It’s the end of May and I’m in Brighton, England for the annual The Great Escape conference and festival; possibly the world’s best event to discover new talent, and see the artists that everyone’s been talking about over the last six months or so. One act who fit very much in the latter category are Superorganism, whose debut single “Something For Your M.I.N.D.” set the internet ablaze, and now their debut, self-titled LP (released in March), is among the year’s most acclaimed; already featuring on a number of half year best-of lists, including our own.
Now the group, based in London and made up of no less than seven musicians and one graphic artist (whose work features heavily in their set), are set to come to Australia later this month for the first time, playing Splendour in the Grass and a couple of side shows. While in Brighton, where the group had one of the week’s hardest-to-get-into shows (in fact I wasn’t able to get in myself – though I did manage to catch them in Barcelona during Primavera a week or so later), I sat down with three parts of the group. Their defacto leader and lead singer Orono Noguchi, and New Zealand’s Ruby and Emily, who provide backing vocals/instrumentation/dancing and writing/synth/production, respectively.
I spent a lot of time in the lead up to the interview looking through past write ups about the group – commonly seeing them referred to as a “cult”, simply because they have the audacity to live together. In reality they’re closer to The Postal Service, the project from Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, in a collaboration that was formed through the mail, and gave us classics like “Such Great Heights”. Here, Superorganism have written a lot of their music on different sides of the Earth, and developed it through the internet. Interestingly, this is still very much how they make their music, even though they are living under the same roof.
Over half an hour, we spoke about this, what inspires them, how the show is evolving on the road and of course the band’s first ever trip to Australia.
It hasn’t been all that long that the Superorganism live show has been on the road, but it must be evolving pretty rapidly – how do you think your show tonight will compare to the very first shows you played last year?
Ruby: We must have done about 60 shows by now. We had someone who came to our first ever show at The Village Underground (in London) last year – which was incredible – and then they came to the London show we played earlier this year… they were talking about how different the show had become. I mean we feel like we’re still doing the same show, but I guess we’ve become more confident, and just having a really great time.
Orono: Yeah now if we fuck up, we don’t care.
Ruby: And it does feel like every show we do is kind of different, the spaces are different, the crowds are different – and the crowds have been particularly great since the album came out. People have gone from knowing three songs to knowing the whole set, they’re actually singing along. People are more enthusiastic. It’s like they’ve been let in on our secret.
Emily: And that happened so quickly too after the album come out.
Were you nervous when the album came out?
Orono: I wasn’t really bothered by the release, because we made it so long ago. And also we knew it was good. And I knew people would like it. Some people wouldn’t. But most people would. What matters was that we were really proud of it, and we were really satisfied with it, and that’s all that really matters.
I have to imagine you’ve already got a lot more music up your sleeve…
Orono: We’re always working on new stuff. It’s what we do for fun. It started out as our hobby, and it’s still our hobby, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it… what’s the point?
Emily: It’s the best bit isn’t it? Making new music.
Orono: And touring can be quite stressful for obvious reasons… lots of waiting around and doin‘ nothing. But when we’re at home, and making new music, that’s when you remember why you signed up for this – it’s the most satisfying thing in the world. Even just getting to chill out with your best friends.
Ruby: I do love playing live shows though, the connections you can have with the crowds when you’re up on stage can be incredible… but it’s the lead up to the show that’s so fucking boring sometimes.
Emily: Boring AND stressful! It’s a weird combo. But we’re still so new to this, none of us had ever toured before this, so it’s a whole other world. This started just as a recording project, and now we’ve gotten into the live thing, and it’s been really cool because we have people interested in what we do. So that means we can do these shows which are big and extreme… it’s a sensory overload.
Ruby: And we always had a clear idea of what we wanted from a live show. It was never going to just be us going out there and playing – it was always going to be an experience. Our eighth member Robert Strange, does amazing things with the visual work. He comes to shows with us sometimes, but he’s usually pretty busy doing a music video or this or that. But he lives with us, so we see plenty of him
Does living together make the collaboration easier?
Orono: It depends on your perspective and mood. I mean sometimes you just don’t want to see anyone. That’s kind of why I miss being in a dorm, because when you’re in a dorm, it’s totally fine to not speak to anyone, or not interact with anyone throughout the day. But when you’re living with your friends, there’s like some interaction at all times you can’t just turn it off really. I kind of miss that. But creatively – when you feel like being creative – it’s perfect, because you can come up with an idea and then send it to your friend who’s literally in the room next door, or upstairs, and you can work on it right now. I think that’s what’s most rewarding about living together.
Ruby: We haven’t changed the way we work together. We’re still doing everything online, we’re just all in the same time zone now in London so it’s more immediate now.
