The Orwells are made up of five 17-year-olds from Chicago, Illinois. They play rock n roll music. Their names are Mario, Grant, Henry, Dominick and Matt. They write songs — scratch that, primitive teenage battle cries — about girls and America and being suspended from high school. Although one might categorize The Orwells’ distinct brand of the blues as garage or punk, they would be wrong. The Orwells sound comes from a deeper, different place–a place both long forgotten and also timeless. We caught up with Matt O’Keefe while he was driving to Philly. Don’t miss these guys at The Masquerade-Hell stage this Monday, March 10 with supporting acts Twin Peaks and the Silver Palms. Doors @ 6 p.m. Tickets: $12 in advance
How did The Orwells first get their start?
We were the only kids our age at our school that played the instruments we did or listened to the music we did, and that’s when we got together to make music. We just started with writing songs-writing & writing & writing.
Who were artists you gained inspiration from?
A big inspiration to start was Skrillex, then that kind of faded. Black Witch, Deerhunter, the Stooges.
How was touring with the Arctic Monkeys?
It was alright. We were playing big arenas, and the crowds were good. We expected to be able to get some advice and hang out with the Arctic Monkeys, but they were constantly behind closed doors.
Did you like playing arenas, or do you prefer a smaller club setting?
Smaller is better. You don’t have security barricading the crowd, you can bring kids on stage if you want. I much prefer clubs over what we were playing on that tour.
How do you connect with the crowd during a live show?
We’re both there psyched to either be hearing or playing music. If you go to a live show you’ve got to be somebody that loves music in general. So you’ve got all these people inside a building, and there’s music playing, there’s people performing in front of you, and there’s an energy between the crowd and us onstage.
What’s the most memorable gig you’ve ever played?
Lollapalooza. I remember growing up in middle school in Chicago, asking the teacher to go to the bathroom, then running to the library to check the Lolla lineup that was just announced. So not only did we get to play this huge festival, a bunch of kids that we grew up around and our family got to come out. Normally you’re playing to a bunch of strangers, but Lolla was a good combination of strangers and our friends and family. You’re in Chicago. It was just a really good experience and great reception from the crowd.
Are you still close with the kids you grew up with?
There are some that will be there forever, but you obviously do lose some friends. If we’re out on tour and miss out on 2 months of whatever was happening back home you do get back and people are different than they were before.
How was performing on Letterman back in January?
Letterman was a great experience. Ever since we played every time our name is mentioned we get the Letterman tag on it from our performance. We weren’t upset though. We weren’t pissed off. (Readers go to minute 1:22 and you’ll understand the context. Schaffer, Letterman’s bandleader proceeded to mimick Cuomo’s hip wriggling, at the Orwell’s dismay.) It just came off that way on air, but if you were in the studio with us when it was happening you’d have a different perception of what our feelings towards the whole thing were.
What has been the most memorable show you’ve ever seen
I saw the Black Lips for my first real concert without my dad and older brother. It was a music festival in Chicago in 2008. Seeing them perform live, it was like a circus onstage. It opened the doors to the music I started listening to after and the shows I started attending.