With Coachella on the horizon and iPad commercials on the air,The Orwells are making more of a name for themselves while still staying true to their roots. They can causally play a tour in Europe and then come home to play a friend’s house show. buzz sat down with guitarist Matt O’Keefe to discuss the band’s upcoming Urbana house show this Saturday.
buzz: The last time I saw you guys was in a friend’s basement in Elmhurst. Now, you guys have over a million hits on YouTube. Have you noticed a change in your musical career after the iPad commercial?
Matt O’Keefe: Not really, just more people have heard that song. We’ve made some new friends. For the most part, no, it wasn’t a career-changing thing. It’s just something that happened.
buzz: Did apple contact you guys for that commercial?
MO: They contacted us. The person in charge asked us while we were in France or something. Then we had to cancel one show to go to London to record in a weird little venue. It all happened within a week.
buzz: It seems like you are constantly playing shows. Do you guys ever get sick of each other?
MO: Yeah. Last year in 2014 we were touring a lot. This year has been kind of quiet. It’s time to focus. We were with each other 24/7 so naturally you get sick of each other.
buzz: What is the music making dynamic like within the group?
MO: Me or Dominic will have a chord change to the song. Then we will all get together and work it out from there. We make rhythms and get the core of the song, and then everyone adds their flavor.
buzz: Do you guys typically write at home or on the road?
MO: We’re bad at writing on the road. We write all the songs at home, and record like 30 demos and practice in my basement. We record shitty versions in Elmhurst then take it to the studio.
buzz: Where is your studio?
MO: We don’t have a specific studio. We are looking to record downtown. The last album we recorded in London and Los Angeles. It was a lot of traveling — it was hard to stay focused. The studio changes, so the final product is always up in the air.
buzz: Do you think your sound changes throughout the recording process?
MO: Yeah, there are more instruments lying around in the studio. Sometimes we want to add instruments then realize the songs are way too crowded. The best part of the studio is that it makes the album sound more connected. The same tones and sounds go into the final product.
buzz: So there are instruments lying around in the studio?
MO: Yeah, there’ll be a bunch of guitars and amps. There are organs and pianos, which is something we don’t have in Elmhurst.
buzz: Have you guys ever used an organ?
MO: Yeah! It’s pretty subtle, just there to fill out space.
buzz: Have you used music you’ve written back in high school?
MO: ”The Righteous One” was written sophomore year of high school. Once we went back to it, it turned into a whole new song. That’s the only song that that has happened to.
buzz: The Orwells started off as a DIY band. Do you think a band can stay DIY after so much success?
MO: Not like what we were when we were forced to be DIY. Now we have to find a balance. There is no way we could book shows in different countries. It would be way too difficult. We have people to book shows and do tours. You can’t reach as many people when you are DIY. Whatever it may, you wouldn’t be able to reach as many people. We try to find a balance; we don’t want to loose the aspect of booking shows.
buzz: This secret show is causing a lot of hype in Champaign-Urbana. Whose idea was it to keep your appearance low-key?
MO: We just did one downtown, at Schubas where we played under a secret name. Dominic booked it through the kid who is throwing the show. It came about by knowing people.
The Orwells will play an Urbana house show with Flesh Panthers, Petty Crimes, and The Honeydips on Saturday, April 4th. $5 for entry, show starts at 8:30 pm.