Taking over Disgraceland, USA
by Danica Levy
While the Orwells might not exactly be a household name at the moment, they have produced a lot of traction in the last four years since their first album came out in 2012. The Orwells are an alternative rock band coming out of the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. The band is comprised of family members and childhood friends that came together in high school in 2009 to form the group. The lead singer is Mario Cuomo along with his cousins Dominic Corso (guitar) and twin brothers Grant Brinner (bass guitar) and Henry Brinner (drums), not to forget the lead guitarist and family friend Matt O'Keefe. They signed with L.A.-based blogger Justin Gage's Autumn Tone record label while still in high school in 2011. They had sent Gage a link to their music video hoping to one day be featured on the site. Gage knew that they would one day be "burning up rooms across the United States."
The Orwells released a single in 2011 entitled "Mallrats (La La La)" which received a lot of praise. The song was compared to a sound similar to The White Stripes from their earlier career. The raw intensity and potential for even greater melodies caused the song to be featured by the likes of Pitchfork, soon to be followed be their first studio album Remember When in 2012. In 2013, the band graduated from high school and started touring across the country, including a stop at the SXSW music festival. They eventually signed with Atlantic Records and were directed in the studio by indie producer Jim Abbiss. After spending sometime on new material they joined The Arctic Monkeys on nine American shows in January and February in 2014.
Perhaps the biggest and one of the most important shows of the band's career took place on national television when they were invited to perform on The Late Show with David Letterman. They performed "Who Needs You" from their soon to be released second studio album Disgraceland. The performance was so intense and so emotionally fueled that lead singer Mario Cuomo took to thrashing on the ground and belting out the song's lyrics. The performance was met with great enthusiasm from the crowd with Letterman himself cheering for an encore but there was no response from the band. It turns out Matt O'Keefe had broken all his guitar strings and was unable to physically play a second song. While the band stood their awkwardly unsure of what to do, Paul Shaffer and the house band tried to reprise the song, including Shaffer trying to recreate Cuomo's performance by rolling on the ground.
The performance allowed new and old rock fans to enjoy the wild spectacle they just witnessed in the Ed Sullivan Theatre. After the cameras stopped rolling and right before leaving the stage, Letterman laughed and put his hand on O'Keefe's shoulder and said. "That is exactly what we needed" then walked off.
The performance was met with lots of praise but to the band it was just another performance. In an interview with Rolling Stone, O'Keefe had this to say about the show, "That's how it usually is. You come out to see us live, we're not going to play the entire song correctly. We would've been faking it if we'd played every single note and were perfectly on time."
The band had received a lot of support and became an overnight sensation. From that night, there were many comparisons between Mario Cuomo's voice to that of Jim Morrison of The Doors. Cuomo's deep tones were clear and had a strong build up, much like The Doors front man.
In March 2014, the Orwells announced their second studio album and it was released in June of that year. To mostly positive reviews and genre defining comparisons, Disgraceland has not disappointed audiences as the band's sophomore effort. With standout songs like "Who Needs You" and "The Righteous One," the band has kept the same edge while maturing as a group with their more concise lyrics. From their song "Bathroom Tile Blues," Cuomo sings about the indulgence of vices for many young men. With depleted emotions and no more love for someone or something that use to be present he proudly sings,
I'll wait another night until you feel right
Let's put a meaning to this end "I'll only do you right"
Another neck to bite
Another heart beating in my head
Don't make me scream and shout
Don't make me leave in doubt
Alright it happened once or twice
I'm not the only man
Don't try to hold my hand
I need a lot of love in my life
Another vacant room
Another shitty view
I got the bathroom tile blues
A bunch of empty bottles
Bunch of could be models
It's the best that I can do.
While most of the songs on Disgraceland represent the young rock star lifestyle on the surface, many of the songs have a deeper meaning of loss and regret that Cuomo passionately sings.
Their quick rise to fame and party lifestyle can only mean trouble for the young artists but at the same time, it is sure to inspire and fuel their lyrical ambitions. We can only sit back and watch as the band creates new music and hopefully doesn't follow in the footsteps of some of their aforementioned comparisons. They offer insightful lyrics and with original sounds from O'Keefe's reckless abandon on guitar, there seems to be an endless amount of potential.
See more 'disgraceful' moments of the Orwells at their website
Author Danica Smith is the Marketing Manager of Levys Leathers Guitar Straps.
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