An Interview with The Charles Warren Orchestra

Words by Nick Hodgins — Ridgewood, NJ

It isn’t too often I see a two man rock show. In fact, this past weekend at Arlene’s Grocery on the Lower East Side of New York City was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to watch a band play who consisted of nothing other than a guitarist and drummer. I have to say, The Charles Warren Orchestra rocks just as hard as any three, four or five piece bands I’ve ever seen.

The duet consists of lead singer and guitarist Charles Warren and his infamous Orchestra, Matt Onorato on drums. Originating out of Ridgewood, NJ, and in the wake of bedrock two-pieces such as the Black Keys and the White Stripes, the two bring a great blend of blues and rock n’ roll to the stage with a synchronization that can only truly be acquired through years of playing together. Of course the Orchestra wasn’t always a two-man band.

“Originally the band consisted of me, Matt on drums, a bassist, another guitar player and a vocalist,” explained Charles Warren as he stroked his red-bearded face hidden behind a pair of dark shades. After multiple attempts to fill the group beyond two members, at one point even taking on a drummer and sending Onorato to rhythm guitar, the duo decided to keep it at two.

For as long as he has owned a guitar, and even before that, Warren and the Orchestra have been making music together. “I started out on one of his guitars,” said Warren. “We would just jam. I had no idea what I was doing, I would just play random notes that he would to tell me to play. After that I asked for a guitar for Christmas and we just took it from there.”

The bands influences stem from other drum and guitar teams such as The Black Keys and The White Stripes. “I look to them a lot because they kind of mastered the whole one guitar and drums thing,” Warren said. He credits them for his style of playing chords and ripping solos between them. He also lists Hendrix and the Chili Peppers as big influences.

“I try to constantly have notes ringing and not leave space between, even if I just hit an open note to keep that bass going,” explained Warren whose feet stay just as busy amongst his seven pedals as his fingers do across 22 frets.

For two members these guys sure do pack a punch. The live chemistry between them is amazing and it’s obvious they aren’t strangers to playing with one another. Their set kicked off at 100 mph and it was nonstop grooving right up to the last chord. Onorato beat on his kit with ferocity in his eyes and a grin on his face for the entire set. Warren demonstrated some serious skills on his axe managing to hold down a rhythm while still slipping in bluesy riffs and solos whenever he could.

The Charles Warren Orchestra will be performing this Sunday, June 30 at the Kasschau Memorial Shell in Veteran’s Field Ridgewood. The show is a benefit concert for the Nick Currey Fund for Ewings Sarcoma research and will feature performances from North Jersey locals Real Estate and the Glenn Mercer Band.

To check out other upcoming shows for the Charles Warren Orchestra and to give them a listen check out their Facebook page here.