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The Orwells: School's out

  • (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye)
(Lenny Gilmore/RedEye)
September 06, 2012|By Jack M Silverstein @readjack | For RedEye

In many ways, Grant Brinner, Henry Brinner, Mario Cuomo, Dominic Corso and Matt O'Keefe are normal teenagers from Elmhurst. All but Mario are 17-year-old seniors at York High School (Mario is 18 and dropped out his senior year), and they fill their days attending classes they don't like for future careers they don't want.

That's because, unlike most teenagers, Grant, Henry, Mario, Dominic, and Matt are in a rock band that has succeeded beyond their garage. Known as the Orwells, they have William Morris Agency booking their shows, were offered a spot on a Hives tour, and on Aug. 8 they released their first album, "Remember When," under Autumn Tone Records.

On Saturday, they play at Schuba's, opening for Turbo Fruits and playing alongside the Inkeepers. Here, in an interview with RedEye, the band talks about what life is like for a group of high school rock and rollers.

(Spoiler alert: There are a lot of bleep-worthy curse words in this interview. Turn away if you don't want to see them.)

So take me through a regular school day.

MATT: It's really mundane. Nothing exciting. You wake up, go to school, leave, go hang out for a bit, and then go home. Nothing really happens.
DOMINIC: It's high school.

Is there anything particularly exciting schoolwise?

MATT: No, not really.
DOMINIC: [pointing to Grant] He does newspaper.
GRANT: I'm on newspaper. But that's not exciting.
MATT: We're not even allowed to play at school events anymore, because we did--what, we were freshmen, I think?
GRANT: I think we were actually sophomores.
MATT: Nah, no, no, we were freshmen. And our school had a huge heroin problem. It was like that year the seniors were all doing heroin. You'd get pulled out of class and go hear these speeches from people who would come in and be like, "Don't do heroin." And we played at the school, and we were like, "You know what would be a fucking great idea? Let's cover 'Heroin' by the Velvet Underground." After that we were done. The deans were ready to walk up to the stage and pull the plug. So it was pretty successful.

At what point did they realize that that's what the song--like, did they know right at the beginning?

MATT: I think students knew, and they could tell something was up. Students were like, "What are they thinking?"
GRANT: There were a couple of old teachers who knew what was up.
MATT: Yeah, there were a few teachers who knew what was up, but until we got to the chorus where he was saying "heroin," I think those deans were kind of oblivious.

What was the school event?

GRANT: It was an Amnesty International for gay rights.
MATT: There's an Amnesty club, and it was a gay rights fundraiser, and it was one of our first shows. They were not happy with us the entire time, because we came in, and we were trying to get some dangerous songs in there just to piss people off. From the beginning we kind of had them on their asses. Broke some school equipment mics. We got fucked for that.

What did you break?

MATT: We broke a school mic that the school provided. Shit just got broken.
GRANT: We supposedly blew out a P.A. as well.
DOMINIC: Did we?
GRANT: Supposedly.

Wait, why was there a concert in the middle of a gay rights Amnesty International event?

GRANT: You know how there's like the Day of Silence and the Night of Noise?
MATT: It's like something our school did where you stand up for gay rights--I mean, honestly, it was like these people that were in the Amnesty club were in bands, and they were like "Let's do a show. We can play." And they set it up.
DOMINIC: In the cafeteria.
MATT: Yeah, in our cafeteria.
DOMINIC: It was good, though. It was a good set-up.
MATT: When we were freshmen, all the bands were coming from the kids who were seniors. And all their music was kind of, what? Ambient almost.
DOMINIC: I don't know--synths?
MATT: Yeah, it was kind of more like chilled out. And we would be like, "Let's go in and let's fucking do something like this," and I think people liked it. It was something new. I don't think students had seen anything like that, or seen it in a while. Especially kids their age doing it. That was our whole plan. Let's go show them what we're about at this first show. And that was what we did. Right when we got off [stage], we got escorted out of the building and got the doors shut behind us.

(incredulous) What? Out of the building?

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