Interview: A Conversation with The Orwells

It’s no surprise that The Orwells are exhausted. Currently on a sprawling European tour with Weezer, and preparing to embark on a slew of North American dates with Pixies in a few weeks time, meeting vocalist Mario Cuomo and guitarist Matt O’Keefe in the O2 Apollo’s dressing room is a quiet affair. “I’ve got a pretty bad hangover” Cuomo apologises, grimacing at the mere mention of booze. “This morning I had a straight up panic attack, which always happens when I drink too much alcohol and not enough water. I’m performing sober tonight. I don’t think I’ve played a sober gig since I was in high school. It might look pretty bad to everyone out there.”

Hungover from sharing stages with their idols is a far cry from the The Orwells’ early days. With 2012’s debut album Remember When being released whilst all five members were still in high school, the Chicago quintet have witnessed a catastrophic rise to fame in the years between. “Weezer are one of my favourite bands, so the tour’s awesome” Cuomo nods. “It’s easy as hell. They’ve got food for us, we only have to play for thirty minutes… it’s pretty sweet. I could get used to this luxury”.

Third album Terrible Human Beings dropped February this year, seeing The Orwells work once again alongside Jim Abbiss – coined by O’Keefe as “the greatest and nicest dude” to hang out with. Following the same garage-rock blueprint as their debut and 2014’s Disgraceland, the pair evidently view it as their strongest work to date. “I’ve not heard any shit about it, so that’s good” Cuomo laughs. O’Keefe agrees: “My friends like it – and if we can get our friends to like it, that usually means it’s pretty good”.

The album’s fifth track, ‘Black Francis’, is an obvious ode to the Pixies frontman – and fitting in regards to The Orwells’ next support slot. It’s obvious that O’Keefe is excited. “We’re huge Pixies fans, so seeing them every night is gonna be sweet. I can’t wait to have them breeze past us in the hallway of every venue we play. It’s gonna be surreal”.

After June’s “pain in the ass” Bilbao BBK Live set that saw the guys perform with borrowed instruments thanks to lost luggage, has touring with Weezer improved their opinion of the rest of Europe? “I’m liking the UK more every time I come here” Cuomo nods. “It’s becoming more and more like ‘America Number Two’. That sounds shitty, but when you’re in a country that doesn’t speak English, it’s tough to do everyday things. You come here and it’s like, ‘At least I can talk to somebody!’”.

Craziness always seems to follow The Orwells wherever they go. Their punk aesthetic has been consistently tinged with a stereotypical ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ attitude; their most recent notorious behavior happening at Dallas’ Spillover Fest last April, where Cuomo punched a sound technician. But the singer is adamant that the group are not as raucous as they seem. “We’re not Alice Cooper. We don’t get onstage and sacrifice chickens” he states. “The craziest thing we usually do is get too drunk and not play the songs properly – although that’s not a good advertisement to come and see us live. But we’re pretty chill dudes. We’re good to hang out with. We’re not special”.

Despite Cuomo insisting that not much has changed in the band apart from his Cuban Heels, their fame was certainly not something they ever expected. “When we were in high school, we just wanted to sign to a record label. We didn’t care about what happened after that” O’Keefe explains. “I never really expected to go this far. I just wanted to play in Detroit”. There’s no denying that Manchester’s a long way from Detroit. Let’s see where the future takes The Orwells next.