Errol Davis came up with the name Red Orchestra three years before the band existed. He was drawn to the term by a love for both ELO and Russian culture. The band started earlier this year, just about the time guitarist Davis peacefully parted ways with Crystal Antlers. In that short time, Davis, drummer Jimi St. Clair, singer/organist Marc Pamatmat and bassist Adam Witty have already recorded a single on vinyl and are set to release a 10-inch vinyl in early 2011.
OC Weekly: How does your songwriting process work?
Marc Pamatmat: I write most of the lyrics. It's funny: First, Errol will start out writing chord progressions. I'll add to it, and we'll send them back and forth using the recorders on our phones. Once we get that little thing started, we'll meet up and get it down for real. Every song we have is still evolving. We change them all the time. I don't think you're every really happy with what you create.
Red Orchestra. Thurs., Jan. 27. Call for time. 21+.
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What sets Red Orchestra apart?
Errol Davis: A lot of bands try to sound like something. We want to do all kinds of stuff, like electronic music. There's no limitation on what we like to do. Everybody in this group has a completely different idea of what they'd like to do. There's conflict, but when it does work, it sounds pretty interesting.
How would you describe your sound?
Pamatmat: We're trying to sound as big as we can with as minimal amount of members as possible. Get all the garbage out. Just get to the straight stuff.
Davis: The only way I can describe it is that I try to do stuff that Jeff Lynne from ELO does. He tries to make his songs like orchestral songs. That's kind of what I aim to do. . . . [For instance,] everyone [in the band] likes Motown. We covered the Jackson 5's "Never Can Say Goodbye." When we played that, we realized we could play music like that, and we wrote Motown-ish kind of stuff. We only have four people, so we try to get as much in our songs as possible. With recording, we just layer and layer and layer.
Pamatmat: We were going to hire an organ player, but I was like, "I'll just learn how to play organ."
How's the recording process going?
Davis: It's going good. I have a lot of fun recording. When I was younger, I'd get really uptight trying to get everything exact. But since I've done it for a while now, I'm more relaxed. I actually enjoy recording more than playing.
Pamatmat: Our friend Chris Mekdara helped us to mix and do everything properly. We recorded the drums and bass at a studio. Our plan was to do the rhythm tracks, organ and vocals just at home, but that didn't turn out so well. So I called up [Mekdara], who had a lot of experience recording, and he cleaned up everything for us. He has a house, and one of the rooms is really empty with really high ceilings, so it has a really cool sound. We like to record things as analog as possible—it sounds more real.
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What's next for you guys?
Pamatmat: We're going to record a 10-inch EP [at Closer Studios] in San Francisco. Errol recorded there with the first 7-inch of the Antlers. He liked how they had all-analog gear. We want to use the reel-to-reel, and we're going to press it on vinyl.
Davis: We have a single right now that we're waiting to be pressed on vinyl. That's getting released on Neon Beach Records. We're working on the full-length, too. That should be out in spring.
This column appeared in print as "Orchestral Maneuvers."