Orange makes a big comeback
By Naughty Mickie

Los Angeles base pop/punkers Orange was formed in the early 2000s.

"I was moving out to L.A. from England and my best friend at the time started playing bass and so did I, so when I came to L.A. we started playing music and we called ourselves West Si-eed," begins vocalist and bassist Joe Dexter. "It was keyboards and two basses and after a while we figured this really isn't working out. Michael (Valentine) managed to switch to guitar and we got a guitar player and eventually found a drummer and we've been through several lineups since then. But we were very young, we were like 12 years old, 13 years old and ever since then I've kept the band going and every day it's been non-stop Orange. How many years have we been doing this? Probably nine years I guess. I'm 21 now. It's been a while."
In 2004 the band came to the attention of Tim Armstrong (Operation Ivy, Rancid), who signed them to his Hellcat label. "Phoenix" (Hellcat Records, Sept. 2009), their third album, was produced by Gavin MacKillop (MXPX, Toad the Wet Sprocket) and recorded at Mad Dog Studios in Burbank. This all sounds slick and easy, but it wasn't. It took a bit of patience and ingenuity to bring the group to its current lineup of Dexter, lead guitarist Brendan Minded, rhythm guitarist Perry Ladish and drummer Zak Glosserman.

"What happened was Jon (Dering), who was in the band about a year ago, we spent about a year working together and then we just got to the point where it wasn't working any more." Dexter explains, "He was really into more metal stuff as well. We had to move on from that and after that, Jack (Bergland) shortly left on as well and he had been an original member since day one. All that was left was me, who sings and plays bass, and Zak, who plays drums.

"Zak was not an original, we've had a lot of drummers, but he was in a sense an original member from the first record we put out." Dexter continues, "We spent a couple of months doing auditions and we didn't really find anybody and then I remembered I bumped into Perry about a year before that at a Hellcat party and I really liked him and he into Green Day. I thought, 'This guy is really cool, I should have him play in Orange' and sure enough I asked him to be in the band and he said yes. I also remembered, because we weren't having any luck finding guitar players, rhythm or lead, and we played with this band called The Events in Vegas another year before that as well. I remembered that the guitar player from that band was really awesome, like such super talent for such a young age as well. I called him and asked him to come down to L.A. and he played a set with us and then we asked him to join the band."

We discuss "Phoenix."

"We recorded the new album with this producer named  Gavin MacKillop, who has produced bands like MXPX, he did most of the PIL records and he even did the last Miley Cyrus record," Dexter tells me. "I e-mailed him just for a chance basically to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot to see if he would listen to these new songs that I've been writing. He said yes and from there we committed. He works in Burbank, so we recorded all that at Mad Dog Studios, which a lot of bands like Miley Cyrus recorded her last record there - I know I keep dropping Miley's name - but it was a great experience. We were there every day for about three months."

"Then we recorded most of the lead vocals in Pasadena at Tim Pagnotta's house, he's the guitarist from Sugarcult. He really loves the band and he let us use his house for free. We were up there for about two months every day."
"The whole album took about three months to finish and I think it's our best stuff yet." Dexter goes on, "It's very different, it's like we went from album number two to album number four. It's a huge leap in maturity and what I'm most excited about it all the songs don't sound the same any more. Previously I thought our last two records, as much as I liked them, I felt there were a lot of the same tempos and a lot of the same chord progressions, but this is very colorful. I seriously wanted to paint with more colors than just red and blue, I wanted to paint with green and purple and pink and throw some different things in the mix. That's what I'm most excited about, for people to hear how far we've come in a very short time."

Dexter is more than the frontman and bassist for Orange.

"How it's always been is I write everything. I write the guitar parts and I write all the songs, including the lyrics," says Dexter. "With the addition of Brendan and Perry, they also happen to be very talented song writers, so I know it's a bit premature, but for the next album we're going to be writing songs as a band for the first time."

I ask Dexter where he finds inspiration.

"I could just be walking down the street, like walking my dog, humming a tune and then this one line will pop in my head and I'll think that's a great start for a song," shares Dexter. "I'll immediately go home and start mapping it out on guitar and, with these random lyrics I have in my head, I'll write them down and see if I can find a direction for a song. It seems to come to me from some other plane of consciousness that I'm not aware of and really random. You know when you've got a lightening bolt, it's like oh, the light bulb goes off, it's just like that."

So music or lyrics first?

"Personally, I'm more music first. If I have a piece of music that I've written and it inspires me, then I find it a lot easier to put lyrics on top of that," Dexter says.

Now I can see where Dexter is going, I want to know about his past.

"Probably when I first really got into music, when I knew that I wanted to do it, I was 12 years old and that band Sum 41 had just come out." Dexter clarifies, "I saw them on MTV and for some reason it just struck a chord with me. I was like, 'I really like this a lot.' I started listening to more rock music because before that I was listening to a lot of Carole King and Burt Bacharach, easy listening. I had long hair and round glasses, people used to call me Elton John and John Lennon."

