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October 2020

The Orwells: "We were young and, you know, total assholes"

The Orwells still want to have fun, but with 'Terrible Human Beings' they're also growing up.
Published: 10:21 am, February 25, 2017
The Orwells: "We were young and, you know, total assholes"
When you’re young, and in a band, there’s a certain level of expectation for you to fuck up and cause a scene. It’s an ideology The Orwells have taken to heart. Infamous for abrasive live shows and a general lack of giving a fuck, in 2014 the group kicked up a gear, releasing second studio album ‘Disgraceland’ and running riot during a performance on Letterman in the US. Now, they’ve returned to finish what they started.

The perhaps aptly titled ‘Terrible Human Beings’ isn’t quite a forward move, if anything it harks back to the youthful vigour found on their first studio album ‘Remember When’. Guitarist Matt O’Keefe is more than ready for the world to hear it. “We’ve sat on it for a good amount of time, and you know, it drives us insane,” he says. “The songs are going stale for us, but nobody else has ever heard them. It’s a funny thing; I’m just stoked that this thing’s gonna be out.”

After such a quick ride with their previous album, including signing to Atlantic Records and touring with Arctic Monkeys, the band were briefly a hot topic - but more for their attitudes and antics than music. Matt recalls that time with a slight chagrin. “I was a little bit more gullible to what I thought was gonna happen with when that album came out. I think on this; we’re all wiser about how this goes, you know? What it’s gonna do, and all that stuff. It feels like we have a better grasp with this one and what we’re about to do.

“When we were recording ‘Disgraceland’ I turned nineteen; we were eighteen-nineteen-twenty before we’d even released the thing, so yeah, we were pretty young and gullible. We believed a lot of things that were said to us, and that’s what I’m saying about this time around, we’ve got a better grasp. I think we’ll be able to understand what’s going on much better, so I’m excited to go through it again and age a little bit wiser to the whole thing.”

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Their first forays to British shores involved tiny shows, including one at a community church in Dalston, but they were soon selling out venues like the Electric Ballroom. “It was great to be able to comprehend that step up, seeing your music expand to new fans and more people,” says Matt. “It’s great when you get to come back, and you’re doubling the size of rooms. Hopefully it’ll happen with this. Hopefully people dig it.”

During their now famed Letterman slot, a worse-for-wear Mario Cuomo sat down for an entire verse. It drew a lot of attention - not all of it good. “People definitely did not get it,” affirms Matt. “[But] how any band should do it is not treat it any different than you would if you were on a stage in a club. We just didn’t want to water anything down when we got on TV, or we got to the bigger clubs or any of that stuff. We always do what we want to do, and you know, good things happened, and bad things happened because of it.”

“I think you lose the magic if you think you’re not going to let yourself fall,” he muses. “You’ve got to put yourself in a bit of risk or let yourself be vulnerable because I think vulnerability and falling on your face go hand in hand with just being on stage and playing in front of people.”

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Following the album’s release, the band went away for a bit. “After we got off the tour we took some time to decompress because we just had to. Then we started writing, and you know, it was just me, Dominic [Corso] and Mario, we’d bring acoustic guitars and we’d write in my parents’ basement.”

Sticking to what they know best, they had their third album in no time, keeping things as basic as possible and letting whatever happened, happen. “If you make the songs you want to make, that’s all you’ll ever need to do. We never thought, ‘Oh, we’ve got to prove these people wrong, that we’re not these ‘kids’.’ Maybe it was somewhere in the back of our heads, but we never talked about that when we were writing songs, you know? We just made the songs we wanted to make.”

As for that title? Matt laughs. “It’s a bunch of things I think. We thought it was funny, and it owns the reputation that some people put on us. It’s kind of an idea to some of our heroes too, you know? It’s a bunch of things, and it sounds cool too, which is important to us.”

Looking to the future is a hard factor for a band as in the moment as The Orwells - they can’t carry on drinking and getting up to shenanigans around the world forever. “Who knows?” shrugs Matt. “I don’t see that sticking. I think the first time America and Europe got a look at us we were young and we were kind of, you know, total assholes. But I don’t know, who knows? I don’t really want to think about it.”

The Orwells’ album ‘Terrible Human Beings’ is out now.

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