Spotlight On: Superorganism | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Spotlight On: Superorganism

Months of obsessive stalking pay off for Music Editor Emily Barker, as she finally gets to interview Superorganism and compile all her research into a spotlight feature

Superorganism are on an unstoppable climb to the top of the psychedelic pop game. And that is exactly what it seems to be for the eight-piece, cross-continental ‘collective’ - a winning streak of continual sixes, aces, full houses and slam dunks. Whatever you want to call it, they mosey on through with their youthful and ever-so-current hodgepodge of electronica and internet memes, appealing to millennials on a mass scale. The most intriguing thing of all is that they seem to do it blindfolded, unaware of their uncanny knack of condensing the post-truth, post-caring millennial mindset into three minutes of pop gold. 

They mosey on through with their youthful and ever-so-current hodgepodge of electronica and internet memes, appealing to millennials on a mass scale

‘I don’t even know what that means, actually. What is millennial culture?’ asks lead singer Orono Noguchi, when asked about the band’s seemingly inextricable connection with the generation of Twitter and pumpkin spice. This seems to be a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees: the band’s aesthetic is embedded in a world of GIFs, their music videos are dominated by the distinctive MS Paint Lasso tool and following their social media requires an emoji-fluency rarely seen in the over-25s. At only seventeen years old however (over a decade younger than any of her fellow band members) Orono’s obliviousness, or sarcasm, is easily understandable. 

The band’s aesthetic is embedded in a world of GIFs, their music videos are dominated by the distinctive MS Paint Lasso tool and following their social media requires an emoji-fluency rarely seen in the over-25s

Yet she shows discipline and drive far beyond her high schooler years; after a casual message suggesting that she add some vocals to an attached demo, Orono drew together a finished track within mere hours, swiftly lyricising and laying down vocals that became the band’s first, and biggest, hit to date - ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’. When asked about her impressive work ethic, which unarguably played a large part in catalysing the band’s initial success, her response was down-to-earth and straightforward: ‘I didn’t see the point in not doing it. When I’m feeling inspired, I just get it done, why not?’ 

It is a pace that has been kept up relentlessly ever since. New songs, ‘It’s All Good’ and ‘Nobody Cares’, quickly followed, bringing increasing critical and commercial success, as well as forming a trifecta of singles that would form the basis of their debut album and fledgling live shows. Everyone from Annie Mac to Ezra Koenig was providing radio play, exposure and advice on how to keep up to date with ‘2017’s buzziest and most mysterious new band’. The explosion led to the band finally assembling from their various, remote corners of the world - flocking from Maine, Auckland, Lancashire and Seoul to convene under the roof of one small house in London. 

Orono immediately showed discipline and drive far beyond her high schooler years, lyricising and laying down vocals for ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’ in mere hours

‘It’s so full,’ Orono says, ‘it’s like, a tiny shithole that we pay way too much money for. I lived on a couch ’til, like, January? It was several months.’

‘Now she’s got a bed,’ backing singer and dancer, Soul, chips in.

‘Yeah, but it’s still a piece of shit bed.’

Sitting in a small room backstage at Digbeth’s O2 Institute, we ask Soul and Orono the reasoning behind choosing London as the base for their international project, and what their experience is of the UK as a whole: ‘I like London because it’s so multicultural,’ answers Soul, ‘I love walking down the street, or being in a supermarket and hearing lots of different accents. I grew up as a South Korean in Auckland, which is a multicultural place as well, so I felt really comfortable. Coming to London was like Auckland but way bigger and more exciting, so I felt at home even though I was a million miles away. The weather’s a bit crap but that can be a good thing, you don’t go out and have lots of fun, you stay at home and get stuff done. You create your own warmth through music and art, you create worlds.’ Orono is rather more succinct: ‘When we started the band, six of us were already here. It just made sense...I like how the museums are free.’ 

Luckily, the smoke screen shrouding Superorganism in mystery for at least their first year of existence is starting to dissipate enough for interviewing to be possible. Having first seen the band at their debut UK show at the Village Underground in Shoreditch last October, questions that had been boiling inside me for months could finally be answered: I was so sure I had found every scrap of Superorganism music available before the Shoreditch show, yet audience members still seemed to cheer for and even sing along to then-unreleased songs like ‘Reflections On a Screen’ and ‘The Prawn Song’. 

‘It was crazy. I was like - what the fuck, you know this song? Who the fuck leaked our album? - But I don’t care, it was cool!’

