The Orbitsuns: we just wanna keep them dancing
The Horse You Rode In On - The Orbitsuns live at the Maverick Festival 2011
The caption on the bio page of the Orbitsuns’ website reads: “This is country, folks, but not as you know it.” That’s maybe not surprising given that this is a band born from the left field of plenty of other music genres.
It's been 11 years since Vinnie Dombroski, the Detroit-based lead singer of both post-grunge band Sponge and fetish rock band Crud, decided he needed yet another band to accommodate his artistic output, and the Orbitsuns were born.
"I’ve always been a huge fan of the writers of American, or country, or Americana style of music, so I was interested in writing that style of music myself,” says Dombroski.
"We had a whole group of songs a few years ago that didn’t fit either one of my groups, so I decided I’m gonna form a band, just based on having those songs written.”
The present lineup features guitarists Brett Lucas and Jackson Smith (who formerly played with both Gregg Allman and Steve Earle), bassist Bob Hecker, pedal steel player Larry Labeck, and drummer Jimmy Paluzzi, who played with Dombroski in both Sponge and Crud. And the Orbitsuns have gained a strong reputation as the band to call on to ensure everyone has a good time.
“There’s not a lot of big thinking going on with this thing. We just wanna keep them dancing,” Dombroski says.
Not requiring the gratification of regular rounds of applause, the band is happy to play nonstop for 20 minutes or more, jumping between their own material and country standards.
The result is that the Orbituns are in high demand, and represent the majority of gigs that Dombroski plays nowadays.
“For a group like Sponge, we go out and we do maybe a big casino, or maybe a state fair. We go in for one day and come back. There’s not a lot of that kind of work for that band, which frees up my time for the Orbitsuns,” Dombroski says. “We do a ton of shows and I have a lot of fun doing it. I guess it’s easier than it appears.”
To the question of where his heart lies, Dombroski says all his bands are equally important to him.
“At the end of the day you just gotta love doing it. But the reality is there’s less work for a group like Sponge. The Orbitsuns can go out and play all kinds of styles.”
The Orbitsuns originally planned to tour the UK for the first time in 2010, but were forced to cancel one day before they were due to travel after two band members suffered sudden family bereavements on the same day, including bass player Bob Hecker, who lost his wife Julie.
“It was just awful,” said Dombroski. “None of us would have expected what had happened. Just getting started again was difficult. Playing some of the places that my bass player’s wife would go to.
“It was hard on our bass player, hard on all of us. It was awkward. But it was good to get going again, do something that we love to do, and I think that helped some. I don’t think there’s a day goes by that we don’t think about these people that we lost, but just keeping the music going and getting out there, and playing helps out a lot.”
A year later, the band finally kept its commitment and made it to the UK, playing gigs across the country, including a late-night performance at the Glastonbury Festival that Dombroski thinks was just what the audience was looking for.
“ At Glastonbury the crowds are there to have a great time. They want to party, they want to dance. U2 was off stage and people were filtering past. We played in a big barn. Everyone was drinking, having fun, they wanted to party. We provide that.”
A week later, the band was one of the main attractions in the more intimate surroundings of the Maverick Festival, and Dombroski was quick to praise the man behind the festival, Paul Spencer.
“He really hit it on the head. He puts bands together that he loves. At the end of the day that’s our motivation too, to do something that we’re interested in. You can’t go wrong with that.”