Next Stop for The Orwells: Letterman

The Elmhurst band's head-spinning schedule takes them to New York to meet Dave on Wednesday. Then Florida, the U.K. and back here for a 15-city tour.

(Photo courtesy of The Orwells)
(Photo courtesy of The Orwells)

The Orwells are going to be on Letterman Wednesday night. That was the impetus for this latest update on the five guys from Elmhurst who are riding a rocket ship in the rock world. 

And, being on Letterman is incredibly cool. People from Elmhurst—and millions of others—will get to check them out from their living rooms, many for the first time. 

But while an appearance on Letterman for you or I might be the end of the road, the culmination of a dream, the time to start resting on our proverbial laurels, not so for The Orwells. 

Letterman? Just the tip of the iceberg. 

Actually, trying to keep up with all this band has been doing since they left York High School—even just in the past year—is head-spinning.

In November, we took a look at a few of the many articles that have been written about them lately, including an 18-photo spread in Rolling Stone. The iconic rock magazine called The Orwells one of the "Most Criminally Overlooked Artists of 2013." 

They have one record out and another on the way this summer. They played Pitchfork and Lollapallooza in Chicago last summer, and they completed a U.S. tour, opening for FIDLAR.

At the end of this month, they're opening for the Arctic Monkeys in Florida. 

Next month's tour of the U.K. (they've toured there three times already) hasn't even started yet, and they've already announced another U.S. tour—15 stops from New York to California—beginning in March. 

Their international following is growing by leaps and bounds, no doubt with the help of a November appearance on the BBC's "Later with Jools Holland." They were on the same bill with The Killers and Boy George, by the way.

"It's been a crazy year for us," guitarist Matt O'Keefe said from the Chicago studio where they were recording Sunday. "Nobody expected anything like this to happen. Not even us."

What makes it even more extraordinary (and certainly the band is sick of hearing this) is that Matt and his band mates—Mario Cuomo (vocals), Dominic Corso (guitar), Grant Brinner (bass guitar) and Henry Brinner (drums)—are really young. Cuomo is the oldest, at 20, the rest are 18 and 19. The fact that they're young adds to their style: intense, rebellious and raw. Make no mistake; this is no "high school band."

People try to label their music—garage punk, alternative, grunge, indie—but it's really not that complicated, O'Keefe says.

"It's just rock and roll. All those genres are pretty much the same things as rock and roll," he said.

Their brand of rock kept them on the road for about six months last year.

"It's easier over there," O'Keefe said of doing their sold-out shows in the U.K. "When you do U.S. tours, you're in a different hotel every night, doing a lot of driving. The U.K. is much smaller. You can be based in London, drive from London to another city and be back and crash (in London).

And they still use Elmhurst as their home base to recharge. 

"We're still living in Elmhurst," he said. "All of our parents, they've been there and supported us the entire time. Whenever we get off tour, we're excited as hell just to be able to go back, be in our house, go to Portillo's and do all that stuff."

One of the big benefits of touring the U.K. is that it's a little easier to get noticed. It's common for bands to be huge over there before their popularity spreads across the U.S.

"Things move faster over there," O'Keefe said. "The U.S. is so massive; the U.K is the size of one state. It's easier getting your name out in one state. I think that's why you see bands get big over there first."

The most exciting thing for them?

"Meeting the bands that made us pick up our instruments in the first place," O'Keefe said. "We got to meet a lot of our favorite bands in the last year, playing the same shows and festivals."

A big one for them was The Black Lips.

"That was a goal from the beginning—from when we started the band—that we wanted to open a show for them," he said. We used to always go see them when they played Chicago. A year later, we were playing with them in New Orleans on New Year's Eve.

"I think just meeting those people and knowing they appreciate your music as much as you appreciate theirs has probably been my favorite part of the whole thing."

He doesn't really think about what the band might be doing five years from now.

"I take everything one year at a time," O'Keefe said. "It's hard to look five years into the future. Sometimes, bands don't have five years left."

These guys know quite a bit about the music industry now, so if this were to someday end, they'd really be OK, he said.

"Seeing how everything is run in the music industry, all the people you work with and all the different jobs in that field, it's pretty much endless," he said. "We've made a lot of connections over the last few years."

And this week, it's Letterman.

"We're just super grateful for what has been happening in the past year," O'Keefe said.

The Late Show with David Letterman will air at 10:35 p.m. Wednesday on CBS.

Alan Brinkmeier January 15, 2014 at 06:14 PM
I've listened to the Orwells practicing from next door for over six years. Please tune in to hear them on the Letterman Show tonight Jan. 15, 2014.
Rick Heinz January 16, 2014 at 02:02 AM
What was up with their refusal to play out the show? It sure led to one of Paul's best improvs.
F C January 16, 2014 at 07:44 AM
Greg Allman needs to lay off the drugs.
Mark C January 16, 2014 at 02:35 PM
Rick, I guess their guitarist's strings broke. It's too bad, but like you said that was some classic improv. Orwells: April 1 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall


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