The Orwells are a punky garage rock quintet from Elmhurst, a western suburb of Chicago, IL. The group formed in 2009 and are pretty young since they only graduated high school in 2013. Mario Cuomo is on the vocals while Dominic Corso is on guitar, these two are cousins. Grant Brinner is on the bass guitar, and on the drums is Harry Brinner – these two are twin brothers. Then there is Matt O’Keefe, unrelated aside from being longtime friends with the members and their families, also on guitar.
Interesting fact: The band stole their name from an already existing band at their high school.
All five members had been in different bands since middle school so when The Orwells formed in 2009 they had some experience. They also didn’t form with the sole purpose of being heard; it was more of a way to kill their boredom. The Orwells started off by jamming and experimenting with covers such as Girls’ “Lust for Life” in Matt O’Keefe’s basement. From there, one thing lead to another and they started to write their own music. The band's collaborative process brings the whole band together; no one carries more weight than another when songwriting both lyrically and instrumentally.
It’s probably the suburbs that allowed The Orwells to become who they are today; wild, freethinking, and able to give zero fucks. After school they would jam out in garages and let all their teenage angst out. Their debut full length album Remember When, released in August of 2012, is a clear example of all the motifs that the group represents. The album consists of twelve tracks averaging a classic punk song duration of 3 minutes and 5 seconds each. The standout track and lead single on the album is “Mallrats (La La La)”. This track in particular encompasses so much teenage energy. It’s not too hard to see how it originated in a garage and had been naturally produced through the monotonous schedule of everyday living in the suburbs. A great song to listen to when you’re delusional, or drunk.
The rest of Remember When is reminiscent of some original punk rock like The Replacements. The group also has a comparable arrogant confidence to them like another similar-aged Chicago rock group, Smith Westerns. The Orwells are in a unique situation thanks to the internet. They can go back in time and listen to so many punk rock bands or other musicians. By being so exposed, their music is influenced by many different artists. The album truly kicks ass.
This past spring, The Orwells opened for Arctic Monkeys on a 50 show tour. They played songs from their debut album, Remember When as well as songs from their second full length album titled Disgraceland. The album was released in June of this year. One popular single off of this album is titled “The Righteous One” and totally is reminiscent of Nirvana! You can see the comparison when the band shouts their lyrics with lines such as “It’s not fair!” On the instruments, the guitar and bass resonate well with the Pixies and can be compared to The Strokes.
Unlike their debut album, Disgraceland had the helping hands of some very talented producers. Three V.I.P’s that helped out on the production of the album are Dave Sitek (has produced for Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio), Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys), and Chris Coady (Smith Westerns, Beach House). Quite a professional roster for such a young band. You have to wonder what the album could have been like if they had producers who weren’t so eager to have them snap out of their raging, stoner, garage punk band stage. You can see some purposeful mood swings between the climactic “Norman”, “Blood Bubbles” and anti-climactic “North Ave.” I think if they had a producer who wanted to help keep the band in the moment, then the result would have been an album full of walloping chaotic melodies. The album was also recorded in five different locations; London, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Woodstock.
On top of their two full length albums, the band has released two extended plays. Other Voices EP was The Orwells first EP released and it consisted of five tracks, it was released in June 2013. It’s premier track is titled “Other Voices” and interestingly enough, the second track is the same song but produced by Dave Sitek. The third track on the EP is “Blood Bubbles” which happens to be their second to last song on their newest album, Disgraceland. The fourth track is titled “Head” which did not appear on either full length albums. The last track of the EP is an Audiotree Live Session of one of their most popular songs, “Mallrats”.
Who Needs You EP is a four track EP that was released in September 2013. Consisting of four tracks, it begins with “Who Needs You”, the most popular song off of Disgraceland. Following this track comes “Open Your Eyes” a Misfits rip-off, fitting. Following is “Salvation is a Parking Lot”, a Black Lips rip-off. These two songs are self-describing songs for the artists and are a way for them to pay homage, especially by including their punky guitar riffs. Concluding the EP is another Audiotree Live Session with a track called “Halloween All Year”, the third track on Remember When.
All in all, having some top dog producers on board for Disgraceland has shown us that The Orwells quintet are trying to transcend from the high school suburbia kids identity that has been given to them. They’re over that comparison and out to do better and bigger things with their music. This past September and October they made their rounds in the States. For the rest of this month, The Orwells are touring France and the United Kingdom but when they come back and perform in a city near you, I highly recommend that you attend for one wild time!
By Ben Schechter