The NRIs, from left: Audrey White, Gabriel Fry, Nayan Bhula, Jesse Burgman (background), Melanie Fallow and Mike Nilsson. (Not pictured: Colin McCormick and Collin Cogan.) (Photo by David McKittrick)

Nayan Bhula's songs, like most living things, start off tiny, then grow big. He writes them alone on an acoustic guitar, then brings them to the NRIs, an eight-piece rock outfit that uses strings, horns, keys and more to inflate his songs into capacious new shapes. "It always starts with me," Bhula says, "but by the end of the song, I don't have to play much of anything. I can play a few notes and sit back and worry about other things."

His band is at its most expansive on its latest recording, "An Echo for Each One of Us," but Bhula hasn't reached his limits. He says his appetite for sonic sprawl comes from a lifetime of listening to the Beatles, along with the years he played in Gist, a local indie band that could stretch itself only to the breadth that four members would allow.

Now, playing in an ensemble twice as large allows for a more dynamic sound, a deeper sense of camaraderie and a wider margin of human error — which Bhula says gives this music its character.

"These days, you can have an orchestra in your pocket," he says. "And while I know it's a cliche to say it, there's no substitute for a real person. They might not be perfect. And that's great! It adds to the raggedness. You can't get that with a laptop."

Show: Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. at Songbyrd. songbyrddc.com. $10 in advance, $12 at the door.