“I’m not that old but I’m getting pretty wise” — a sentiment within the early seconds of The Orwells’ new album, Disgraceland, that pretty much sums up the eleven tracks that follow it. Two years have passed since the band emerged from their boring Chicago suburb as five high schoolers hellbent on reminding the world that American rock & roll is still alive. A lot has happened since then for The Orwells. They’ve slain and sweated on audiences around the world, recorded with their favorite contemporary producers, shared the stage with childhood heroes, raked in accolades from distinguished publications and even had David Letterman begging them for more. And now, as they release their irresistibly raucous yet masterfully architected Disgraceland on Canvasback Music, The Orwells are getting pretty wise.
The story of Disgraceland — recorded last fall at studios in London, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Woodstock, NY — is the story of The Orwells escaping the confines of their hometown and of their own expectations for themselves. Back when they made their 2012 debut album, Remember When, they were recording by themselves in guitarist Matt O’Keefe’s parents’ basement. O’Keefe, bassist Grant Brinner, his brother, drummer Henry Brinner, guitarist Dominic Corso and his cousin, singer Mario Cuomo, had been playing together since 9th grade. “We were hoping eventually something would happen and it would become serious,” says O’Keefe. “We were like, ‘We love writing songs, so let’s just keep doing it.’ When we were writing those early songs, the goal was just to make all the other bands in our high school jealous.” Maybe one day, they thought, they’d get to be as beloved as their heroes The Black Lips. “You make good music, say what you wanna say and have a good time — that was what we were shooting for,” O’Keefe continues. “But now that we’re a little older, the goal is bringing rock & roll back to everybody’s car speakers. Sometimes you get afraid to go to the highest point you can, at the price of being called sell-outs or whatever. But we say fuck that, if we can get every single kid playing rock and roll music in their parents’ car stereos, that’s what we wanna do.”