In conversation with Superorganism

An ensemble of eight who piqued the interest of the internet when their first official track ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’ blasted them to fame, much of Superorganism remains shrouded in mystery. Ahead of their debut album tour, I was lucky enough to catch up with Harry, the song-writer/ producer/ guitarist of the bonkers psychedelic-pop troupe.

An eight-person team is larger than most – could you tell us a little bit about each band member and what they do?

Yeah, so we’ve got Orono, who sings, writes songs and paints our album art. Tucan, who is a production and mix master – all the record’s mixed by him, he’s a wizard when it comes to fixing other people’s stuff. And then we have Ruby, Soul and B, great singers who do pretty much all backing vocals on the record – and it’s a very vocally heavy record. You might hear Soul singing Korean in one song, and B taking a lead in the bridge on another song and stuff like that. They’re also really good dancers, they choreograph this whole amazing dance routine for our live shows. In terms of vibes and taste with the project, those guys are a pretty big engine driving it. Then you’ve got Robert – he is our visual artist. He’s made all our music videos, he’s put together these amazing visuals for live shows that are projected in a kinda-3D way onto the band when we play. He’s got this kind of great aesthetic vision for the way the band’s presented. And you’ve got Emily, who’s a songwriter, producer, keyboard player in the live band, again just kind of an all-rounder really; and myself, I’m kinda the same in that I’m song writer, producer, play guitar in the live band. That’s the whole eight, I don’t think I missed anyone out.

We all contribute in various different ways, but each person’s kinda got certain things they’re more tailored to and suited to – and so we all play to each other’s strengths. It’s kind of a chaotic little democracy where everyone’s a little specialised. It just kind of naturally developed like that. Feels like ancient Athens or something, you know – we just accidentally stumbled across this way of working that plays to everyone’s strengths and makes sure everyone’s getting their best input into the project.

Hailing from different continents and having met on music forums, what made you guys decide to take the band to the next level, to move to London and live together and all that?

So when we put ‘Something for your M.I.N.D.’ together, we were really excited about the track and the prospects of the band, but it was just a recording project to us, we didn’t know if when we put it out people would be as excited as we are, or if maybe we would get a couple hundred listens on it. But it turns out people were excited about it and everything escalated so quickly in terms of people’s interest in the project – so it just kind of felt natural.

Also, Orono graduated high school sometime last year and we were getting interest from all sorts of labels, indie labels, major labels – so it kinda just felt like, hey we all love doing this, we’re really good friends, we could actually get a really good shot at this now, let’s just do it and see what happens. Once we were signed to Domino Records, it was like hey this is super real now, it’s not just a random little playful project thing that we were all doing for our own amusement anymore – we’ve got an audience now, so let’s make the most of it.

Every time I think back to these things with hindsight, it all kinda makes sense to me, I get a lot of clarity, but when it was happening at the time there wasn’t a set decision-making process. It all just happened really organically.

So what’s it like living together now – do work and personal life get intertwined a lot?

Yeah 100%, we all live and breathe music and the project and we’re all so in the zone with this thing that it’s really hard to separate. Also, it’s not like we have a set kind of band time and personal time or anything – we hang out together all the time. We’re kind of like a little society of people a kinda insulated from larger society. We all hang out in the kitchen, we all share music together and listen to stuff together and discuss it all together – and you end up with a very much blurred line.

At that point, when your whole life is the project and the music you’re making, it’s not like you can go home and just turn it off. With the day jobs I’ve had, when 6 o’clock comes it’s like I’m out, I’ll see you tomorrow, I’m not thinking about this tonight, whereas with this, I might work on a track all day, and when I go down to the kitchen to make dinner, Ruby or B is down there and listening to a new release by some artist, and we all kinda hang out together and discuss it, and that discussion that we have influences both of us in a certain way and you go back up after dinner and continue working because you have this newfound inspiration from the discussion you just had. We’re all kinda just inspiring each other to push on and have these ideas and indulge ourselves artistically all the time, it’s not like it’s structured or routine in any way.

It also doesn’t really feel like work when you really love something. I don’t feel like I’m working when I’m playing around with song ideas – it’s just a fun thig that I’ve always loved doing and now I get to do it professionally.

What do you make of London’s music scene and has living in London in particular made a difference to the group?

