The Grog Shop gets Oranger

Matthew Carroll

Credit: Steve Schirra

Have you ever wished that the skies were bluer, the grass was greener, and the music was – well – oranger? San Francisco band Oranger is here to make sure at least one of those dreams comes to fruition.

The colorful indie rock band is currently on tour with the Posies in support of their just-released album New Comes and Goes. But the album title isn’t the only thing new about the band. Oranger is also sporting a new drummer and a new sound.

The trio of Mike Drake (guitar/vocals), Matt Harris (bass/vocals) and Jim Lindsay (drums) broke onto the San Francisco music scene in 1998 with the album Doorway to Norway. Their nostalgic sound caused many critics to compare them with ’60s rockers like the Beach Boys and the Zombies.

Over the next six years the band released two more albums, added a keyboardist and another guitar player (Patrick Main and Bob Reed respectively) and toured with the likes of Elliot Smith, Wilco and R.E.M.

Fast-forward to 2005. Subtract drummer Jim Lindsay. Add John Hofer. The line-up is different. The sound is different. But many of the comparisons are the same.

Drake said the reviews of New Comes and Goes sounded like the reviewer didn’t even listen to the record, they just wrote a review. Some mentioned all this stuff about the Beach Boys.

While the band’s new sound and line-up may have gone unnoticed by the critics, Oranger’s fans will almost certainly take notice.

“We haven’t toured together in awhile, so I’m kind of curious to see how everybody reacts,” Drake said.

In addition to their new album, the band also recorded a song for the soundtrack to the upcoming Xbox game Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse. While Oranger was at a gig in Austin, Texas, a couple of guys who were working on Stubbs the Zombie approached the band and asked if they would like to record a cover song that would be featured in the game.

“We picked out ‘Mr. Sandman,'” Drake said. “It’s kind of like a rock version. I’m pretty excited about it. The game looks really cool.”

But it’s not all fun and zombie games for an under-the-radar band like Oranger. Some of the band members still have 9-to-5 jobs to help pay the bills. Drake, for instance, works for a music distribution company while not on tour.

“I’m kind of lucky because the place I work is run by the guy who also runs the Noise Pop Festival here in San Francisco every year,” he said. “It’s a very musician friendly workplace.”

At least for now, everyone in Oranger can forget about their day jobs as they concentrate on playing music across the country. Tonight, the band hits the Grog Shop in Cleveland for a show that Drake is particularly looking forward to.

“(Cleveland) was one of the best shows we played on the last tour we did with the band Apples in Stereo at the Grog Shop,” Drake said. “Everyone showed up like kind of drunk and they were totally in the mood to rock.”

And when they’re not rocking, the band finds other ways to amuse themselves.

“We’ve been playing a lot of totally stupid games like ‘What would you do for a million dollars?’ or ‘How much would it cost for you to eat your own hand?,'” Drake said. “It’s amazing how long you can stretch out that conversation when you’re, you know, driving through Indiana.”

Contact ALL correspondent Matthew Carroll at [email protected].