Phil Spirito received a snare drum for his 10th birthday and from that point on, music was his major focus. He spent time during middle school and high school, in concert and marching band, playing drums and percussion as well as indulging in other teenage pursuits. It wasn't until his sister decided to take music lessons that he finally got his hands on a guitar. And when she had all but forgotten about it, after only a couple of lessons, the guitar happily took up permanent residence in Phil's room. Another drummer and childhood friend taught him most of the basic chords and they quickly started their own band. Conveniently, there was already more than one guitarist in the band and Spirito, having wanted to play bass for some time, gladly adopted this.
After an abbreviated trip to music school, Phil moved to Portland, Maine where he worked as a cook and eased his way into the Portland music scene. Over the next ten years he played bass and lead many bands. The first of those was little jimmy's tricycle, which was followed by Burly Chintz, Headcleaner, hotwatermusic, otis coyote(later to become rex), ganesha, map, big ed's gas farm and many others that have long since been forgotten. Spending time working as a DJ at Portland's community radio station, WMPG, Spirito branched out from the classic rock of his youth, discovering (and becoming obsessed with) world and experimental music. This is when his lifelong admiration of Captain Beefheart started. After ten years of playing many different kinds of music (rock, jazz, experimental, improv, world) in Maine's small music scene Phil was invited to NY to play bass with some old friends. He jumped at the chance, and in 1994, they started the band rex.
rex went on to record for southern records. They toured nationally and in their last year together, toured Europe as well. It was at this time, towards the end of rex's history, that Phil started to have ideas about starting his own project. Those ideas were developed even further when rex toured with Red Red Meat. There was a fast and super meeting of musical minds and many friendships were born on that tour. In 1996 Rex and Red Red Meat joined together once again to record the "Loftus" album. We hear the first seeds of Spirito's new musical ideas in some of the Loftus recordings. Phil had been playing banjo once in a while, but it was during those Loftus sessions that he started to play more frequently. On the last rex tour, Phil bought his first tenor guitar, a purchase that helped begin to round out the true oRSo sound. This four stringed mini guitar, the banjo, and tenor banjo have since become the musical core of oRSo.It was on this same tour that Phil taught Julie Lui the very first oRSo song(three chimneys all different). That winter, Phil traveled to Chicago recruiting Ben Masserella and Brian Deck to play and record oRSo's first self-titled album (at Ben's house in Valparaiso Indiana). oRSo: version one and the Binto family were born.
The first oRSo album was released in the fall of 1998 and led to a short east coast tour of Boston, NY and Cleveland with Ben and Brian. This is the first and only time this version was to play live together. Some songs from this tour were dug up and appear on "Alterations 3". Ben and Brian were busy with commitments to other bands as well as Perishable Records and Phil soon realized that he was not going to have a band to take on tour in the spring. It was at this time that he began to form his theory of music shells. The idea is this: Phil writes the tunes on his instrument of choice and then finds musicians that he can trust to fill out, with some guidance, the already formed shells. Subsequent versions have been formed by bringing together musicians who, as a group, can best paint the oRSo vision no matter how abstract. The first album was successfully recorded this way with help from Red Red Meat, Julie Liu, Gary Sheppers among others. So, in the spring of 1999, Phil put together oRSo: version two. The new band was comprised of Myles Robert, from the old Portland days, playing the drums, the ever reliable Duke Lee on duketronics and Gillian Lisee on keyboards.
Sadly, version two didn't last long but Ben Masserella returned to the drum throne and with Gillian Lisee, helped form oRSo: version three. Gillian and Phil formed the core of the band during this period. The album "long time by" was recorded by this version and while there were many incarnations at different moments, Ben, Gill, Duke and Phil formed the foundation. Tim Rutilli and Julie Liu returned to contribute to "long time by" and Brian again acted as producer.
In November of 2001, after a couple of tours, version three dissolved, and Phil sweetly begged Julie Liu to come out of retirement. She agreed and joined oRSo as a full time member on violin and viola. Meanwhile, Carlo Cennamo (saxophone) had just returned from a grueling HIM tour and, with a little persuasion, decided to try oRSo on for size. Searching for the perfect fourth member for this quartet took some time, but Griffin Rodriguez (Bablicon, Icy Demons) finally came out of the woodwork to join on stand up bass. oRSo: version four, "the quartet" was triumphantly formed.
This is the most coherent of oRSo versions thus far. Spirito was still bringing in his shells, but incredible group chemistry fostered the writing of songs as a unit, something that became more frequent as time passed. Version four went on to record the newest oRSo album "my dreams are back and they are better than ever". This time, Doug Scharin (rex, HIM) and Griffin Rodriguez took over the production duties, something which made for a real family affair. Most of the recording was done at Phil's home in Humbolt Park called Cork Filled and at Griffin's house The Shape Shop. They toured nationally and helped Spirito realize his dream of touring in Italy. During this same version, "Alterations 2" was written and performed by Phil and Carlo. This duo, called baci, will hopefully be composing more projects for the alterations catalog in the near future. Sadly for oRSo, but not for those involved, Julie Liu got pregnant and married Doug Sharin in 2002. Shortly after returning from the Italian tour, Julie gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Amelia. At almost the same moment Carlo announced that he too would be having a baby.
These two events brought Version four to a close. Griffin stuck around and brought a couple of his friends into the mix. Dave McDonnell (Michael Columbia, Bablicon) on clarinet and keyboards, Dylan Ryan (Michael Columbia, Herculaneum) on drums and Griffin once again on upright bass. oRSo: version five was thus created. Version five was an incredibly technical and raucous version that even succeeded in spooking some ghosts out of Spirito's attic. After an especially strong year filled with many great shows, Griffin and Dave took a leave of absence to finish other pressing projects, while Dylan stuck around to carry the baby blue boouzge right into version six.
Shortly after Dave and Griffin left, Libby Reed joined oRSo and became the core member of version six. She brings the return of a full time keyboard player and contributes distinctive and beautiful back up harmonies. Rob Stephenson came aboard as well, bringing his guitar and banjo while Dylan stepped easily in rounding out this version. Libby and Phil, in March of 2004, successfully toured Italy opening for Califone. On that tour Libby and Phil were filled with glee to get the support of Ben Masserella (great Uncle Ben Binto), Joe Adamik and Jim Becker on percussion, drums, and fiddle respectively. Tours are in the works for the Spring and Fall (2004) as is the promise of many more oRSo-ish tales of heartache and hope. The Binto family is ever growing and promises much more of Grampa in the future. Check back as time passes for any additions to this tale.