The Oranges Band
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The Oranges Band

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The best kept secret in music


"Pitchfork Review"


The Oranges Band cover all their bases with the title of their fourth record, The World and Everything in It. While their music stays within tight constraints, the lyrics touch upon waves, mountains, open air, outer space, drug cities, talking sharks, and being punk enough to get kicked out of your house downtown-- all in about 39 minutes.
Vocalist/guitarist Roman Kuebler's lyrics won't be the first thing you'll notice, however. The band's most distinguishing trait is Kuebler's formal, mannered singing, sounding like an pre-rock crooner or (oh boy) an angst-free Rob Dickinson. Along with the vintage tones from their sparse acoustic strumming and fuzzy guitar lines, his voice gives their power pop a touch of '50s garage-rock and doo-wop, enhancing the album's lazy summer feel and keeping one foot charmingly out of time.

"Believe" is an curious opener, merging a steady rock rhythm with twists in melody and a few bursts of Hammond organ, but the two "wave" songs are early highlights. "Ride the Wild Wave" moves on galloping eighth notes and falsetto backing vocals as Kuebeler sings of catching the elusive wave from Endless Summer and riding it around the world. "Ride the Nuclear Wave", on the other hand, might be the album's most spirited performance. While it may take two or three listens to seep in, there's an irresistible head-bobbing melody to be found in its ringing single-note guitar line and fantastical lyrics.

While the band constrains themselves to classic sounds, there's enough small surprises to give The World and Everything in It the variety it needs. "Believe" and the light picking of "Drug City" divert from the 4/4 guitar-and-drums arrangements, and the title track adds irregular stabs of organ and echo-chamber vocals to a southern blues shuffle, changing the atmosphere nicely. The nod to "Rumble Blues" before the speeding chords of "Mountain" or the staccato strumming seconds before "Atmosphere" kicks in are simple, effective tricks.

The Oranges Band's playing is impressive but never flashy, and the melodies are inviting without being cloying. The World And Everything In It is a perfect summer afternoon record, quietly and capably flowing from Track 1 through 12 without a misstep.

-Jason Crock, June 14, 2005 -

"PopMatters CD Review"

The opening track on the second full-length from Baltimore's The Oranges Band is at the same time extremely out of place and entirely appropriate. "Believe" is an airy, herky-jerky, mid-tempo rocker that wouldn't sound out of place on Spoon's Gimme Fiction. This isn't entirely surprising, as Oranges Band frontman Roman Kuebler served a two-year stint as Spoon's touring bassist. But in the context of the rest of the record, which is one of the most impressive collections of gorgeous, delicate pop songs in recent memory, it seems an extremely odd choice to open the proceedings. But it starts to make sense toward the end of the song when Kuebler repeatedly, insistently coos, "Believe", almost as if it was some sort of mantra.

It might not make sense until you've taken in the entire album. But, without getting too dramatic here, The World and Everything in It is the kind of record that, in fact, makes you believe... believe in that mythical power of rock and roll... believe that a simple set of songs can actually have an impact on your life. But the real genius of the album is that it does this in a rather unconventional manner. Instead of some grand, sweeping, emotional statement often associated with "important" rock albums, or an over-jubilant sense of well-being that comes with some buoyant pop albums, The World and Everything in It works on a more subtle level. It leaves you with the feeling that, "Hey, maybe life isn't so bad after all." It's a very reassuring record, one that doesn't immediately grab you, but that's sort of the whole point. It slowly draws you into its world, where it's surely summer, but that doesn't mean there are no worries. There are multiple references to evil, and there's a sense that something sinister is lurking. The album's first single is titled "Ride the Nuclear Wave", but it's a joyous, upbeat number complete with a "oh oh ohhhhh oh!" chorus that you will undoubtedly be chanting for days upon first hearing it. The album is true to its title in the sense that it gives you the feeling that there's no use ignoring the dark forces at work in the world, so you may as well just enjoy what there is to enjoy and let everything else sort itself out.