It’s an interesting question because to be honest with you, we haven’t really engaged with the London music scene. As I said, because we’re kinda a little society we don’t get much of an impetus to be going out every night. I’m a very social person but I live with seven people so I get a lot of social interaction whether I want it or not, there’s never a dull quiet day really around this house.

So we’re kinda weirdly closed off from the local music scene in that sense. At the same time though I would say that living in London as a city has definitely influenced us all, because it’s a place that’s so big and overwhelming. You can’t really ever quite get a grasp on it. Whenever you think you kinda know the city it’s already changed and morphed into something else and there’s so many different parts that I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface with the possibilities even though I’ve been here for nearly 2 years now.

You’ve been compared multiple times to Gorillaz and in your earlier days when the band was even more shrouded in mystery there was even some speculation that Gorillaz might have been behind the band. What do you think of that?

It’s an amazingly flattering comparison to be honest. I’ve grown up listening to Blur and Gorillaz and just absolutely love David Albarn’s work, love Jamie Helett. We also have that kind of world-building quality that those guys have done with their band, we’re like an audio-visual project in a similar kind of way, so I totally see how people make that kind of comparison.

Yet it’s interesting to me though – whenever you listen to a Gorillaz song, it’s got such  a distinctly David Albarn kind of personality to it. Even though he uses a grab bag of genres and styles, he always comes through for me, so it’s interesting that people would have thought that at all because when I hear our stuff I hear our personalities , especially  Orono, with the  lyrics and stuff. I see how people thought that that might be the case, but really when you think about it makes sense that it wasn’t David Albarn after all.

You mentioned that you do lots of audio-visual stuff. You have a really interesting website with lots of interactive components and even a video game linked. Can you tell us a bit more about that and where it came from?

So we got some artists in the band and we’ve always had a really strong aesthetic kind of presence in what we do. It was a natural complementary part of what we do – I don’t see the music as being the be all and end all of it, we’re trying to do something that’s really engaging in a multidimensional way.

I always think that the genesis to completion of any particular song or project is –  you know, the initial idea comes from the song, and you work on the song, and then once the song’s kinda done, or sometimes concurrently, the song gets passed to Robert and he kind of comes up with this visual scheme that’s going to fit it for the live show or music video. I see them as two parts of one individual piece of art, they’re not really separate in my mind.

On top of that we also have Soul, B and Ruby who come up with all these dance moves for the show and it’s this really immersive interactive experience – sometimes we get people at the front of the crowd dancing along and copying the dance moves. And that’s what we want to do, we’re trying to create this whole world that people can get lost in and obviously the songs are great to listen to on their own, but you’ve got all these various components that play towards the overall concept and world that we’re trying to build with it

The whale made a couple cameos – why a whale in particular?

 Robert came up with the whale. But we just all kind of came to the conclusion that we all have an affinity to it and it’s now the band’s spirit animal really. I think that when we first started the band we created all these moodboards on a private Facebook group and we were sharing all these different images of nature, the internet, space, and all these things that kind of connect nature and humans and make up this whole crazy ecosystem that we’re all a part of. The whale was something that just kept coming up, it’s this beautiful, gentle, kind of scary big creature, and we’ve all got this kind of affinity with it.

 What can you tell us about your upcoming album?

We’re trying to build our foundation. You know how I was going on about how this whole band is a world-building exercise and that we’re trying to create this immersive experience – well to me, this first album is a solid foundation, we’ve laid down all these different styles and different things we could do. The four tracks that are out currently give some indication of the direction of it, but we’ve got everything from the really sombre, contemplative, introspective kind of songs that are a little bit more withdrawn and low-key, ballads almost, and then we’ve got things that are like full on cranking bangers like ‘Everybody wants to be Famous’. And then we’ve got all the stuff in between. We’re trying to show this range of emotion, this connectivity between nature and the universe that we’re a part of, and how we now also have this collective consciousness as creatures, facilitated by the internet.

Can we expect a second album anytime soon?

We’re definitely not going to be one of the bands that release an album and you don’t hear from them for four years or something. You just can’t get that with 8 people in the band, and multiple songwriters, there’s always so many ideas and directions that we’re pulling in. We’ve already got a bunch of songs that were definitely good enough for the album, but for various reasons weren’t right for this particular collection of songs – those will see the light of day soon I’m sure. We’ve already started cranking on with new demos and new tracks and stuff, which will potentially end up on the second album – we’re just writing without an aim at the moment.

lyd

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