Orange Television with Minions of Funk: Friday, February 24th, 2012, Beatnik’s Bar, Park Avenue, Worcester, MA
by Matt Robert
Seattle Slew! How about Seattle Stew? On Friday, Feb. 24, ’90s rock will be on display when Seattle-style rockers (via Northampton) Orange Television return to Beatnik’s with Minions of Funk.
“We’re chums with [Beatnik’s] now,” says O-TV bass player and Worcester native, Myles Heffernan. “I like the room a lot. We love the bartenders, and it just seems like an up-andcoming, positive scene.”
Orange Television’s brand of heavy rock (Myles emphasizes “hard rock, but not heavy metal”) fits Beatnik’s laid-back, but often heavy rocking vibe to a T, with liberal seasoning of Alice in Chains, Temple of the Dog, and Pearl Jam, along with the obligatory Zeppelin influence that underpins all of these acts. The band’s self-identified genre includes psychedelia, which, in this case means black light, ’70s stoner rock more than day-glo jam band, twirling rock, though the instrumental “Bill Cosby,” from their summer 2011 release “Extended Play,” could find a home on a Phish set list, with its intricate, ironic changes and arrangement.
The rest of the album leans heavily on dark and eerie Lane Staley-ish harmonies, tight, in-the-pocket drums and bass, and white rock-funk—pioneered by Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith in the early ’70s—and frequently dodges into shadowy corners of loose, spacey “Seasons of Wither”-like modes. A couple of tunes even step out into more accessible pop, like “What To Do,” which dons a Coldplay suit with light percussion, Rhodes piano, delay-soaked and Wes Montgomery octave guitar, and heartwrenching lyrics about aging and regret.
The new CD is the culmination of several “iterations” of the band, whose lineup has settled into Nate Martel (guitar and vocals), Howie Jay (guitar, piano and vocals), Monte Arnstam (drums, percussion and vocals), and Myles (bass).
The eclectic but unified CD was recorded last year at a western Massachusetts studio run by a friend of the band and then really brought to fruition in the mixing stage under the direction of Alex Chakour, son of local musician Mitch Chakour.
Myles says that the band’s songwriting approach varies by song. “Paper,” he says – citing it as his favorite on the album – was written in about two minutes, after a period of writer’s block. “I had just come back from the bathroom and they were jamming on this cool little thing, and the band got it together,” he says, emphasizing the “band approach” to writing and recording, which seems to infuse their entire musical philosophy.
About the direction of the band, Myles says, “We want it to be anything, as long as we’re all into it. We just do it. It’s just fun, it’s freeing. It’s a fun band to be in.” This, Myles says, doesn’t undermine the band’s craft, however. “Professionalism is part of it,” he assures.
To Orange TV, though, professionalism isn’t about adapting hackneyed stage shtick, but rather getting better at presenting their vibe.
“We try to make our live show flow very well. We’ll play backup loops between songs.” These “pre-recorded, ambient” loops that they present live and similar sonic ear-candy that appears on the new album help to evoke the band’s taste for trippy textures and provide useful segues, too.
This professional attitude has helped the band to evolve quickly from the bass and guitar duet Myles started with Howie as UMass Amherst students in 2008 to the lean, tight and polished act playing throughout New England (and New York) today. It also helps the band to respond to ever-changing club designs, atmospheres and audiences. Myles says that the band likes to suit their material to the particular audience they’re faced with. So, while they may express a strong tendency toward moody, ambient gloom rock, Orange Television also understands a bar crowd’s desire to rock out and to hear familiar songs, and, as such, includes covers of songs by MGMT, Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Aeroplane”), Neil Young (“Down by the River”) and Led Zeppelin (“No Quarter”). (In fact, the band will cover “Houses of the Holy” in its entirety at Northampton’s Iron Horse this spring.) Though, Myles says, the band doesn’t exactly reinvent these covers, they are so close to the vibe of this band anyway that they should blend right in.
Come out and support Myles on his homecoming and what should be night of intense and often powerful rock in one of Worcester’s most live-music friendly venues.
Orange Television with Minions of Funk at Beatnik’s on Friday, February 24; located at 433 Park Avenue, Worcester. 508-926-8877, beatniksbeyou.com. Learn more about the band at orangetelevision.tv and check out Minions of Funk on Facebook.