Orson - Biography

Orson

Orson are an American rock band from Hollywood, California. The band's vocalist Jason Pebworth sums up the Orson sound like this: "We play guitar rock but we have that rump-shaking quality to our rhythm section, like an R&B feel. When you listen to Led Zeppelin, for all their rockin', they made you want to dance. And that's what we're aiming for. It's great to see people dancing at a rock and roll show. And if you can get girls into your music, guys will follow."

Formation

Orson formed in 2000 around a core of Jason Pebworth and guitarist George Astasio . The group took its name from Hollywood legend Orson Welles. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, they admired the great man's work (Jason: "Orson Welles was a maverick who took a lot of shit and made a lot of enemies yet his art stood the test of time."). Secondly, they saw a sandwich named after him and reckoned that the name just sounded good. "We were in a little coffee shop in Hollywood," Jason recalls, "and there was a list of sandwiches: the Greta Garbo, the Clark Gable, the Orson Welles. That got me thinking..." (Note: the sandwich was filled with Gouda cheese and pickles, and none of the band ate one.)

Over time, the Orson name has taken on greater significance. Jason explains, "We're having a little fun with the fact that we're based in Hollywood. There are so many bands from Hollywood, and none of them seem to have any sense of being from here. I love the mystique that this place has. That's why we wear hats everywhere, as a nod to the Old Hollywood."

Band members

  • Jason Pebworth - vocals, piano

  • Kevin Roentgen - guitar

  • George Astasio - guitar

  • Johnny Lonely - bass guitar

  • Chris Cano - drums

Jason Pebworth is an unconventional rock singer mainly because he doesn't sing rock. Before putting Orson together, he performed for several years in various theatre productions. He writes songs on piano, having never learned to play guitar, although he often wishes he had, because, of course, "it's more authentically rock and roll". And his influences are a mixture of... well, just about anything and everything. "I love Broadway tunes," he declares, "and I love Black Sabbath."

Growing up in Texas, Jason "absorbed" soft rock - Hall & Oates, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan - plus Memphis and Philly soul. The first album Jason bought was Queen's The Game ("That album blew my little blond head off!" he laughs. "They were toying with post-punk and disco and it sounded terrific."). During his college years, Nirvana inspired him to think about being in a band of his own. Obsessions with Jeff Buckley's Grace and Radiohead's OK Computer followed. And now... "As a band, we're into Led Zeppelin, Flaming Lips, Beck, Bjork. I'm a huge ELO fan... Basically,"Jason confesses, "I've stolen from every human being that ever wrote a song!"

Lyrics

Orson's songs are mostly about girls, about falling in or falling out of love. They form what is essentially a diary of Jason's own love life. "I torture myself over lyrics," he says. "Ultimately, the best stuff, the funniest lines, come out of the most heartbreaking times. To me, Elvis Costello is one of the great lyricists. He can make something really funny out of something truly tragic. I like that approach. It's like the great comedians."

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