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Elmhurst Punk Band Headed for the Spotlight at Austin's South by Southwest

Newly signed with a record label, the Orwells prepare to promote first full-length album

The Orwells have the feeling they may be standing at the edge of something big.

That something big is the annual South by Southwest Conference and Festival March 13-18 in Austin, Texas, where original music, independent films and emerging technologies all have a chance for their moment in the spotlight.

The teen band is comprised of singer Mario Cuomo, 18, guitarists Dominic Corso and Matt O’Keefe, both 17, bassist Grant Brinner and drummer Henry Brinner, both 16.

The five musicians have worked together for about four years, playing local venues and writing and recording most of their music in O’Keefe’s basement. Besides their instruments, amps and microphones, the group uses Logic, a Mac-based music recording and production software to record and engineer their tracks.

Corso and O'Keefe are the chief songwriters and Cuomo, the lead singer, writes most of the lyrics.

Last October, the band independently released its first full-length album, Remember When, with 12 tracks of originals, some of which come with accompanying music videos that can be viewed on Vimeo. (See if you recognize the familiar backdrop of Yorktown Shopping Mall in their “Mallrats” video.)

The album caught the attention of Justin Gage, writer of the popular L.A. music blog Aquarium Drunkard, and host of the weekly Aquarium Drunkard Show on SIRIUS Satellite Radio.

“I was drawn to the immediacy of the music and the attitude of the band,” said Gage, who first heard their music last December.

Just before Christmas, Gage contacted the Orwells. “I have since been playing them on my weekly SIRIUS XMU show, which airs Fridays,” he said.

The band has just signed a one-album deal with Gage’s record label, Autumn Tone records. The label will distribute Remember When and, in the process, expose them to a wider audience.

“We try and act as an incubator label for artists, helping them get to the next level—whatever that may be,” Gage said.

For the Orwells, all the focus is on the next big gig, on a soundstage at SXSW. Until the group flies down to Austin for the March 15 performance, every spare moment has been spent in O'Keefe’s basement, practicing.

Corso said it’s a thrill to know they will be sharing the stage with other bands, like Youth Lagoon and Bass Drum of Death.

“Hopefully, we’re going to meet a bunch of bands there that we actually listen to,” he said. “A lot of the bands we listen to go to SXSW basically every year, so meeting them would be cool.”

Whether they’re at the edge of their big break or not, Corso is confident the band will keep making more music.

“We’re always recording music,” he said, describing the band’s style as Midwestern or Flower Punk. “[Our listeners] can get our newest album, but once a month we have a new single to put out. We’re very productive. That’s all we do—we record our music.”

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