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Orson - An introduction to No Tomorrow band

Orson

Feature by Jack Foley

CALIFORNIA’S Orson play what their singer Jason Pebworth calls simply “two-guitar power-pop”, or, equally simply, “rock and roll that girls can dance to”.

The first song that Orson released to the public, No Tomorrow, was the most downloaded iTunes Single Of The Week in Apple’s history. And it displaced Chico from the top of the UK charts (thankfully!).

Radio 1 hailed Orson as “the missing link between The Rolling Stones and The Scissor Sisters”, while they were immediately signed to a major publishing deal with Universal when they made their live debut in the UK at the In The City seminar in Manchester.

Orson formed in 2000 around a core of Jason Pebworth and guitarist, George Astasio.

The group took its name from Hollywood legend, Orson Welles, for two reasons. 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, as 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.”

Jason Pebworth is an unconventional rock singer. 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 range from Broadway tunes to 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 but 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. But now as a band, they’re into Led Zeppelin, The Flaming Lips, Beck and Bjork.

“I’m a huge ELO fan… basically,” adds Jason. “I’ve stolen from every human being that ever wrote a song!”

Jason 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…”

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 confesses. “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.”

No Tomorrow is just one of the stories Jason has to tell.

“It’s about when I first moved out to LA,” he continues. “I was seeing this girl and she’d just quit drinking. I was madly in love with her and I was pretty sure she was in love with me. But we went to a rave – they still called them raves then.

“I told her we could still go and not get fucked up. But all of her friends were there, totally wasted. We drank a lot of Red Bull and saw how silly everyone looked. And then we realised there was nothing between us! The next morning it was over. That’s why it’s called No Tomorrow.”

Jason remains philosophical about the girl, however, adding. “It’s OK. I got a good song out of it!”

Now ‘aint that the truth….