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Orbans capture lightning in a bottle

The Orbans CD release

10 p.m. Friday

Lola's Saloon Sixth

2736 W. Sixth St., Fort Worth

$10 all ages (includes a copy of the album)

817-877-0666; lolasfortworth.com

Posted 11:27am on Wednesday, Jun. 16, 2010

At the Ginger Man, over beers and Billy Joel blaring from the jukebox, the Orbans' Peter Black and Cliff Wright discuss the finer points of album sequencing.

Having once recorded what would become When We Were Wild (and scrapping it), the precise order -- and number -- of tracks on the quintet's debut full-length was one of many key elements left to hash out. The band eventually settled on a dozen amber-hued, vaguely alt-country tracks, produced by Adam Lasus over several months in Austin and Los Angeles.

The Orbans' attention to detail belies its frayed, ramshackle style. These songs sound like the result of late nights stained with PBR and bourbon, of single-minded friends cobbling together tunes from scraps of inspiration. When We Were Wild feels, frankly, like a series of sonic snapshots captured by chance -- which, of course, is the goal.

"The band plays well together live," Black says, by way of understatement, "and I think we just wanted to capture that the best we could."

The Orbans will perform Friday at Lola's Saloon Sixth to celebrate the arrival of Wild, which hit iTunes June 15. In concert, the five-piece (formerly known as Lifters, which released a lone EP, 2007's Switchblade Waterpistol ) is a knockout, one of North Texas' finest live acts.

The tight, glowing harmonies of Were Her blossom fully, contrasting sharply with the dusty regret of Like a Liar or the good-natured sprawl of Songs We Sang. Vocalist/guitarist Black, bassist Wright, keyboardist Justin Pate, guitarist Kenny Hollingsworth and drummer Blaine Crews are airtight on stage, deftly switching from originals to scuffed-up Beatles covers.

It's not too much of a stretch to suggest that the Orbans is Fort Worth's answer to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cross-pollinated with Gold-era Ryan Adams: a durable, endlessly capable gang of professionals adept at dabbling in several genres but not fully committing to any.

When We Were Wild's 12 tracks were born out of easy yet focused sessions, with roughly 75 percent of each song captured live in the studio, with Lasus allowing the Orbans room to experiment.

"We definitely chose vibe over tightness a lot of times," Wright says.

Black chimes in: "We got down to Austin ... from that first song we worked on, it was like, 'It's all going to be OK.' It was a magical, happy time for all of us."

The Orbans have come a long way in a short time, evolving from a promising pop-rock outfit to something more. Last year's name change, which Black says was prompted by MySpace threats from a similarly named Austin group, is only part of the growth. And the Orbans have several area dates booked this summer.

For now, Black and his bandmates are content to let audiences discover the meticulously messy Wild, in hopes it serves as an appetizer for the main course: the Orbans in their element -- live, on stage.

"It's something we all love doing," Black says. "We just want to share it and hope other people enjoy it ... and just keep going."

CORRECTION: The Orbans' drummer is Blaine Crews, not Cooper Heffley.

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