a minute.’ … I think we stayed away from anything too [heavy-handedly] emotional, but the music kind of forces you to pay attention to the lyrics. You’ll hear something that sounds upbeat [like "Black Coffin"], and it’s got this dark side.”

Smith has a penchant for whimsical lyrics that spiral into a warm embrace. From “Antarctica”:

When I’m a hundred and five
and my ashes reside
on the mantel of my future son’s home
I hope to never regret
any moment I’ve spent
trying to tally up the beauty I’ve known

The band bonded most during what turned out to be the arduous recording process during stop-and-start sessions in 2008. “We didn’t feel like we were in a rock band — we really wanted something that sounded like a real CD,” Martin says. Smith, Martin, Ullman, bassist Winthrop Ellsworth, multi-instrumentalist Kestrin Pantera and bandmates were rescued by Carlos Nino, who produced the album, and Dave Trumfio, who mixed it.

The whole process was sparked by a chance meeting with director Matt Amato. “I met him at a gallery show — at the time Raviv and I were just screwing around. He lit a fire under my ass. … He introduced me to Carlos Nino. … He started telling me about [the Heath Ledger-founded creative collective] The Masses. Everybody was so welcoming,” Smith says. “It made me take music more seriously, and making music more plausible.”

||| Live: His Orchestra plays Saturday night at the Bootleg Theater.

||| The album: Highly recommended.

||| Watch: Leah McKissock’s video for “Black Coffin - Buzzbands.LA


"I've been introduced to and reacquainted with a bunch of bands over the last few weeks... and one of the best was his Orchestra, who I saw open for The Wooden Birds May 28 at Spaceland.
I picked up their CD, Field Guide To the Wilds, and it has given me endless hours of listening pleasure. It's sublime indie pop. his Orchestra opened for Dead Meadow last year at Echoplex in November and I remember being impressed at the time, but I didn't follow up, so they fell off my radar. That won't happen again. - Feed Your Head


Then there's his Orchestra, who I just recently got to know and whose CD,Field Guide to the Wilds, was probably my number one most played album for the month of June. They're playing with another top local band, The Minor Canon at Silver Lake Lounge." - Radio Free Siverlake


...Vanessa and I had gotten there early, so when his Orchestra started playing we were sitting down off to the side. Halfway through the second song, right after the running around bit, Vanessa turned to me and asked if I wanted to go stand closer- I said yes. And I am so happy I did! For many of the songs the vocals were three part harmonies. Everyone in the band was a master of their instrument.

That is what really made his Orchestra stand out: the pure joy that poured out of the band members from the stage. The cellist/percussionist Kestrin Pantera and bassist/acoustic guitarist Winthrop Ellsworth were particularly infectious. Every moment of every song there was a smile, a pounding foot, a dance, something pure and fantasitc straight from their soul.

his Orchestra are like listening to an epiphany. They have great
songs fleshed out by talented musicians and have inspired my most gushing review since Graham Coxon.

What I’m trying to say, in 1300 words or less, is this: if you get the chance to see his Orchestra, please do. You can thank me later.

- Spinning Platters Music Blog


Light FM continue their residency at Spaceland with the much buzzed about, his Orchestra (photo above by Greg Smith). This is the venue where his Orchestra succeeded in plastering me all over the back wall by the perfect quality of their music and professionalism of their delivery when I first saw them, earlier this year. This band appears to have been born, fully formed. - Radio Free Silverlake


his Orchestra was ranked #8 in Music Connection Magazine's top 25 New Music Critiques of 2009. - Music Connection Magazine


http://black-green.com/hobillboard.jpg - Billboard


On Monday, October 19, 2009, I headed on over to Spaceland, not only to see Light FM and to pick up their new CD, Let There Be Light FM, but to see his Orchestra (at right). I happened on this band much the same way as I discovered Division Day, and in the very same venue. Walking into Spaceland to see the headliner a couple of years ago, I ran into Division Day midway through their set and was immediately transfixed by the gorgeous sound emanating from the stage and the hook-laden inspiration of their writing.

I snapped up the CD, Beartrap Island then and there and it became one of my favorites of the year. I only saw part of their set, but became obsessed with trying to see them again, yet as the weeks turned into months, I was foiled time and again by competing concerts. I have since seen them many times. Same thing with his Orchestra.

I went to see The Wooden Birds on May 28th, this year, and walked into the last three or four songs by h.O. and was flabbergasted by the music. I remember looking around to see if anyone else was noticing and saw Spaceland full of people staring, mouths agape, at the band on stage.

I recall the spectacular harmony vocals and the furious sawing away of three band members on violins. It was sublime and electrifying. I picked up their CD Field Guide To the Wilds, and upon first listening, decided this was one of the best bands I've heard. For so young a group, they play and perform with a passion and joy and solid professionalism most groups can only hope to emulate.

This would be only my second exposure to the band live, and now I not only knew the music, but every single lyric. Douglas took the stage alone, to begin with a simple acoustic folk song, but before long was joined by Whitney at the keyboard who sang harmonies. A guy dancing in front climbed on stage and donned a guitar, another climbed up on stage and sat at the drums and gradually his Orchestra took shape on stage.

The first song was unfamiliar, but every bit as good as all their other compositions. Which is to say excellent. Every song lifted me higher and my opinion of the band rose accordingly. they sang "Black Coffin", "Hybernation" and my favorite, "Interesting End of the Day" from the CD, among a selection of early material I'd never heard. But it was the finale of "Since I" that was so powerful and theatrically extravagant that set my heart soaring. I can't believe how perfect this band sounds. his Orchestra are just one of life's special things.
- FEED YOUR HEAD


Discography

Debut Album FIELD GUIDE TO THE WILDS on iTunes

Theme Song "MESS" for ABC Family Sitcom 'ROOMMATES'

Photos

Bio

Formed in December of 2006, his Orchestra has been growing steadily in size adding orchestral friends along the way. Now playing with 6 members and based out of Los Angeles, the band has been working hard at pushing their debut album FIELD GUIDE TO THE WILDS. Produced with Carlos Nino (Mia Doi Todd, Grace Woodroofe) and mixed and mastered by Dave Trumfio (Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Mates Of State), the album has been gaining steam and notoriety around the west coast.

Having played a sold out show at The Troubadour, a successful residency at The Silverlake Lounge and a trip to Austin and back as well as a slew of Los Angeles hotspots and recording and writing the theme song for ABC Family sitcom 'Roommates', his Orchestra is ready to play for the masses.
All 6 members have a strong variety of musical and personal backgrounds, from self taught Drummer Raviv Ullman to Violin Master Paul Cartwright (one of 12 violinists to make their living as a musician in Los Angeles) to classically trained pianist Whitney Martin- each member brings their own story to the band.

'"Field Guide” seems controlled by pop’s higher powers, not the least of which was the chemistry that took what largely was a batch of break-up ditties by Smith and transformed them into fully realized and stylistically diverse songs. “A lot of the music basically deals with the ups and downs of a functioning relationship,” Smith says. “But what I’m proud of is how everybody in the group brought their different musical backgrounds and sounds” to final product. '- from BuzzbandsLA