Interview with M.H. & His Orchestra: DC Deli's Artist of the Month (September)

Interview with M.H. &
 His Orchestra

- by Dawn Reed

How did the band start?


Max Holiday: Well- this is a two part answer, I suppose, if you've been to a live show you know I talk about the train quite a bit but few people know that the band was functioning well on it's own before I entered the scene. Lucy (LaCoeur: clarinet, glockenspiel, ukulele & voice) spent most of her life on trains with her family and the backing band that plays with us live was once hers- she did song and dance numbers entertaining train-goers. I was just embellishing a romantic folly, still writing songs but nothing spectacular when I came aboard and met the troop- after a few vials of rakia they convinced me to play them a song of mine and I suppose I convinced them. It's a real love-at-first-sight tear jerker, this band. "The Orchestra" on record was an assortment of players that either I or the other members knew from band or orchestras they'd played in before.

What are your biggest musical influences?

When I was a kid, "Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin was my favorite song. I also grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop. It's where those meet in the middle. The texture of a beat and a sampled orchestra is one of my favorite soundscapes but I never knew how to sample- so creating my own orchestral arrangements was the instinctual step. I grew up in Patsy Cline's backyard so old country music is another sound that speaks to my heart-strings. It's all about the place that the music puts me, if I can imagine the complete tableau then I enjoy it. I suppose the traditional thing to do here would be to list- but I'd go on for ages and it'd be unfair for me to speak on the players' behalf because each composer comes from a different background. 

What artists (local, national and/or international) are you currently listening to?

Goran Bregović, various Flamenco artists, Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, Lee Hazelwood, Scott Walker, Tom Waits, Klezmer Pioneers 1908-1952. I'm clearly not up to date! We've befriended a few local bands, Nevin Kight, Derek Zuk, Hoop Dreams, Mirror Kisses, Ugly Thrash Demon.

What's the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?

I count my first musical experience, while not a proper concert, as a klezmer band I saw on the street as a kid. I was walking with my   family and forced them to stop walking and watch their entire performance. Big billowy beards, wool coats, violins, clarinets, giant brassy horns- all the things a child dreams of. I honestly can't remember my first record- it was probably hip-hop.

What do you love about DC's music scene?

You can go anywhere and see the best jazz band you've ever seen in your life. 

What would you like to see change in the local music scene?

Interest. It's what I'd like to see in almost every music scene. Audiences that are as much a part of the show as the band. I think everyone in D.C. is so effete by the end of the work week they just want to be social on weekends- most people who are cramming in the 9:30 club are suburban kids. D.C. is one of the most interesting cities in the country- the music scene should reflect that but I'm worried there is a loss of spirit. Spirits up D.C., no matter what you are told, arts and entertainment are not expendable.

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

What a notion! It's easy for plans to fall idle but we hope to have made some waves by then. We're still looking to get signed and bring people to our shows. Our plans are to entertain the world.

What was your most memorable live show?


Is there someone who has helped your band grow through support?

Alex Economu, FOH Engineer at Monterrat House & Thievery Corporation sound-man & Maya Renfro who helped with all of our graphic design & merchandise. 

Is there a piece of equipment you couldn't live without and why?

I don't think we could live without any part of the ensemble. Every instrument, every touch, every player contributes a uniqueness to the vernacular of M.H. & His Orchestra in a way that's irreplaceable.