The Oranges Band and Baltimore's mid-'90s music scene

Nobody really thinks of Baltimore, Md., as once having a “scene.” That is a music scene, with a handful of bands working on rewriting the rock rule book and challenging convention and all that.

At least that’s how Baltimore of the mid-’90s was perceived nationally, if anyone thought of it at all. Maybe, just maybe, the rest of world was missing out. If Roman Kuebler of The Oranges Band has his way, the group’s new album, The Oranges Band Are Invisible, will turn at least the indie world onto what was a vibrant, fertile farm that yielded a fine crop of bands.

Regarding the title of said album, a series of gutsy, guitar-based power-pop bursts that explode with strong melodies, driving guitars and sure-fire hooks, Kuebler doesn’t play coy. It refers to the low-profile of not only Baltimore music, but that of other neglected scenes as well.

“Yeah, the whole concept does refer to ‘unheard’ music,” says Kuebler. “Whether it be ours or of these other bands as well. One thing that is significant in talking about those bands of the mid-’90s is that since the Internet did not really exist, certainly not as much of a marketing tool, the bands who did not follow themselves into the new millenium and post their own information really have become ‘invisible’ and hard to track. There really is no information available about Runway Model, who were a very popular band in Baltimore in about ’97. Now, if you don’t own the vinyl-only LP, then you have no access to this incredible music. It is also worth mentioning that that is not always a negative.”

Of course, some bands probably deserve to be forgotten. Hence Kuebler’s last remark. Still, it is sad that for some acts hardly any record of their existence is available. to those John and Jane Does of Baltimore bands from the mid-’90s, Kuebler offers a tip of the hat to them on The Oranges Band Are Invisible.

“What I took from these bands, in some cases, was very literal,” he explains. “In the song ‘Ottobar Afterhours,’ I just lifted a couple lines from a Lee Harvey Keitel Band song called ‘Any Five Workers.’ Also in the song ‘Do You Remember Memory Lane’ I referenced a Runway Model song called ‘Last Night on Earth.’ These were the literal references and the direct influences on the music. There are a couple more but maybe more importantly was that during this time and from these bands I felt the importance of a localized music scene that challenges the people to participate. This music and this scene was important to me and aside from the music that people in the rest of the country missed out on, there is a legacy that is now all but forgotten that, in my opinion, would have been valuable in the context of what people’s impression of Baltimore music is now. That really motivated me to write music about these bands and about this time period in Baltimore music history.”

Look for more on The Oranges Band in the blog and on the Goldmine Web site. To learn more about the group and its latest release, which features former Guided By Voices guitarist Doug Gillard as card-carrying member of the group, visit www.theorangesband.com.

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