INTERVIEW: The Orwells

It’s been a good year for The Orwells. Their new album Terrible Human Beings came out in February, and following constant gigs throughout August and September, they’re now on the road with Weezer, and back in the UK. Ahead of the gig at Manchester’s O2 Apollo, I caught up with Mario and Matt.

The Orwells are an infamously brilliant live experience, but it seems they’re just as animated off. “Did you see the guy hanging out outside?! The psycho man?! He’s just saying insane shit!” Yep, welcome to Manchester… But how’s the rest of the tour been? “Dope, dope, dope and easy,” chirps Matt, before listing off everywhere they’ve played. And where do they have the most fun? “Well, we’ve only been to Germany twice so it was fun to be back there, but it was at the beginning of the tour so our whole sleep schedule and everything’s all fucked up.” He then launches into a tale about their night in Leeds, which Mario’s memory of is foggy until ‘Despacito’ and cocktails are mentioned. ‘Oh yeah, we had a nice fucking night with Justin on the speakers and a nice fancy drink in my hand.”

One can’t really blame them for not remembering; there’s been a lot of gigging recently. How do The Orwells avoid going crazy?

“I don’t go crazy, crazy ‘til I go home,” Mario tells us. “And then I really go crazy, here I’m good. It’s just strange cos your friends are on like a work schedule or school or whatever, and you’re like ‘oh fuck’ it’s weird to get used to it again. There’s a lot of the week that you’re kind of alone. Like 5 days of the week that no one wants to go hang out.”

Surely there are sibling-esque tiffs on the road, though? “Fuck, yeah! Last night was good, we just talked shit to each other for like two hours and it was a blast.” They seem oddly happy for two bandmates who seem to have spent the last night firing insults at each other. “It was actually really healthy and I think now the new technique is like we just get super, super drunk and get it all out all at once. And then you’re reset and can go another 10 days and then you gotta do another one.” I suppose if you’re drunk then no one remembers anything the next day. Mario jumps in defensively: “everyone seems to remember everything I said though. Very well.”

It’s clear it’s all in good humour though; there’s not even a hint of a malicious tone between the two.

On to the new album, Terrible Human Beings. The Orwells had a two year gap before releasing the album – what was going on in their world in this time?

While Mario jokingly feigns memory loss of the whole period, Matt opens up: “We took some downtime. It was our first time like really touring coming off that last record so I think we just had to reset for a second. We wrote the record fairly quick and recorded it within like 7 months from getting off the road, writing and recording. And then it was denied.”

What happened? “Maybe it sucked.”

Maybe, but it’s worked out for the best because Terrible Human Beings is pretty damn good. Having called in Jim Abbiss, Terrible Human Beings became the best version of itself. Something I’ve always wondered is how bands choose producers – it’s a lot of trust to put in someone. “We got lucky ‘cause we did two songs on Disgraceland with him so the next time around out of everybody we worked with we felt most comfortable with him. And we connected the most with knowing the kind of sound we wanted to get.”

The band also managed to lure him to Chicago for a whole month to record. A welcome change:

“Three fucking continents for one record, that just doesn’t make sense at all.”

It’s a funny juxtaposition, though. The bands open conversation about their bad press back home and the desire to record there. Is the reputation something that follows them over here, too? “A little bit. One time they had a guy follow me around everywhere I went. I had a babysitter.” Matt doesn’t remember, but it’s etched in Mario’s head: “The dude with the ponytail who was scary as hell. Tony wouldn’t let us go out alone anymore, he’d send someone from his company with us.” Why do a group of grown men need a babysitter? “It was probably for the best, we were coming over here when we were like 18 and just being cut loose and we’d go get hammered.”

So they’re not really trusted anywhere, but what about the response from fans? “The only difference is the crowd do more soccer chants.” Again, welcome to Manchester. “It’s cool, though! As far as motherfuckers bouncing up and down it’s the same thing everywhere.

I’m intrigued about their stage show, one which involves a hell of a lot of bouncing around from Mario. Do they plan anything in particular or does it just happen?

“I dunno, tonight might not be a good one,” says Mario. “I’m trying not to get drunk and I don’t know if I’m that good of an actor.” So it’s alcohol fuelled? “It’s more like a mental block to think you don’t look like a total asshole. I’m dreading tonight a lot. It’s gonna be tough as hell or I’m just gonna crack and start drinking again. My body’s not ready for that right now.”

“It’s like anything if you’re sober or drunk,” Matt adds. “If I was to like say ‘oh I’m gonna throw this beer bottle up and try to hit it with my guitar’ drunk, I’m like ‘that’s gonna be cool’ but sober I’m like ‘that’s lame’. You’re more aware.” Mario’s also worried he’ll forget the words – “I might have, like, drunk muscle memory” and the awkwardness of locking eyes with a crowd member. I’m surprised they can even see the crowd, don’t stage lights essentially blind you?

“Yeah they help. Like some crazy lights help you move through the night. It just feels cooler. Especially when it’s bright and dark a lot and you feel like you’re travelling through time.” Mario’s dancing already – I assure him he’ll be fine tonight. And he is. I don’t know whether he cracked and drank, but he certainly covered it up well. Frenetic, sure, but that’s the joy of The Orwells and booze or no booze they put on a show. I’d asked if it was a case of stage fright, but it clearly wasn’t.

Watching The Orwells, it’s obvious how they’ve landed such big support slots. The couple next to me had brought their toddler who spent the entire set bobbing her head and grinning; if you can keep the attention After Weezer, they’re heading out on the road with Pixies. I ask them, if they could choose anyone one, who they’d support. The answer? Bieber.

“If he was like ‘yeah I want you guys to come on tour’ we’d be like ‘fuck yeah dude’. Everyone’s going ‘Justin that’s a big money loss’ and he’s like ‘YO THAT’S MY FAVOURITE ROCK BAND. THEY’RE COMING. Get on my jet’. And we’d go and watch him play Despacito.

The other option is Kanye. I tell them to go for it, they’d get a huge new following. “We don’t have a lot of star power. I can’t hit anybody up right now to help. We don’t have any actor friends that would be cool. Chill with Ben Affleck sometimes.”

If they did have actor friends, who would play them in a movie? Mario hesitates before a pretty certain, “Elle Fanning.” Matt? “Dakota.” The conversation digresses into Elle and Dakota Fanning movies; The Runways and Neon Demon – both which Mario highly recommends.

We bring it back to sanity. Their non-stop touring comes to an end in December – what have The Orwells got planned for the rest of the year? “Something creative,” says Mario. I suggest making a film with Elle Fanning, but he hasn’t got a camera.

The real answer is writing, and hopefully there’ll be less of a gap before we hear more from The Orwells.

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Melissa Svensen

Melissa Svensen

Melissa, 22. Editor. Student, music journalist, probably talking about Blur or Bowie