One could easily throw a "musical chairs" allusion into the description of this group: from a one man project to a 44 piece orchestra then finally resting as an eleven person touring band-- it's impossible to escape the notion that this has shaped what Sounds of RVA calls their "ever-shifting wall of sound". M.H. stands for Max Holiday, the 20 year old composer, lyricist & singer behind M.H. & His Orchestra- with an age-defying, sometimes untrustworthy crooner voice he leads the grand orchestrations (which he dubs "Orchestral Back-Beat") through terrain less travelled in modern indie-pop. But it's no longer a one-man-show anymore; through a bizarre train of events this young balladeer found himself in charge of an orchestra, or so it's called...
While honeyed vocals by Lucy LaCœur anchor Holiday’s romantic lyrics in the clouds, the tight, sinuous string play of Lady Viorii and Jack Tabby's led orchestrations drives the tunes like street cars on a wire. (Some in the orchestra claim Viorii’s the black sheep of some left-over Croatian blue bloods; true or not, they all hup to). LaCoeur opens up like a musical Swiss army knife, with charming turns on ukelele, clarinet, glockenspiel, and who knows what else. E. Splanky’s horns splash all over these tracks, and though LaCœur pulled him onto the Heartland Flyer from an Oklahoma dive bar, where he says he “played for prison milk”, he might as well have come from a Bulgarian circus band, for all the slavic keening. Charlie Minnegrode’s trumpets answer smartly, toddling in on brass tap shoes. And though it’s hard to know exactly what the upstate NY sound ‘zine Yunk Police meant when they said Sully Dodger “rides his trap set like the iron spider foreman in Mozart’s machine shop”, he does have a feather light touch and a bag of insistent triphammer beats that keeps the whole kit and kaboodle in high, tight gear throughout the live spectacle.
Before Holiday, the others had already made a career “playing out” on Amtrak’s few remaining rail lines: On the Ethan Allen Express, LaCœur, Viorii, and Splank met Sully (who had been doing auxiliary percussion work for the Maniyunk wind ensemble after being let go as interim director of the high school pep band--no one will say why); soon thereafter, they lucked into Minnesota-by-way-of-Iceland legend Ogmundur Helgason on the Empire Builder; Tabby rode in on the Hiawatha, coming off a dark 19th hole in Beloit, with a viola case and a highball. By the time Holiday found them all on the Silver Service, the ladies had already finessed a hundred conductors into letting the outlaw combo torch up their lounge cars. (Apparently, if they played all night, they didn’t have to buy a ticket.)
Even after Holiday, a surprising number of the orchestra rose from the sparse platforms of Amtrak: buskers would often join up without much of a fuss--a Mandolin on the Lakeshore Limited (Benzo Nutilii), a harp on the Keystone (Clara Schultz), a theremin on the Adirondack (Alexei Savrasov). Occasionally the band would have a lay-over in Carbondale or Rutland, and scope out some ne’er-do-wells on the margins of a roots music festival (witness the itinerant Woofdog, playing the melodeon party-time keys (ala the Great Daniel Johnston Machine), and brass man C. Minnegrode, both of whom used to be regulars at the Indianapolis Summer Jamz).
The numbers kept swelling, and they eventually assembled the hodge-podge of orchestral comrades in Champe Ford Studio to track the record. Their debut "The Throes" was released in July and contains nine songs that portray their powerful combo of danceable percussion, sweeping strings, blasting horns and an inviting mix of genre cross-overs with nods to old school R&B, Calypso, Latin, Čoček and century spanning Western pop music.
By turns grandiose and grand, hoky and holy, they make you nostalgic for the days to come.---
M.H. & His Orchestra
Anthony Sierra/b> Trap-Kit & Other Loud Noises
Dean Davies/b> - Electric, Steel & Classical Guitar
Domino - Accordion/Synth/Piano
Eddie "McFierce" McPherson - Bass
G. Emmett Splanky - Baritone, Tenor & Alto Saxophone
Jack Tabby - Viola/Tap-Shoes
Kasey Morgan - Trumpet & Flugel-Horn
Lady Viorii - Violin & Voice
Lucy LaCœur - Glockenspiel, Ukulele, Clarinet & Voice
Max Holiday - The Singer
(M.H. & His Orchestra alumni: Alberto Gusdore (Classical Guitar) Alona Popotnik (Violin & Voice), Felix D'Artagnan (Upright & Electric Bass), Motown 17 (Trap-Kit), Woofdog (Daniel Johnston Machine).)
The Deli Magazine
Sounds of RVA
One Song Today
Turning Into Obscure
Jun.16 Cosmic Campout, VA
Jun.22nd Blacksburg Summer Solstice Fest, VA Jul. 13th Jammin' Java ,Vienna, VA w/Stomp Status & Atoka Chase
Jul. 21st Tropicalia D.C. w/Black Masala
TBA (Brooklyn, NY) July 27th
Jul.28th The Jewish Mother, VA Beach, VA
Aug.9th 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C. w/Paperhaus & Atoka Chase
Aug.16-17, Gypsy Fest, Floyd, VA
Aug.20th, The Dunes, Washington, D.C. w/Oshwa, Tarfu & The Flying Jays
Aug.22nd, 909 Cafe Fredericksburg, VA
Aug.24th, Sycamore Deli, Blacksburg, VA
Sept.15-16, Pink Moon Festival, Rock Camp, WV Sept.9th, IOTA, Arlington, VA THESE FUTURE SAINTS RELEASE PARTY
Oct.4th, Rock & Roll Hotel, Washington, D.C. w/Black Masala
Oct.30th, Jammin Java, Vienna, VA w/Norman Rockwell
If you would like to book M.H. & His Orchestra at your venue or event, please contact the band via mhandhisorchestra at gmail.com, thank you.