Or maybe that's all a load of crap. It doesn't matter if it is, because that wouldn't diminish what The Oranges Band has achieved here. Forget an overarching theme -- just taken individually, these 11 tracks are enough to establish the group as one of the most appealing bands around. On earlier recordings the group was without peer in unleashing a pop fury on songs like "Success" (from 2002's On TV EP) or "OK Apartment" (from 2003's All Around) that inspired dizzying, perhaps dangerous, fits of pogoing. It was when the group wasn't going full steam ahead that things were more hit or miss.

But everything on Everything works. Nothing matches the delirious adrenaline rush of those earlier tracks, but then again, nothing the band has done before can match the sheer beauty of a song like "Open Air", a tune that practically begs to be played solely in a cruising convertible. It shows off the band's newfound restraint, as the guitar strings -- which used to be pounded at almost vintage Wedding Present speed -- are given more room to breathe. The nostalgic lyrics ("Amber was 19/ Lucky for us she looked 23/ She said that we could do anything and we did it all/ We lived downtown/ It was pretty punk for kids to live downtown/ Pretty punk of us to get kicked out/ But we didn't care/ At all") fit in with the summery theme of the record, but it's the way Kuebler delivers the lines that make them work so well.

Kuebler's voice can take some getting used to, as he's far from the classic indie rock singer in that he actually sings. Morrissey might actually be the best reference point here, as even though Kuebler doesn't sound quite like the Moz, he shares his tendency for dramatically elongated syllables. His vocals used to be somewhat hidden behind thin layers of distortion, but now they are front and center, although just about every song features some impeccably placed harmonies.

There's also a nostalgic feel to much of the album, from the lyrics to the actual music. While it hardly feels retro, many of the songs are built on the most classic foundations of surf and '50s rock riffs. "Ride the Wild Wave" conjures visions Frankie Avalon, while "White Ride", looks to any number of Chuck Berry songs for inspiration for its main riff. Drummer Dave Voyles expertly drives the song forward -- as he does on most of these tracks -- and this is a pretty good approximation of what The Strokes might sound like if those boys ever spent some time in the sunshine.

If the band isn't exactly breaking new ground with the elements of its sound, they more than make up for it with attention to detail. Instead of recording the album in a traditional studio, the band moved into a Baltimore house, built their own, and recorded it there. It was a move that made -

"Identity Theory Interview"

When you first hear Roman Kuebler sing, you may think you’re listening to a good, clean Buddy Holly album, or the incarnation of some other dawn-of-rock crooner back from the dead, or dad’s vinyl collection. His voice is smooth. It’s mannered and airy. It’s not at all “cool” in the contemporary sense of the word, whatever that may mean. But it is this defiant brand of nerdiness, this not-so-subtle nodding of the cap to those suit-wearing, slick-hair-having grandfathers of rock and roll that propel The Oranges Band forward, even as they face the other way. And Kuebler’s voice is just one piece of the action that is head-bobbing, garage-band rock, with a pop sensibility that has balls.

The Oranges Band may have come out with the ambitiously titled The World and Everything in It a little over a month ago, but the best-if-eaten-by date somehow pushes farther and farther back and I don’t think it’s going to sour any time soon. Blending the nervous cacophony of discord with the bonhomie of a good book by the fire, this album strikes all the right nerves and even the wrong ones don’t seem to mind. You’ve got cute doo-wop meets ’80s power chord rock in “White Ride,” beautiful and staccato-light guitar touches in the strange and melancholic “Drug City,” and stretching, harmony-driven surf in “Ride the Wild Wave” that belies the fact that you are here and not on Zuma Beach in the early 1960s. You’ll find yourself double taking from track 1 to 12, but never hitting the skip button.

But this isn’t all beginners’ luck. The album represents an onerous search for that formula that can create songs that not only appeal to a wide variety of personalities, but also can in some way relate to each of their individual experiences. The recipe: equal parts experience, restlessness, nostalgia, and a larger sense of and pride in one’s history. This is really what is missing from much of rock and roll and mainstream music these days: an allegiance to home, to reminiscence, to something greater than self-indulgent angst and love. Sappiness is not always a bad thing.

