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The Orphan Project: Writing Anthems for the Discontent

Posted by October 14th, 2004 No Comments » Interview: The Orphan Project
Q & A with Raleigh Heitzman and Joe Steenburg
By Matt Ashworth

To be an orphan implies the lack of a biological family.

Perhaps not surprisingly, disciplines as varied as psychology, statistics and Broadway musical story lines all support the idea that unrelated individuals can often form a very strong, almost familial bond.

Such is the case with Seattle band the Orphan Project, a group of genetically unrelated blood brothers who, in just their early twenties, have already pledged their allegiance to their musical family more strongly than most rock n’ roll bands will ever do.

Each of the band’s members – drummer Joe, bassist Raleigh and singer/guitarist Jew – are so committed that they’ve gotten identical tattoos of the band’s logo (a red star on black background) on their forearms. Which wouldn’t be surprising from a major-label kiddie punk band vying for more MTV face time, but is a pretty amazing side-note about a group of young musicians who’ve only now released their first EP. Yes, the Orphan Project have tattoos to symbolize their unity to each other, not cause they wanna symbolize jack shit to us.

Musically, this unity translates into rhythmic, tightly-constructed punk rock with emotionally-savvy vocals that possess an honesty not common to your typical “emo” schlock. The band’s debut four song EP, Am I Here to Shoot Balls or Clear the Table,” is a solid opening salvo that captures The Orphan Project’s musical maturity and hints at the band’s awesome live show.

In preparation of the Orphan Project gracing us with their presence at tonight’s 2nd Annual Bday bash at Chop Suey, we chatted with Joe and Raleigh about stuff. Hey kids, how the hell are you?
Joe: Amazing and terrible at the same time. I don’t wish to expound.

NM: Are you guys really orphans?
Raleigh Heitzman: No, but we are bastards.
Joe Steenburg: I know a couple of orphans, though. Really I do.

NM: Is there any meaning behind the name?
JS: Yes, but it depends on who you ask.
RH: It actually has something to do with a secret Chinese government program we were previously involved with. Either that or we just like the sound of it.
JS: This is a question we prefer to answer at parties. Our research shows that drunk girls are most likely to believe the answer.

NM: Afford us a brief history of the band.
JS: Jew and I have been playing together for a little over five years. We’ve had several people come in and out of the group during that time. We started out in Cali, decided it was over-rated, moved to Seattle without a bassist, then found Ralls like a month later. Now here we are two years later being asked questions by CEO Matt “AA is for quitters” Ashworth.

NM: I actually went to AA once, but it just made me want to drink. ..Anywhoooo, why don’t you tell the good people why they should check out your music.
RH: Cause we put on a good show for good people who pay good money to hear good music.
Joe: Someone once told us we write anthems for the discontent. We write music that we want to hear, music that kids can shake their moneymakers to. Our melodies and overall tone are for people to drive fast to in their car. But our lyrical content delves more into a darker, more sinister arena. Even songs like “I Miss the Holidays” which is actually entitled, “November 15th,” has a dark tone to the lyrics. You wouldn’t know it by the way we slur our words, though, because we mumble a lot. Can you even make out what I’m saying right now?

NM: You don’t seem to be mumbling now, but I still have no idea what you’re talking about. So let’s just move on. I hear you used to be an experimental “math rock” band. How’d you evolve into the poppy/punkers you are today?
Joe: We we’re making music we wanted to hear at that time. I still play those old demos/EPs every now and then, actually. They’re rough, really rough, and no one else would probably want to hear them, but that was the kind of music Jew and I wanted to hear back then. Now we’re making the kind of music we want to hear now. In a year we could end up wanting to hear polka-metal-jazz-fusion and if we do, then we’ll start making it.

NM: You’ve got a really good EP out on Double Dos Records. How’d you get hooked up with that crew?
RH: I knew KII from WSU. He actually introduced me to Jew (Jeremy Washington, vocals/guitars) and Joe. It was all really strange how it worked out.
Joe: We went to see KII’s old band and he hooked us up with Raleigh and it’s been love ever since. Later on KII told us he was starting a label, we said we were recording an EP, and he offered to put it out for us.

NM: You’ve all got matching tattoos of the band logo. Your album art, posters and website all use the same image. Talk a little bit about the tattoos, then tell us why it’s important for a rock band to build such a strong visual brand.
RH: My college advertising classes taught us that “brand awareness” is important in promoting or advertising anything. Plus, the star just looks really fuckin’ cool!
Joe: We got the tats the day after my 21rst birthday. I think it was a way for us to prove to ourselves and to each other that this band and the music we play is something we believe in. Plus it just makes us look tougher, and I needed help because my boyish looks get me no respect.

NM: I have the same problem actually. So what’s next for the Orphans? Is there a full-length in the works?
RH: Yeah, but first we have to convince people to buy our EP or find a wealthy guy who wants 500 copies of it to use as stalking stuffers. Hey Matt do you think Bill Gates or Paul Allen read Nada Mucho?

NM: Paul and I are tight, actually. You want me to set up a meeting?
JS: Yeah, see if wants to meet us at the ChaCha after the Bday show.

NM: You got slammed pretty good by the Three Imaginary Girls in their review of your VERA Project CD release. What’s their problem?
RH: Can’t please everybody.
Joe: I actually didn’t even know who they were ’til somebody emailed me and gave me a link to the site. But it’s cool; we respect them for just coming out to that show and for writing what they felt they needed to write. It was just kind of funny because they we’re the only ones who said anything remotely negative about that show. I constantly tell Raleigh and Jew how shitty certain shows are, but I was even impressed by that one, and I’m in the band.

NM: It was a pretty good show. Can I get both of you to name three other local bands we should check out?
RH: Lila, the Glasses, and the Divorce.
Joe: Heroes Kill Cowboys, The Sunnydale Fighting Razorbacks and Ryan Von.

NM: What should I have asked you about?
Joe: Dude, you should’ve asked me how I like my steak….

NM: Next time, my friend. Next time.
Joe: OK.

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