The Orwells: A Response

By Maddelynne Parker

In recent modern-rock news The Orwells have disbanded, according to their social media, in response to several allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse against three band members. These actions were first published on a Reddit feed last week with instances of homophobic language thrown into the stream of allegations as well.

There has also been a Google doc created to allow women not on Reddit to share their stories and experiences with members of The Orwells. The three members accused are Mario Cuomo, lead singer; and fraternal twins Grant, bassist; and Henry Brinner, drummer.

Ever since the “Me Too” movement first was brought to media attention in October 2017, actors, directors and other entertainment industry members are now being held accountable for their actions in the past and present. These actions regarding sexual misconduct and abuse in the “Me Too” movement are not only against women, but male victims are speaking out as well.

The music industry has also been holding bands and musicians accountable for their actions. It’s no secret that the wild world of rock ’n’ roll was infamous for the use and abuse of sex, drugs and alcohol. Many bands and members in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s rock scene had used their idol-like power over fanatic teenage girls. In many cases, these girls were underage, naive and obsessed with these musicians.

I can speak to this because I not only continue to idolize modern day rockers like Brandon Flowers of The Killers or Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, but also once loved The Orwells as much as these girls who are now speaking out against them. In high school, these musicians seemed more like celebrities to me than regular people. Being starstruck like this can make a person feel powerless when interacting with someone they place on a pedestal.

Evidence shows that these girls felt similar. On the Reddit post, girls mention that in the past they were “naive” and “starstruck.” One even mentioned that “Mario was kissing every girl in the front row. He grabbed my hair and pulled me close during the song and kissed me.” She goes on in her post to say that she took a photo with him after and has now since reflected on the situation and believes it to be “a really good way to have potentially get taken advantage of.”

Other posts about Cuomo show that many were consensual, but with underage girls or newly turned 18-year-olds. Some say that he never asked for their age and that they didn’t have much, if any, sexual experiences beforehand. On the other hand, Henry Brinner has been accused in the Google Doc of raping a girl in a hotel room after she repeatedly told him she didn’t want to do anything with him.

I saw The Orwells in Columbus, Ohio in 2014. I had no idea who they were because I was there for another band. During this first experience ever of The Orwells, Cuomo aggressively threw his microphone, which swung back into the crowd and nailed a girl’s head in the front row. Instead of stopping the show to apologize or taking responsibility for his actions, Cuomo continued to perform with the band while security made sure the girl was OK. She was taken out of the crowd to get ice and free merchandise before they returned her to her spot.

Rumors came out the next day that the band had actually been banned from the LC Pavilion — now Express Live — in Columbus where they had performed the previous night. The band has been infamously known to be banned from other venues in Chicago, NYC and across the U.S. The Orwells wore their bad habits like a crown.

I was once a huge fan. I still own every record they’ve released, saw them three times in concert, bought one of their most popular touring shirts and wrote a very positive album review for “Terrible Human Beings.” It saddens me as a music journalist because the members of The Orwells are so young and were full of so much potential. They wowed critics with their mature music for being such a young band.

Although they were once one of my favorites, it’s more important that they be held accountable for their actions. Breaking up the band in response to these allegations shows that The Orwells know better and made the proper united decision. I hope that they can learn from this and that the other two members — Matt O’keefe, guitar, and Dominic Corso, guitar — who don’t have accusations against them continue pursuing music in the future.

xX Long live college radio Xx