I had a chance to catch up with Roman Kuebler on the top floor of the Ottobar, a black-walled haunt for the hip in Baltimore, MD. The members of The Oranges Band were celebrating the release of their new album, by playing a show at home, in one of their favorite venues.

Scott Hechinger: How does it feel to be back in Baltimore?

Roman Kuebler: It’s generally good to be home and in my living space. But it’s nothing like our last tour when we’d be gone 8 to 10 weeks in a row and coming home was a little disappointing. There wasn’t a hero’s welcome or anything. We snuck into town, played some shows, and saw some good friends. But when you remove yourself for eight weeks at a time, people have no choice but to forget about you. That’s just a fact of survival for bands. I get a lot of “what are you doing here?” “I didn’t know you were gone.” “I didn’t know what was up with you.” “You just aren’t here anymore.”

SH: Do you feel then that popularity has a downside? That as your band grows and starts going on more far-ranging tours, you become alienated from what’s most important to you?

RK: To some extent certainly. There is a separation inherent in growing popularity and being away for longer. But this separation is also a product of age. As I’ve gotten a little bit older, the people who I grew up with are less enthusiastic about going to see shows and about participating in a scene. And as bands break up and people grow up, they no longer dedicate as much of their time to music. So naturally, the longer you stick with music and the less your friends are doing it around you, the less you feel a part of that scene that you once were. And you can’t necessarily float in to the scene of the people coming up. You can’t just attach yourself to their scene. They’ve got their own thing going on and it doesn’t really include you and it shouldn’t.

SH: Inherent in your music and lyrics there seems to be a strong sense of nostalgia for the past, the way things used to be. What was it like for you, musically, growing up in Baltimore? How would you describe your scene? How did it affect your development?

RK: Local influences were extremely important for me coming up and I really did feel like there was something going on that I could be a part of. It wasn’t that you’d just go to a show and see someone play. You’d go to someone’s show, or to a bar they’d be working. These guys would be having a beer with you. And like that, you were developing relationships. We would go to see bands like Candy Machine, Butt Steak and The Lee Harvey Keitel Band every time they played and then we’d see them on the street and talk to them and ask them questions. With a local scene like that, you could really see what these bands were doing and learn from them.

So when I was trying put my own music together, there was a lot of sharing involved. I was trying to do the Candy Machine thin -

" band of the day"

The Oranges Band’s second LP, The World & Everything In It, is a variety pack of indie-rock charms. Lead singer Roman Kuebler sounds like a more mellifluous version of the Shins’ James Mercer, and even affects British inflections like Mercer does (though the Oranges are from Baltimore and the Shins are from Albuquerque--not exactly the Isle of Wight).

Roman Kuebler, along with drummer Dave Voyles, guitarist Daniel Black, and bassist Tim Johnson create pretty, straightforward indie pop that sounds a bit like the work of a different James--the one with no surname. Catchy numbers like “Ride the Nuclear Wave” come off somewhat like James’ one U.S. hit, “Laid,” but with lyrics that give an impression of depth: “When the sharks speak / Look past the sharp teeth / There truth and it cannot hide / Listen to the fish inside,” Kuebler sings.

The slower numbers, again, sound like an east-coast version of the Shins, particularly “Mountain,” with its spare guitar work and generous vocal harmonies. But these Baltimore boys have a sound that is unique and often un-Shins-like, and they are definitely hometown favorites: Baltimore’s City Paper named guitarist Dan Black the city’s “Best Band Member” for “looking all serious with his entire head and body vibrating ecstatically like he’s got a school of eels wriggling around his underwear.”

If you’d like to see good ol’ eel-pants and the rest of the crew, the Oranges Band is coming to a city near you with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. For more info on the Oranges Band tour dates, check out: -


The World and Everything In It (2005 Lookout Records)
All Around (2003 Lookout Records)
On TV (2002 Lookout records)
Two Thousands (2000/2001 Morphius Records)


Feeling a bit camera shy


(written by Craig Finn of the Hold Steady, April 2005)

I met Roman Kuebler in about 1997. My band at the time, Lifter Puller, played a show with his band, Roads to Space Travel, at Brownies in NYC. He wore his keys on a string around his neck (still does) which suggested that he might misplace them often. His demeanor and attitude were refreshing: he was determined and down for whatever.