This surprised Orono as much as it did me: ‘‘Reflections’ we performed for BBC 6, I think people literally just knew it from that one time. That was actually the first performance we ever did. The other stuff though, we hadn’t released… it was crazy. I was like “what the fuck, you know this song? Who the fuck leaked our album?” But I don’t care, it was cool!’ Since that first show, the band have been on a meteoric rise to the top of the indie tree. Session slots with Jools Holland in the UK and KEXP in America, as well as tours all over the world and the release of their critically-acclaimed eponymous debut record last month has seen the band grow far more in the public eye. 

I feel like the vibe of the live shows has kind of grown and matured. It just feels like we’re comfortable onstage

‘I think aesthetically it’s changed,’ says Soul about the live show, ‘I feel like the vibe’s kind of grown and matured. That’s kind of an abstract thing but I feel like as performers we’re more seasoned. It just feels like we’re comfortable onstage.’

‘Now I’m yelling too much,’ adds Orono.

Soul nods, ‘She’s definitely grown as a performer. She’s unpredictable, it’s exciting to see what she might do.’

On the day I talk to them, both members are suffering from tour flu.

‘I got sick in Norway,’ Orono explains, ‘and then the second gig we played I was really sick and my throat was dying, and everyone said “don’t scream, you’ll get so fucked if you do all that shit.” I went on and that was the hardest I went. I screamed the whole set.’

Soul laughs. ‘You yelled, ‘you can’t control me!’

Soul’s assessment of the band’s live capacity proves entirely true. The staples of that original Superorganism show are still in place: coordinating rain macs; a solemn procession onto the stage while ringing handbells; an array of backdrop screens plastered with heady, psychedelic visuals. With the debut album being a compact ten tracks, the setlist has stayed predictably similar and predictably short, but it was immediately clear at their Birmingham show just how much Superorganism have progressed since the autumn. Choreography was slicker, harmonies were stronger, and, overall, we seemed to be in the hands of a better-oiled band, who marched their way through the set with complete confidence. Orono’s stage presence had been altered the most - although her contemplative singing stance, with head down and eyes closed, was still there, it was interspersed with spontaneous banter with the crowd, and she was clearly enjoying going off script, jumping up onto pieces of equipment, editing vocals, and swaggering crowd interaction, at one point shouting from atop a speaker, ‘Birmingham, I heard you like to fucking mosh!’ 

It was immediately clear at their Birmingham show just how much Superorganism have progressed. Choreography was slicker, harmonies were stronger, and, overall, we seemed to be in the hands of a better-oiled band, who marched their way through the set with complete confidence

Superorganism show no signs of slowing down their evolution into pop giants. The summer is bringing with it a hefty festival schedule for the band, with appearances across the continent for two solid months, and I was assured that recording for the sophomore album will be underway at the same time:

‘When we finished the record we actually ended up with way too many songs, and we’re already working on other stuff on tour,’ reveals Orono.

‘Whether that’s a second album or something else, there’s definitely more stuff,’ Soul concurs. ‘We do get little pockets of time, and we’ve all got laptops. It is an inspiring time I reckon, so I hope that everyone can create, it means we can get shit out quicker.’ 

I was assured that recording for the sophomore album will be underway at the same time as their hefty summer schedule

‘Do you think that is generally where the process of making music is going?’ I ask them, ‘with the internet as a tool you can write at any time, release anything in any capacity…’

Soul seems particularly inspired by this idea: ‘I think part of the charm is that we do it all on a computer at home, not heavy industry-standard analogue gear. Which is our generation’s thing, that you can just get a cracked copy of Logic or Protools, download all the plugins and just get YouTube tutorials. 

Superorganism certainly define the DIY ethos that the internet generation is adopting. If a record as great as theirs can be made on a Macbook in somebody’s bedroom (Orono recorded the vocals to ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’ in her dorm room back in Maine, before she had even met the rest of the band), then the gap between professional and amateur art is becoming more and more negligible - with fantastic results. 

Superorganism certainly define the DIY recording ethos that the internet generation is adopting

‘It’s not even about sound so much,’ is the ethos Soul explains to me, ‘that’s the abstract thing about it, it’s about the personality. Does success coincide with quality? I heard something on Radio 6, with David Byrne, where he’s going ‘I can listen to something hugely successful and something that no one knows about, but there’s no difference in the quality of music, it’s the same.’

Let us hope that the band’s busy European festival schedule this summer will provide the inspiration, and not over-exertion, that will allow them to continue their rise. With their wide-spread talents and ability to not only steer into the skid of current trends, but embrace and uniquely build upon the über-contemporary ‘home-made music’ sound that currently sets them apart from the competition, there is no reason why Superorganism could not become one of the defining bands of their generation.

More information on Superorganism’s upcoming projects and tour dates is available on their website

UoB English & Creative Writing student. Dog enthusiast.



Published

16th March 2018 at 9:00 am



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