Not only do The Orwells acknowledge their youth; they see it as a strength.
The members of the Orwells don't need to be reminded of their youth; writers can't leave the topic alone. Yes, the members of the band were all in high school when they started playing. They love to get wasted onstage, but they aren't even 20 yet. At a quick glance, the five Orwells seem like some party kids who got lucky and can now do what they did in garages in front of audiences in clubs.
That's accurate, but for the suburban Chicago garage punks who play One Eyed Jacks on Monday, their youth is more a badge of honor than a scarlet letter. Guitarist Matt O'Keefe says it doesn't get annoying when people bring up their age. "It's an easy focus," he says. "All our favorite garage punk bands were our age when they were big." He points to Jonathan Richman's refusal to ever play "Roadrunner" live again because he's "not fuckin' 19-years-old anymore" and insists garage music is essentially youthful. After all, the essential garage element is usually parents' property.
For all the onstage drunkenness, the messy tour vans and the suburban lyrical themes, The Orwells are surprisingly mature in important ways. O'Keefe says getting into the music business meant they couldn't be naïve about who wants to get on the bandwagon. They to grow up in some ways, O'Keefe says, which meant doing something different than many of their punk predecessors: ditching the lo-fi.
"I don't know much about business sides of those bands, but we're not going to shelter ourselves in fear of becoming a different band," O'Keefe says. "We've been working with producers. This new record coming out, it's not gonna be lo-fi. We're not gonna try to hide behind fuzz." The stories of the young, starry-eyed band getting screwed by record labels and corporations scared the Orwells' parents, "but if you're confident enough, you can avoid the bullshit."
The Orwells find a comfortable place between thrash and melody. Their guitar lines are crisp, backed by rollicking tempos, but an Orwells song has a lot more to it than that. The band understands that rock music should make you move, and it finds grooves easily on debut record Remember When and a couple of recently released EPs. The lo-fi of Remember When quickly calls to mind the simplicity of Jack and Meg White's best rump-shakers, but they don't have to throw every track into overdrive to stay consistently entertaining.
The Orwells are earnest. There's no bullshit for them, O'Keefe explains. They're out to play music, to have fun on tour and to write about what they know so well. The way O'Keefe details tour life is a reminder that these "kids" don't necessarily see this as a job. If they keep that up, maybe people will stop focusing on how young they are and start seeing how good they are.