For the next few years we traded shows in our respective regions, doing all the stuff touring bands do: playing, staying up late, crashing on floors, etc. I got to know him as a guy who wouldn't take no for an answer, someone who would plow ahead no matter what the circumstances. Eventually Roads to Space Travel dissolved and he hooked up with Dave Voyles on drums, Daniel Black on guitar and Tim Johnston on bass to form The Oranges Band.

I first put eyes on the new foursome while in Baltimore in Summer 2000 - they were scrappy and agitated but tuneful and above all, fun. Right away, the band put out a five song EP on Morphius Records, and booked a nationwide tour (in the reverse order as I remember). I asked Roman if he thought this might be a little too ambitious, and he shook his head. He did all things all the way. The tour was ramshackle but the guys were out to have fun. The second time they went out, it was just the opposite and the brutal drive home (after Tim was sent home with a broken ankle from a skateboarding accident in Wyoming, and their transmission was lost in El Paso) gave a name to their second EP, "900 Miles of Fucking Hell."

By the fall of 2000 my band had broken up and I was living in NYC. At CMJ, I attended a Spoon show at Brownies. To my surprise, Roman was on bass. It seemed like a good idea to him, one of his favorite bands asked him to play, and he jumped aboard for a number of tours before bowing out to concentrate on the Oranges.

Roman's can-do attitude struck again in 2002 when he decided to open a rock club in Baltimore called the Talking Head. I said "Dude, that seems like a ton of work". Of course, it was, but he pulled it off in his own way. The first time I was there the club didn't have ice or soda and the liquor bottles had been purchased at a liquor store rather than a distributor, but it was inarguably a rock club.

The Oranges Band began playing live a ton, and seemed to be in NYC every other week. Roman called me one day with the good news that the Oranges would be releasing a new record on Lookout Records. Lookout quickly released their third EP, On TV, in time for the Oranges to tour w/ Spoon. Then, in the spring of 2003, the Oranges' let loose their first full length All Around on Lookout. By this time I had a new band, The Hold Steady, and we were honored to play their record release shows in Baltimore and NYC. The Baltimore release show was something to behold: the city itself seemed to turn out that evening to celebrate something bigger than just an indie rock record- it was a celebration of life in Baltimore, with special guests on stage, an amazing rocker belly dance troupe, puppeteers, old friends, and new fans. Soon after, The Oranges left on a seemingly endless tour for All Around, playing dates with Guided by Voices, Ted Leo and of course, my band.

Early on in 2004, I went down to Baltimore, and hung out in the new house that the band had moved into. They had begun amassing recording gear in the basement, and Roman announced his intention to record the next Oranges record in the house. Again, I questioned the feasibility of it, but should have known better. Roman's will would once again lead the way past minor complications like lack of outboard equipment and having a washer and dryer in the control room.

After crafting more than an album's worth of songs, Roman started the process of putting songs to tape. Adam Cooke, the drummer from Roads to Space Travel helped with a lot of the recording. Roman's neighbor J. Robbins lent a hand, some gear and eventually mixed the whole thing side by side with Roman. They grabbed friends from all over Baltimore and beyond to sing, lend gear, play keyboards, and more. The record was a testament to Roman's ability to get people excited and cooperating towards a larger goal. After a few months of laboring over the details, textures, and songs, the Oranges Band closed the book on The World & Everything In It.

In March 2005, we played about ten dates with The Oranges Band on the way to SXSW. On the first day, Roman handed me a copy of The World & Everything In It. I got obsessed. It is beautiful, positive, and melancholy all at once. Dealing with themes of beach, surf, and wide open summer days, it seems to be the musical equivalent of August- warm and careless and exciting, but with a view of heavy stuff ahead: school, work, chilly weather, etc. "Open Air" is a perfectly detailed account of a lazy summer that gets too lazy in the days and too crazy in the nights. "Ride the Wild Wave" is a shimmering surf song that