Emily: We don’t all set up a time to sit in a room together, everyone’s constantly doing stuff and if they think it’s cool they share it. And then one of us might come over there and then add some vocals to it or whatever. It’s more like that.
When I hear all this, it makes the constant reference to the band as a “cult-like” seem absurd. You just can’t afford to live separately! *laughs*
Ruby: I’m SO glad you said that. It’s just the London experience. Living in overcrowded accommodation. We don’t live in a warehouse, I wish we did, with a recording studio and all that, but unfortunately that’s not the case. We live in a shitty, run down London terrace house.
Orono: Cause it makes a good headline.
Emily: I don’t know how you’d be a band living in London and able to live any other way? Unless you had a high paying job on the side I guess. Makes a lot of sense to save some money.
Ruby: It makes it sound mysterious and intriguing. It’s just basic.
Will you have the full band with you in Australia? I know this won’t be the first time for all of you though – but the first time as Superorganism of course.
Emily: Everyone but Robert (Strange) at this stage.
Ruby: Yeah, we’re really looking forward to it.
Orono: I’ve never been, but I love Australia. It reminds me of the US. Everyone I’ve met from Australia has been very loud. They seem very aggressive which I like.
What!? What did you say? *throws table*
Orono: I want to move to Adelaide, because Ben Folds wrote a song about in Adelaide. (Indeed, he used to live there). It looks really beautiful, and apparently, it’s bogan. I have some online friends who are from Adelaide, that I made when I was like 12 or 13, and they were really cool. So I just assumed Adelaide was a city of cool people. I’m comin’! But we’re not playing in Adelaide this time sadly.
And you won’t get any time will you?
Orono: No, we are in Japan for a couple of days to Fuji Rock, and then off to Australia for Splendour and the sideshows, and then onto Lollapalooza in the US. Lots of miles!
*the conversation then descends into a 15 minute conversation about frequent flyer statuses, which, as the host of a nerdy travel podcast, was pretty wonderful…*
Emily: Orono taught me everything I know with travelling. I thought I was an experienced traveller, but once you start jumping on planes every week, it changes everything. I’ve got this fanny pack, this whole system. It’s all about timing it all up. Starting the TV show at the right time. We’re all learning that with touring in general. The pacing of it all. It’s such a weird way to travel.
*conversation continues about how to route flights to get the most miles and Star Alliance versus One World… I won’t bore you, but it sure excited Orono and I…*
Ruby: We’ve really learnt a lot about travelling. We had a tour bus for the first few weeks of the European tour. It was the bottom level of tour buses. But it was amazing. None of us had ever been in one before. You did your show and then you got into your coffin-like bed, and Dino our driver (…of course his name was Dino) takes you to the next city you’re playing in, and you wake up in the city… so you get a lot of sleep – as opposed to being in a van. Which we’ve done a lot of. Waking up at 6am, packing it, driving for eight hours.
Orono: There’s nothing good about travelling in a van. It’s long, boring.
What do you guys listen to when you’re on the road?
Emily: Everyone listens to different stuff, and we have a playlist we all share and add songs to and see what everyone else is listening to. What have you guys been listening to lately? I’ve been listening to a bunch of Car Seat Headrest.
Ruby: The American rapper, CupcakKe is really good, “Deepthroat” is a really good song. She raps about her pussy a lot.
Orono: Do you know the song,”Your Makeup Is Terrible” on the album Anus by Alaska Thunderfuck? You’ve got to listen to it.
I know it now…
Are there any comparisons that you guys hate?
Ruby: I think they’re all flattering to be honest. Gorillaz, Avalanches…
Emily: I love Unit by Regurgitator. Can we be compared to that?
Ruby: I don’t think anything annoyed us, except the cult-like stuff.
Emily: But sometimes I don’t hear it.
Orono: Like Kimya Dawson? Moudy Peaches? I think that was specifically about my voice. I’m not sure about that…
Ruby: There was this song by Bran Van 3000, which was big here in the UK, but I’d never heard of in New Zealand, and some people – not even journalists just general listeners – said we sounded like it. But I listened and I don’t get that. I can’t really feel insulted, because I didn’t know the song.
Emily: Often really famous bands that we love though, so in general it’s been really flattering.
Superorganism will hit Australia later this month for Splendour in the Grass and a couple of sideshows, supported by Australia’s own up-and-coming sensation, G-Flip. The dates are:
Melbourne’s 170 Russell: Sunday 22nd July
Sydney’s Metro Theatre: Tuesday 24th July (All Ages)
Headline photo by Jordan Hughes (Supplied)