In March, The Orwells are heading out for their first UK tour since the February release of third album Terrible Human Beings, a more grown up album which has improved upon previous efforts and brought them into some new territory.
Of the title, they said “it’s kind of an ode to our reputation, and we also just thought it sounded nice”, displaying their self-awareness. In the two and a half years since sophomore album Disgraceland, they spent time developing and streamlining their sound. “Dominic and I got really sick of major sounding chord changes and flashy guitar riffs – we tried to cram as many 7th chords possible into 3 minutes and keep the lead parts simple as needed.” The musical shift also extends to their lyrical content: “Lyrics grew from whatever caught our eye – news stories, things we heard people would say. We wanted to stray away from the whole suburban beer guzzler thing.” Their self-awareness comes across in lyrics from Terrible Human Beings, with lines such as “could be a better way to write these wrongs than drinking heavily and writing songs” on ‘Vacation’.
The record is their best yet, refining The Orwells’ sound on tracks such as ‘They Put a Body in the Bayou’ and ‘Ring Pop’, whilst heading in new directions on others. Highlights of the record include both the shortest and longest tracks; the one-and-a-half-minute ‘Buddy’ and the seven-minute closer ‘Double Feature’. “It came together literally in two parts. The back half just kept growing and growing the more we played it. Recording it was probably the best time we had in the studio”, speaking of the latter of the two tracks.
The Orwells released their debut album, Remember When, back in 2012 before they had even graduated high school. Since then, they’ve signed a major record deal with Atlantic and have recorded with music heavyweights including Jim Abbiss of Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not and Chris Coady of Beach House and Future Islands. Over this time the recording and releasing process has changed drastically. “When we were making Remember When nothing was thought out as much. It was just us in my basement making songs for the kids in our school. We would release songs as soon as we’d recorded them, artwork was made on the fly. Sometimes now we might have to sacrifice some spontaneity because roll outs are much larger and longer. We try to make up for that on the stage.”
“I like my musicians drunk”
They’ve come a long way since then, and exploded with the release of 2014 single ‘Who Needs You’. The anti-war track was made famous at least in part due to their performance on David Letterman, where an encore was prevented only by the broken strings on Matt O’Keefe’s guitar. Their feelings towards the song haven’t changed much since they wrote it: “It’s just a good tune that I’m glad people dug.”
They cite influences as bands like The Replacements and The Strokes, as well as anything from Radiohead to rap (according to the band, “chances are high” that singer Mario Cuomo’s rap side project MC-MC will make a return). A super group curated by The Orwells would contain “Paul Westerberg (The Replacements), Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices), Hank Williams, and (up and comers from LA) the Criminal Hygiene boys”, before adding “I like my musicians drunk.” Furthermore, their first record purchase was “probably Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits and In Utero at Borders when I was in, like, 4th grade”, all of which displays the array of musical tastes amongst the members.
The Orwells are also known for their manic and unpredictable live shows. Expect “7th chords and simple leads” on their upcoming UK tour, which will see them head to Bristol’s Thekla on March 4th. “We dig the venue we’re playing, we’ve played there a few times, the boat.” Support comes from another excellent live band, Dead Pretties. It’s a gig not to be missed.