The Oranges Band rolls on

After 10 years, Baltimore indie rock group the Oranges Band is still going

April 22, 2010|By Sam Sessa, The Baltimore Sun

When The Oranges Band first got together, they had a mantra: "Music is mobility."

The Baltimore indie rock group lived up to the saying, zigzagging across the country on tour after tour, sleeping in their van and cutting albums on the fly. After a decade of gigging and recording, countless lineup changes and a stint on a semi-major label, The Oranges Band is still going. Fresh off a string of gigs with the Hold Steady, the Oranges Band is celebrating its 10th anniversary Saturday with a show at The Ottobar.

"Ten years is an awful long time," said frontman and sole remaining founder Roman Kuebler. "To hold a band together for 10 years is no small feat."

The Oranges Band started as a response to Baltimore's indie rock scene in the late 1990s. Kuebler, who was playing in a band called Roads to Space Travel, wanted to share bills with bands he respected, such as Slow Jets, Landspeedrecord and the Fuses.

First, Kuebler needed a new name. Since those were the days before the Internet took over tour booking, Kuebler had to call promoters one by one over the phone to get shows. And the name Roads to Space Travel was too tedious for him to keep repeating.

"It would always be like, ‘What's your band?' ‘Roads to Space Travel.' ‘What did you say?' ‘Roads to Space Travel.' ‘Roads what? ‘Space what?' I would have to be, like, ‘Roads. To. Space. Travel,' " Kuebler said. "I went through this dance every telephone call I made."

One day, Kuebler was driving through New Jersey when he spotted a green road sign that read "The Oranges."

"I said, ‘Wow, that looks good,' "Then when I wrote it out; I thought it again. … So, we were The Oranges Band."

After a few years of releasing albums on their own, The Oranges Band signed with Lookout Records, previously home to punk acts such as Green Day. Lookout released "On TV," "All Around" and "The World & Everything In It," as well as a couple of music videos the band made.

"It brought us out of the basement and into the world," Kuebler said.

The deal with Lookout fell through not long after The Oranges Band signed, when the label decided to stop releasing new albums and focus on its back catalog. The band's time with Lookout was the closest they got to commercial success. Looking back, Kuebler feels torn.

"There were a lot of opportunities we missed out on," Kuebler said. "They put forth a lot of effort and money into our band, and they believed in us. … It just wasn't enough time."

Kuebler could have disbanded the group after the failed label deal. Instead, he hunkered down at Lord Baltimore Recording to cut his latest album, "Are Invisible." He recruited Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard and released it himself last year.

Over the years, Kuebler has shared tours and become friends with notable indie rock bands such as the Hold Steady and Guided by Voices. He toured and recorded with the band Spoon from 2001 to 2003, playing bass, and currently performs with the area group Invisible Hair. Though he might have set down and picked back up The Oranges Band from time to time over the years, it's been one of the constants in Kuebler's life for the past decade.

"We're well-respected and have great friends who make great music," Kuebler said. "They respect us for who we are — not an image we portray. That's pretty gratifying."

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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If you go
The Oranges Band's 10th anniversary concert is 9:30 p.m. Saturday at The Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St. Doug Gillard Electric and Slow Jets will also perform. Tickets are $10. Call 410-662-0069 or go to theottobar.com.

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