Artist Discovery Series: The Orwells

By Dan Caffrey

The Orwells didn’t get their name from an author. They stole it from another band (hey, it was high school). This origin is preferred, as their music sounds nothing like the dystopian prog rock you would expect from such a moniker. This isn’t Queensrÿche. It isn’t even …Trail of Dead.

Instead, The Orwells proudly carry the banner of the garage rock revival, dotted with the tunefulness of 90s indie renaissance bands like Pavement and Guided By Voices, yet offset by a sense of non-gimmicky macabre. Remember When, their first official full-length, purrs, then screeches, with songs that expose nostalgia as the plastic-fanged businessman it really is. The 50s slow-dance of “Halloween All Year” is Roy Orbison with a death wish for romance before Mario Cuomo’s megaphone vocals segue into the haunted house effects of “All the Cool Kids”. “You’d rather stay high than say hi,” it begins—just one zinger from a coffee- and beer-stained songbook that’s full of them.

The Orwells’ latest EP, Other Voices, dropped last month, and thanks to production from Brooklyn wunderkind Dave Sitek, it has a thicker coat of polish, although not too thick. The title track pogoes with a punchy cadence about a relationship turned deadly — Take a breath / start freaking out / take a drink / and let’s make out — carrying over the first record’s warped sense of memory and, most thankfully, its fascination with morbidity.

In hindsight, maybe “polish” is the wrong word. Think bloody motor oil instead.

The Orwells

Playlist by The Orwells’ Matt O’Keefe

01. “Alison” – Elvis Costello
Dominic once dated a chick named Allison, scratch that, Dominic is dating a chick named Allison. It has forever ruined this song for me. What an asshole.

02. “Hey” – Pixies
The perfect end of a party/night song. The first time I heard “Hey” I nearly lost my shit, the last time I heard “Hey” I did lose my shit.

03. “Funny How Time Slips Away” – Elvis Presley
My old man thinks he’s Elvis. My old man might be Elvis. You never know! Wax figures were around in the 70’s… Just sayin’.

04. “I’m In Love With A Girl” – Big Star
Wanna know what our sleepy little suburb sounds like in the fall? It sounds EXACTLY like this song. It’s quiet, romantic… in that drunk teenage high school boy way.

05. “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues” – Elvis Presley
We once came close to moving to Los Angeles. I used to play this song in my car in a shameless attempt to make my girlfriend feel like shit, it never worked… I think it made her happy.

06. “Girl From The North Country” – Bob Dylan
“Nobody likes his voice, Baby. We just like the way he sings it!” -Caleb Jones on Bob Dylan

07. “Fuck School” – The Replacements

08. “I Shall Be Released” – The Band
The first time I ever heard this song I was a Junior in high school. We were watching some Vietnam documentary in U.S. History class and this song played over a montage of bombs going off at night. I buried my head in my notebook and cried.

09. “Charley’s Girl” – Lou Reed
Charley’s girl was a fox. We all wanted her.

10. “Sixteen Blue” – The Replacements
Been there, felt that.