Text: Isabel Aleman
The Orwells put on a show that would make your mom blush—wether the band is fighting with the sound guy in Dallas, getting arrested or fighting in London. Their shows are filled with excitement and adrenaline that is sure to entice the more aggressive side of your musical taste.
The Illinois natives recently released their latest record, Terrible Human Beings, which will fill any void you might have for a garage-rock and nostalgia for Jim Morrison’s voice, which sounds almost identical to lead singer and pants dropper Mario Cuomo. The band is filled with other colorful characters—Dominican Corso (guitar), Grant Brinner (bass guitar), Henry Brinner (drums) and Matt O’Keeffe (guitar). We had a chance to talk to Matt about their bad boy image and so much more.
How did you become The Orwells?
Quite simple really. We all met in school growing up, we are from Emerson which is the suburbs of Chicago, and we just met in middle school, well most of us are family, but we all connected up in middle school and just started playing music together.
So was it a garage band kinda feel?
Yeah, I mean we would get together and rehearse in my parents basement, mostly just cover songs at first and then when we go bored doing that, then we just started doing our own stuff.
Was your parents basement decorated with posters?
Yeah, we had a cheesy Iggy and the Stooges, and all that kinda stuff.
You guys did a cover of Iggy and the Stooges “I Wanna be Your Dog”?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Now let’s do little history timeline here, so you guys are in your basement, then you start doing shows, how were you discovered?
We did 3 records when we were in high school, the last being Remember When, which was what people now know as the first official record. But when we finished that, we did a video for the song “Mallrats ( La La La)”—were sending it to blogs to see if they would post it to their website, and we send it to Aquarium Drunkard, and the guys who run that blog happen to also run a record label called Autumn Tone, and just by sheer luck they liked the record and they said they’d put the whole thing out. That kick started us to become more of an established act, we started going down to South by Southwest and those guys started getting us shows, and that started stuff like that.
Do you ever get star struck?
I did when I was younger, I don’t really get star struck that much now, not because I think I’m better by any means on that level. I think they have to be really really big for me to get star struck.
So you guys were on David Letterman, how was that experience?
YEP. It was very horrifying is what it was, we got offered to do it and it was a huge deal for us because we grew up watching all of our favorite bands on Letterman, so getting that opportunity was pretty cool and what happened, happened—and we just rolled with it.
( During The Orwells performance David Letterman asked The Orwells to do an encore and Paul Shaffer did The Orwells song for them because their guitar strings were broken).
So you guys are infamous for being troublemakers, tell us about what happened at Trees in Dallas?
I think people think we have a reputation that we go around looking to start that kind of stuff, we don’t go around trying to start fights but we will speak up if we feel like we’re being treated unfairly, and that may lead to altercations, and down in Dallas that led to a scuffle with the security at that location.
Can you tell us what happened at a London after party?
That was something that just got blown kind that out of proportion, that was more Mario, but that was something like being drunk and doing some drunken thing, and it was blown out of proportion by security guards and police officers.
So when you’re touring what do you guys ask the promoters for?
We just try to keep it simple, we just get some booze and water and like chips and salsa. We don’t really do anything crazy like yellow Skittles or that kind of stuff.
Can you tell us about your records from Remember When to Disgraceland to Terrible Human Beings, have you grown from record to record?
I think that it’s just like a natural growth because it’s just a simple as anything that happens. You start off as a punk band, you play 3 chords and you sing 5 words and it’s a lot of fun, and you do that 10 times and you get bored, then you add some more words and then you get bored, and then you add more and more. This is a concept of being a person who makes music and writes music, really just making sure that you’re satisfied and not bored. Without an evolution, I don’t understand how bands can continue to pump out the same records and keep touring, and it sounds like it’d be such a grind so they could be really boring without that evolution. I don’t really know how they do it.
As to how we evolved, I don’t know, I think that’s really more of a fan thing, we don’t really go consciously into these records thinking we have to do this differently, it’s really whatever we feel like doing.
I want to talk about the music video for “They Put the Body in the Bayou”—are The Orwells going political?
No, actually, maybe you can determine it however you want; only had just written a song and someone gave us an idea of a crooked politician, it wasn’t really like we thought it out to make a statement, it was kind of like the right place-right time the song, is kind of like a story and we didn’t want the music video to be an exact representation of what the song is, so we thought what was another way to put out the song and how you can interpret the song differently.
Whats your favorite song on that album?
Maybe the last one on that album. We have a little bit of room to improvise and more freedom to move from the rest of the songs.
Check out Matt and the rest of the Orwells at Lowbrow Tuesday April 4th, maybe Mario will take off his pants for us.