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Philadelphia’s music scene can be a little confusing at times. It’s jam-packed with gritty hardcore punk shows, sultry speakeasy-style jazz performances, indie-bands like Dr. Dog, and hip-hop artists like The Roots—so it can feel all over the place.
Well, meet Bad Orb! This band knows exactly how to encompass the best parts of all of those genres. The Philadelphia-based group consists of five members. Bridget Boylan as lead singer, Chris Covatta as lead guitarist, Todd Erk on guitar, Tommy Bendel on Drums, and Peter MoDavis on bass—however, they all switch instruments around constantly.
In fact, they keep their audience at live shows on their toes by gracefully changing-up who plays what, often mid-song.
Think of Mama Cass from The Mamas and The Papas, put that voice over an eerie melody with all kinds of instruments and distortion, add some serious rock and roll influences with heartbreaking Lou Reed-like lyrics, and there you have it–you’ve got Bad Orb.
They’re a one-of-a-kind band that is able to find a way to hit everybody somewhere deep down—no matter what genre of music they’re into.
Currently, they are working on an EP. Boylan and Covatta recently returned from a visit to the mountains in Vermont where they were able to clear their heads, play with their pup, and get some serious writing done. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for some new tunes coming to you soon by Bad Orb.
BTRtoday (BTR): So how does the band dynamic work?
Bridget Boylan (BB): The way that these songs have happened and the way we imagine them, the process, is that they start with me. I write them on piano, which is my primary instrument. All the basic songwriting bones, lyrics… from there Chris and I go in and re-imagine all the parts.
Chris Covatta (CC): Yeah, we pick them apart and then put together a new arrangement, the skeleton/frame work. Then we pick it apart too when we put it together instrumentally—trying to focus that everything has a place, even if it’s a noise—it’s still serving a function. I guess the short answer to the question would be there’s guitar, keyboard, and some percussion stuff here and there.
BB: The band consist of me, Chris, our friend Todd Erk, Tommy Bendel, and Peter MoDavis all of whom play in a bunch of different Philly bands. Peter plays bass, Todd plays guitar, and Tommy’s on drums.
CC: Yeah, and everybody switches around and covers some different places here and there as well, but that’s the primary core.
BB: Chris and Todd are in-between keyboard and guitar.
BTR: So you started as Marie & The Moans, and have now changed to Bad Orb—why is that?
BB: We were Marie & The Moans, but that was just kind of a placeholder for a show. We needed to come up with a name pretty quick, so that was our temporary name. Now we’re Bad Orb. We’ve been trying to come up with a name for a while now and have been just joking around with stupid joke names for the past few months.
One night I had a weird dream where my grandfather was talking to me about “bad orb,” which was the prison camp that he was a prisoner of war in during WWII in Germany. So, he was telling me about how that place had an important influence in establishing who he was and his foundation for his strength. I just woke up with it in my head and thought it was pretty cool, and everybody has their own battle with their life.
CC: And I refer to each one of us as a bad orb.
BTR: How long have you guys been playing together?
CC: Bridge and I have probably been working on stuff for about a year and a half, and then we’ve been working with the lineup we have now for around six months, I think. So it’s us taking what we’ve done in the studio and then translating it with everyone else into the live setting.
BB: Our first live show was April 4th at Bourbon & Branch in Philly. It’s on 2nd St. and Spring Garden. We recently played a show on May 1st at Kung Fu Necktie with No Joy and Creepers, who were all really cool.
CC: We haven’t played any other places in Philly yet, but we’re booking right now for the fall. I guess we’re primarily focusing on finishing up the EP over the next couple of months. Then for fall we’re looking to book major spots on the East Coast.
BTR: What are your live shows like?
CC: Noisy! Rocky! I would say our show vibe is, I don’t… I’m trying to think of the right word. Maybe, loud?
BB: It has an interesting aesthetic, because we’re switching around instruments a lot of the time from song to song. So Chris and Todd will be playing keyboard on a verse, and then switching up instruments mid-song. It’s really cool and busy—but in a good way.
BTR: So why were you guys just in Vermont?
CC: We were just hanging out, getting out of the city. We were working on some tunes and hanging in the mountains. Drinking beers on the porch, hanging out with Jackson. [Their very adorable Bernese mountain dog].
BTR: Tell us about the EP you guys are working on.
BB: We recorded a bunch of the tunes already, but we have a few more to go. We’re finishing up the recordings at our friend Todd’s house, where we’re recording all our tracks to tape.
CC: Whatever is up on Soundcloud right now, those are the demo versions, the rough cuts of some of the songs that will be on the EP. Then we have like three or four more tracks to knock out. From there we’ll likely put together the album, probably cut some, maybe add some. At that point we’ll be looking around to mix and mater—we’ll probably do a final digital release.
BTR: What’s the lyrical creative process?
BB: Well, a lot of my lyrics are kind of influenced by whatever I’m reading at the time and they begin as a response to that. For instance, I’m reading a lot of Alice Notley, who is an abstract feminist poet of the modernist era—she’s really cool. So, I start with a response, and then the song just goes from there. I also work with the emotional content of my life that’s going on at that time.
BTR: What are your musical backgrounds?
BB: I was classically trained up until I graduated high school and I also sang in choirs my whole life, so that’s where my harmonic knowledge comes from, I guess.
CC: Well, Todd and I grew up together and we started playing music together in middle school. Then I was self-taught up until I left for school. Then after two years of school, I started taking it up on my own again and have just gone from there. I focus mainly on guitar as the vehicle, but I also know composition work, arrangements, and stuff like that.
BTR: What’s in store for the future of Bad Orb?
BB: We have a show on June 5th. It’s a music festival in Philly called “Sundrop Music Festival.” Though in the next few months we’re going to be focusing on really putting everything together. We need to come up with a media package, do photos, put together a video. We’re working with a few people to get blueprints for all of that right now—so we have a lot of work to do.
CC: I think the main thing is to really focus on the EP and knock that out. I think we’ll have it done by July or August. Then from there, we’ll probably aim to put it out more so in the fall with supporting shows around it and whatnot.