Hanging with The Orwells

“I think more bands should be more energetic, but I don’t think everyone has to be as crazy as us. There are times when I see a band and I just think they’d be really good if they just put a little more into it.”

Dominic Corso has a point. His band can be modestly described as a band that “put a little more into it” than most. In fact, in terms of live performances, The Orwells are a band raising the bar – as well as the roof. They pack out venues and put on the sort of manic, sweaty, non-stop shows that will be talked about by those in attendance for years to come. Despite their unbridled live energy, spearheaded by frontman Mario Cuomo, Dominic Corso (guitarist) and Grant Brinner (bassist) come across as surprisingly chilled in conversation – perhaps due to a tiring PR schedule and the constant travelling leaving them mellow.

Upcoming second album, Disgraceland, is where the conversation begins. In contrast to their 2012 debut Remember When, their latest full length offering involved a different process. “Remember When was (recorded) over like two years in Matt’s basement, whereas Disgraceland took about a year with three different producers; Dave Sitek, Chris Coady and Jim Abbiss” says Corso, in a manner that suggests that he has been asked infinite renditions of the same question over recent days.

I ask what it’s like to work with multiple producers. “It’s easier in some ways to work with producers – it’s easier to talk stuff through and they can make it sound exactly how you want to get it.” The latter is no surprise when you consider the trio’s producing credentials. Abbiss especially, who’s most notable work can be heard on the Arctic Monkeys debut album. He has also worked with artists including Adele, Kasabian, Bombay Bicycle Club and Editors.

Moving on to talk about their epic live performances, I can’t help but quiz Corso on their low-key Dalston gig back in February. A show that took place in the confines of a church hall, cementing itself into history as one of the craziest things I have ever witnessed. The question receives an accomplished smirk, “We can’t really remember it – we were pretty fucked up! That was a highlight, but everywhere in the UK has been crazy – every city we’ve played.” We move on to talk about their earliest shows. “Our first one ever was in a venue in Chicago, by luck. After that our other early gigs were basements and garages, 40 or 50 of our friends in a garage and we’d just fuck around. There’s one recording somewhere, Matt probably has it.”

Image: Rory Cockburn
Image: Rory Cockburn

Those early days seem distant as we plunge into highlights of being in The Orwells so far and moments that could perhaps deserve the reaction – ‘Fuck, we’re rockstars now!’ The list is long. It begins with getting signed, “I think the first one was when we first got signed to Autumn Town, we were like 17 and signing is crazy. For me at least, another is when we met with our current label guy, Steve Rubowski from Canvas Back records. He worked for RCA in 2000 and he signed the Strokes, they were my favourite band when I was like 12.” The Weezer Cruise is also a highlight, “I met Rivers Cuomo, he’s one of my heroes! He’s a genius. I think he like still goes to Harvard – he’s been going there for like 15 years. It (the cruise) was like 4 days in the Caribbean – we played a show three out of the four days. We were like the send-off band, the first band to play – Rivers was in a captain suit and he shook our hands before we played!”

They’ve also played with a host of bands including Arctic Monkeys, FIDLAR, Twin Peaks and Palma Violets. Corso also mentions this year’s NME Awards, “that was weird! We shared a table with Two Door Cinema club, there was like two bottles of tequila, six bottles of champagne and they put down like three Domino’s pizzas. Crazy! It felt like we were celebrities, we were two or three tables away from Paul McCartney.”

The band also has high profile fans. Haley Joel Osment (“THE DEAD PEOPLE KID FROM THE SIXTH SENSE!”) was in the crowd for one of their New York shows and former Boy Meets World star Ben Savage has also been singing The Orwells’ praises on twitter. Both Dominic and bassist, Grant (who has just sat down), find this hilarious. Grant sums up being on tour in true rock and roll style, “It all kind of blends together; you’re either drunk, tired or playing a show” before the conversation briefly touches upon their home – Elmhurst, Illinois and what they get up to when they’re not touring. “We’re gamers” Grant concedes, as the discussion spirals into an extensive videogame discussion. Despite being fascinating for me, it is probably not great publishing material. As Grant claims Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 to have the best videogame soundtrack of all time, the band’s manager pokes his head around the corner to wind the interview up.

That night The Orwells go on to play another sweaty rock and roll feast with an extra side of crowd surfing. Mario apologizes for previous comments relating to The Arctic Monkeys (even though he had a point) and London gets another glimpse of one of the most exciting bands to come out of America.

They’re back in June, don’t miss them.

Image: Davey Brett
Image: Davey Brett

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