28 Oct 2020
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2 a.m. Orchestra

Bio

Based on an epidemic of insomnia-inflicting inspiration, 2 a.m. Orchestra was the name chosen by David Kelley while working on some recordings in early 2000. Just prior to the release of what would be the first album (2 a.m. Orchestra, 2001), Kelley formed and prepped a band to play in support of the release. From that time, the live line-up has varied widely, from a 2-piece snare drum and guitar duo, to an instrument-swapping 6-piece. Kelley did a number of U.S. tours with these various line-ups (and even a solo tour). Such personnel fluctuations continued on up through the 2nd full-length release, Impermanence (2005), which proved to be an apt, if not intentional title as the ever-changing live show became the band’s most noted characteristic.

After the release of Impermanence Kelley began travelling, living abroad and performing in various locations such as New York, Central America and even China. 2 a.m. Orchestra was put on the back-burner while Kelley toured with various projects: a country band that did shows for troops at international military bases, a theatre company performing a rock opera, and a percussion trio that gigged at state fairs. However, Kelley continued to write and record throughout this period. During two consecutive summers, the songwriter made a makeshift project studio from his grandmother’s country house located on the outskirts of his hometown (Fresno). These periods were spent compiling, writing, and recording a significant percentage of what now constitutes the entire 2 a.m. Orchestra catalogue (the vast majority of which remains unreleased).

Over the years, 2 a.m. Orchestra has primarily remained a solo endeavour – a one-man recording project with occasional outbursts of live performances. One such outburst occurred in 2008, a year after Kelley moved to Los Angeles. The L.A. band was a four-piece powerhouse with a turbo-charged rhythm section, gritty vocals, and surf-tone guitars. The band played sporadically, packing out indie venues like The Derby and Molly Malone’s.

In 2009, Kelley abruptly moved to Auckland, New Zealand. Wasting no time, Kelley had a band within weeks and began performing thereafter. There have been numerous iterations of the live group in New Zealand, such as the 2010 incarnation: an Auckland-based trio that catered to intimate crowds with the softer textures of mandolin, ukulele, cello, and piano. The group’s acoustic sets featured songs from both prior releases as well as new material. One such performance was released under the radar as Live at Lopdell House Theater, (recorded in Titirangi, Auckland) which was offered free to fans via the 2 a.m. Orchestra Facebook page. In addition, the band has released a few videos of these acoustic performances via their YouTube channel, which has quickly gathered over 25,000 views.

2013 saw the release of 2 a.m. Orchestra’s third original full-length release, Working To Divide. The album took a distinct stylistic turn, employing more traditional rock textures and arrangements - less “folky” and more “alternative.” Working To Divide was nominated for the Taite music prize and the single Heads & Tails enjoyed nationwide radio support in New Zealand reaching #2 on KiwiFM and was included on the Kiwi Hit Disc compilation. The animated music video received rave reviews and months of airplay on C4 and Juice TV. Subsequent cuts from the album, namely Ain’t Got the Fight, and Six Lines of Ash were also featured on mainstream radio stations such as Hauraki.

With the new release came a new live band. This line-up featured Tim Gittins and Chris Dawson on bass and drums, two members who have teamed up regularly with Kelley since 2009, as well as Andy Smith on lead guitar. The band toured in support and played semi-regularly at Auckland’s familiar venues (such as The King’s Arms, The Dog’s Bollix, The Whammy Bar, The Wine Cellar and Juice Bar) but also scored some more notable gigs, such as a main-stage evening performance at The Grey Lynn Festival, an opening slot for international artist Xavier Rudd, and a live on-air performance and interview with Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

After the release of Working To Divide, 2 a.m. Orchestra once again took a back seat to some of Kelley’s other pursuits, specifically, fatherhood and post-graduate study in philosophy. But now, after nearly seven years since the previous release, a new album has been released: Trading Graves. As with previous releases, Kelley played nearly all the tracks on the record himself. Yet the project was in an important sense a collaboration, as Kelley again teamed up with mixing-wizard Joel Halford (who also mixed Working To Divide). The two spent a couple of years trading files back and forth long-distance in order to get the finished songs just right - only once, at the end of the process, were the two able to be in the same room together to finalize the mixes. Trading Graves was released February 21, 2020.

Band Members:
David Kelley (vocals, guitar)
Tim Gittins (bass)
Andy Smith (guitar)

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Location

  • Auckland


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