Based on an epidemic of insomnia-inflicting inspiration, “2 a.m. Orchestra” was the name Kelley chose while working on some recordings in early 2000. Just prior to the release of what would be the first album (2 a.m. Orchestra, 2001), Kelley formed and prepped a band to play in support of the release. From that time, the live line-up has varied widely, from a 2-piece snare drum and guitar duo, to an over-achieving, instrument-swapping five-piece. Kelley did a number of U.S. tours with these various line-ups, and even a solo tour, braving the bitterest weeks of winter sleeping in a van, living on scraps, and trying not to doze off during the long drives. Such personnel fluctuations continued on up through the 2nd full-length release, Impermanence (2005), which proved to be an apt, if not intentional title as the ever-changing live show became the band’s most noted characteristic.
At times, 2 a.m. Orchestra has been a rock band, as was the 2008 line up—an LA-based four piece with a turbo-charged rhythm section, gritty vocals and surf-tone guitars. Other times, 2 a.m. Orchestra resembles something like an acoustic folk group, as was the case with the 2010 incarnation—an Auckland-based trio that catered to intimate crowds with the whispers of mandolin, ukulele, cello, violin, piano and slide guitar. One might label the music presented by this unique combination of instruments “chamber-pop,” with its captivating string arrangements—often lullabyesque and sometimes spooky. The group’s acoustic sets featured songs both prior releases as well as brand new material. One such performance was released under the radar, “Live at Lopdell House Theater,” (recorded in Titirangi) free to fans via the 2 a.m. Orchestra FB page. In addition, the band has released a few videos of these acoustic performances via their youtube page, which has quickly gathered over 23,000 views.
The latest incarnation of the band emerged mid-2013 with the release of “Working To Divide,” the third full-length studio album which showcases the same characteristic ornate arrangements, but with new explosive rock textures. The new line up features Tim Gittins and Chris Dawson on bass and drums, two members who have teamed up regularly with Kelley since 2009, as well as Andy Smith on lead guitar. “Working To Divide” was nominated for the Taite music prize and the single “Heads & Tails” enjoyed nationwide radio support in New Zealand reaching #2 on KiwiFm and was included on the Kiwi HIt Disc compilation. The animated music video received rave reviews and months of airplay on C4 and Juice TV. The more recent single, “Six Lines of Ash,” was also included on a Kiwi Hit Disc and is currently receiving a good deal of attention from Hauraki. The band will continue their various characteristic transformations doing both acoustic and rock shows in support the latest album, continuing their theme of rearranging songs and sounds, evolving and recreating, ensuring the audience has a new experience at each and every show.