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redeyechicago.com

Q&A: The Orwells

By Andy Downing

RedEye special contributor

12:00 AM CDT, March 20, 2014

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How can you gauge the big-time attention/scrutiny currently being given to The Orwells? Note how many interview topics are now off limits.

In a mid-March phone interview, frontman Mario Cuomo, 20, couldn't comment on the garage-punk quintet's summer festival plans, the title of its full-length debut (later revealed to be “Disgraceland,” out June 3), or if the band (who recently toured with Arctic Monkeys) has received any other late night offers since scorching the set of “Late Night with David Letterman” in January (“A couple have called, but I can't really talk about it”).

Fortunately the Elmhurst native was more forthcoming discussing his experiences on February's Weezer Cruise and the power contained in his trademark blond locks.

You guys generated a lot of buzz with the Letterman performance. Did you realize in that moment something special was taking place?

Not really until I watched it on TV in the hotel room that night. I kind of knew then it would be talked about, but it seems now a lot of people actually discovered us through that. It's the first thing people bring up when they say how they heard about us.

It seemed like there was some confusion when Letterman and [band leader] Paul Shaffer tried to get you to play another song.

We didn't know [an encore] was a possibility ever on a late-night TV show. When we finished playing the song I was waiting for him to say, “Good night!” And when that didn't happen right away we were all like, “What the [bleep] is going on?”

What was going through your head when Shaffer was rolling around on his back, mimicking your moves?

I was just thinking, “This is an old guy that's actually having fun right now.” I figured they probably have to sit through some [bleep] they really hate every night and pretend they give a [bleep]. It felt like they were actually having a good time, and they seemed genuinely happy.

Did that experience prepare you for the surrealism of performing on the Weezer Cruise?

That was actually really awesome. All the hardcore Weezer fans are really nice people who just love the [bleep] out of Weezer, and they were really accepting of us. I met a bunch of bands I didn't know if I would get along with, but they turned out to be really cool people. There was a surreal-ass moment when I was sitting front row watching Weezer play “Only In Dreams” while I'm floating in the middle of the [bleeping] ocean. For a second I was like, “How the [bleep] does this happen?”

You've kind of become known for your unhinged stage presence, and I remember you telling me you're actually more inspired watching rappers than most rock frontmen because of the energy they bring.

Tyler, the Creator is probably the greatest rapper in terms of putting on a live show. I feel like he's in his own league. I like when someone has the crowd in their hands and they can control them to the point it's almost [bleeped] up. At [SXSW] Tyler got arrested for telling [the audience] to break down the barrier and come in. He has the power to make a crowd do something that will end up making the show mean that much more. That's so cool he has power like that. He's an artist the fans will do almost anything for to the point it's almost creepy, which is awesome.

What's the creepiest fan interaction you've had

There's been a lot of weird [bleep]. There are no posters of me, but girls will go to Kinko's with a picture and make their own posters. Then they post pictures of their room and there'll be this life-size poster of me on the wall and I'll be like, “What the [bleep]?”

On “The Righteous One” you sing, “Don't cut your hair.” When's the last time you actually had short hair?

I haven't cut my hair in like two-and-a-half years.

What would it take for you to cut it at this point?

Probably the hottest [girl] in the world asking me to or something.

Are you like Samson, where your power comes from your hair?

[Laughs] Yep. There's a lot of power up in this [bleep]. It's almost become the way people know me. It's like my ID. I feel like I'm still getting juice out of it, so it's not time [to cut it] just yet.

The Orwells, 7 p.m. April 1 at Lincoln Hall. Sold out.

Mario Cuomo personality test
What's the last album you bought? “I just bought the Har Mar Superstar Record called 'Bye Bye 17.' Well, he actually gave it to me, but I insisted on buying a T-shirt anyway.”
Song you've listened to on repeat recently? “'Funny' by the Black Lips.”
Song you never want to hear again? “Anything by Tame Impala.”
Best concert you've seen in the last year? “I just saw Har Mar yesterday, and I expected it to be good, but it was really [bleeping] good. And we also played a show with Charli XCX, who I thought was going to suck ass live, and she turned out to be super bad-ass. She's a super-sick frontwoman, and she was super into it. It's a tie between those two.”
New band you don't know personally that deserves to be big? “Now I'm actually meeting all these bands I really wanted to be huge, so I don't know. That's really hard to answer.”
Favorite movie ever? “I think it's between 'Kill Bill: Volume 1' and 'Sin City.'”
Chicago's best music venue? “As far as places we've played I'd say Schubas. The place I've had the most fun seeing shows at, which I think is almost more important, would be Logan Square Auditorium.”