Chicago rockers The Orwells are having a pretty good year. The young quintet just released their third full-length, “Terrible Human Beings” in February. The band’s first album since 2014’s breakout, “Disgraceland,” the 13-track collection is their second release on Atlantic imprint Canvasback Records.
And while they’ll hit San Diego on Friday as part of their first North American run for the new album, the explosive 5-piece just announced they’re heading back to Europe in the fall to open the UK leg of Weezer’s “Feels Like Summer” tour.
PACIFIC recently spoke by phone about it all with 22-year-old guitarist Matt O’Keefe from his Windy City home.
PACIFIC: You were sitting on this album a while before releasing it. Does that make anything weird in respect to moving forward creatively or the feeling of finally getting it to the finish line?
MATT O’KEEFE: It is weird if you look at it in terms of the life of a song. Initially, I’m always excited when I write one. Two weeks in, I know it, I’ve played it a bunch of times, and I’m used to it. Then, you go in to record it and have to wait for the whole rollout process. You spend a year just sitting with a song.
But when we go back out on the road, and we’re in different cities where kids are excited about the music, and they’re singing it back to you, it gives it all a new kind of life. It regenerates it. And I’ll find myself saying things like, “You know what? This is kind of a cool song.”
Ha! You also took a more all-in creative approach this time around, right?
This was, easily, our most enjoyable record to write. We just had much more focus on the base of what we were making. And it was great for everyone to be involved beyond just their instrument and more on entire songs - which we did on the first two records but in much more of a “tip-toeing on eggshells when venturing into someone else’s zone” kind of a way. This time around, egos were checked at the door and everything was open.
And it went both ways. It was a two-sided sword. I would get it and I gave it. But in the end, it made for a much stronger record.
Was any of this prompted by “Who Needs You” charting and becoming a hit from the last record?
We just got back from Europe. We played Germany for the first time and were able to sell out shows. And there was this understanding that there might be even more places on the planet where people are waiting for our music. We knew that when we went in to write this record as well, and we knew that it meant the stakes were higher. What we’re saying is going to more people now. So you push yourself to take as much advantage of that as you can. Because who on earth knows how long you’ll have the opportunity to have it heard by that many people?
The Orwells with The Walters
When: 7:30 p.m. March 31
Where: The Irenic, 3090 Polk Ave., North Park
This is your first North American run for “Terrible Human Beings.” You ready to get back on the road again?
It never really gets old - even when you’re coming through town for something like the third time on a record cycle. It’s just always fun to see your friends from other cities.
Anything you can talk about in the way of new material?
Not really. I think that’s in a vague place right now. But we also haven’t stopped working on music. There’s definitely something brewing. But we haven’t really put our heads together yet and decided what that’s going to be. There is stuff being made, though.
Is it hard to be the odd man out between a set of twin brothers and a set of cousins?
(laughs) I met those guys so long ago, at such a formative age. And we’ve been together ever since. Obviously, there’s that blood ingredient missing, but I still feel so close to all of them. If anything, I’m the one who gets the benefit, because I don’t have to see any of them for things like Christmas dinner. I actually can get away for longer than they can get away from each other!
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to email@example.com.