"You were the sensitive poet type," I blurt.

"Yes I was." Dexter laughs shyly, "And then when I was 12 and 13 I got more into rock and I saw Sum 41 like with my original lineup from way back in the day, we formed the band that night and ever since then it's just been an obsession really."

"When I was young I played a little bit of guitar." Dexter continues, "I also learned how to play the recorder just because it was required at school, but I also really enjoyed playing it. My music teacher was really big on the Beatles and a lot of the easy listening stuff, which is probably why I was into that. I would play Beatles songs on the recorder. I started playing bass when I was 12 and I just stuck with it really."

I wonder if Dexter has ever worked a "regular" day job.

"I tried to get a job last summer," Dexter responds. "I went to everywhere I could possibly think of and nowhere would take me. I just wanted the experience, but I never finished high school, I left when I was 16, as soon as we got signed so I don't have any credentials in that area so I quickly gave up on that. I'm glad it worked out though because I get to do my music full time."

OK, so what about hobbies?

"All I do is music, seriously, 24 hours a day I'm thinking of songs, writing some piece of music, I've got a song stuck in my head that I've got to write down. It's just all time, I really don't do anything else and I hope that doesn't sound too boring. I guess I play a bit of Pokémon. I've been a hard-core player since I was nine. I have a Pikachu tattooed on my wrist. It gets me all the girls, what can I say?" Dexter laughs and then sighs, "I wish."

Recalling that Dexter mentioned walking his dog, I prodded him for more information on the pup.

"It's a funny story, I bought him four years ago and I thought he was a teacup Chihuahua and he pretty massive now about the size of my leg, so I don't know what he is. My guess is maybe Chihuahua Papillion, but he's really tall, super fluffy and really, really cute as well, but he is definitely not a teacup that's for sure. His name is Hollywood, he's my baby."

"Has Hollywood inspired any of your music?" I ask.

"I wrote a song about him which is on our MySpace, which is called 'Working Like the Rent is Due Tonight' and that song is about raising a puppy. You would never guess it from the lyrics, but that's it's inspired from," says Dexter.

After my bad experiences with cats and banjos and dogs and didgeridoos, I have to know what Hollywood thinks about Dexter's music.

"My dog, Hollywood, is petrified of accordions, petrified," Dexter responds. "I was playing the accordion one night in my apartment, just because I'm a weirdo, and he got so scared that he actually peed himself. It was pretty sad."

Dexter works hard for his music, more so than most, as he has cystic fibrosis, a chronic disease which affects the lungs and digestive system.

"It's surprising because throughout my career so far my doctors have always been very surprised that I'm able to do what I do and as much as I do it," shares Dexter. "I think it's somewhat because the way I look at is I'm exercising my lungs and for singing you learn breathing techniques, which I've applied to my daily life. I have asthma and had to deal with it when I have sung or danced out, especially in smoky situations."

I wonder if my experience compares with that of Dexter's.

"When it comes to playing clubs, when we've been on tour," Dexter agrees. "It was on one tour in particular a few years ago, back on like our seventh Hellcat tour, every venue was smoky and it was like a five week tour. We weren't really at the level where we could say we stick to need a non-smoking venue and we weren't really at the level where we could say we're backing out the tour, we had to do it to get exposure. So I went ahead and did it and then after I got off the tour I ended up in hospital for a few months. I was on IVs and all that. I came out of it good, I got better, but unfortunately the smoking thing does seem to be a problem, but luckily, slowly, pretty much all venues in America are becoming non-smoking."

"I've had asthma attacks on stage before, it's scary," continues Dexter. "You get so worked up from all the adrenaline and you're singing and you're jumping around and then suddenly it just happens and you're like, 'Oh shit.' Then you've got to run off stage and figure out where's your inhaler and what you've got to do."

How does Dexter keep his voice going?

"Practice, practice, practice, that really does help." Dexter explains, "Whenever I'm driving in my car, I listen to a lot of CDs of course, but most of my time, just because I live in L.A. and you have to drive everywhere, I'm practicing my singing with vocal tapes that me and my instructor made and they have singing techniques on them. Throughout the day I'm doing it constantly and that's one way to make it somewhat second nature, so when you're on the stage you don't have to think about it and that can really help with a lot of issues."

Orange is headlining a West Coast tour during October and November with Five Days Dirty and are also talking with Bowling for Sheep about touring in November, They plan to hit Europe in March.

"I feel like we've never done enough touring and we love touring and it's so crucial nowadays to get your name around. What I would prefer for the next year is just to be on the road as much as possible." Dexter says and returns with a final thought about "Phoenix," "We're the new Orange and we're better than ever. Old Orange fans will not be disappointed with this record either. I think we've done something that will withstand the test of time and we're all very proud of it."

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