Image credit: Paul Hudson. Description: B from Superorganism performing live on microphone.
Ahead of their headline show at the O2 Academy Oxford at the end of the month, we catch up with B from Superorganism on the phone to discuss technology, band politics and performing live.
“There’s something so affecting in the reflections on my screen” – Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, Whatsapp – nerve centers of our modern communication, cyber-spaces for social life arrangement. If I want to meet up with someone I can just drop them a message, pick a time and a place, and then get out of bed, get ready for the world. These are the platforms where my public image is cultivated, my tastes and aesthetics defined: an alternative, personal universe with its own kind of histories, languages and feelings. When Orono, then, the lead singer of Superorganism, sings, “There’s something so affecting in the reflections on my screen”, she provides a poignant comment on how social media has somehow moled its way into all our emotional cores, for good or ill, with the appropriate ambiguity, and not a little melancholy.
“We wouldn’t be a band without social media.” B from Superorganism, backing singer and dancer for the band, who speaks to me in my student room from Superorganism HQ in Homerton, East London, puts it quite succintly: “It all started over ten years ago with members of the band meeting on music forums – an early form of social media, I’d say – to us talking to Orono on Skype and stuff like that. We wouldn’t exist without the internet, and social media, and technology.”
“People assume there must be at least some big creative disagreements or infighting, you know, all of that stuff…”
I’ve asked her whether she thinks we spend too much time with technology and social media, because that’s entirely what Superorganism seem to be about. From the origins of the inter-continental group, banded together with various combinations of New Zealand, London, Japan and the United States, to the way they produce their songs, Superorganism are a social media pop band on the cutting edge. In the beginning, they wrote their songs from different countries via social media. For their breakthrough hit, ‘Something for Your M.I.N.D’, uploaded onto Soundcloud in early 2017, so the story goes, Orono recorded the vocal from her college in New England, Maine within an hour of being sent the instrumental from the rest of the band in London, and that was that. “It was never meant to be the size it’s become.”, B admits.
Now, all eight members of the band are very much living and working together in a peaceful, thriving creative community: “I’m actually astonished with how non-political it is. People assume there must be at least some big creative disagreements or infighting, you know, all of that stuff. I think there are no massive egos in the band. I think that’s what I could point to as preventing infighting.
“How it kind of works is, someone in the band will get an idea, as any musician does, and start working on a demo and then send it to other people in the band until everyone’s touched it. We still work as we did before, when we didn’t live together: over the internet, sending files, and everyone editing it. Then it ends up with [producer] Tucan, who does all the mixing. It ends up in his bedroom. But yeah, it always starts with one person, so they have the most creative control. But everyone’s open to everyone’s ideas, and the best idea kinda floats. So there’s no massive egos. No one’s particularly precious about someone making a change. We’re very lucky.”
“It’s really fun playing to those people who are still maybe unsure, and know maybe some of the songs, and trying to win them over with the show”
Having released their self-titled debut in March to critical acclaim – a tremendous sound collage of slide-guitars, squelchy synths, 8-bit beeps, birds, cars, planes seas, cities, footsteps treading, bubbles blowing, and plenty of beautifully catchy songs besides – the band have been busying themselves over the summer with festival slots in the UK, U.S, and mainland Europe, as well as exuberant television appearances on Later…Live with Jools Holland, and, most recently, on the Conan O’Brian show (“A whirlwind. It was a really amazing experience.”). They have also remixed ‘Humility’ by the Gorillaz, their major forebears in the technologically-driven multi-media pop game – “We’ve worked on a few remixes over the last six months, and this one was head and shoulders above. It was extremely exciting. I would like to think of us as friends of the band, and I hope we can do more stuff together in the future.”
According to B, in all their endeavours, they’ve received positive feedback wherever they go: “That was my biggest take-away in terms of reaction to the album, seeing people singing along. At festivals, people are coming to check you out because they’re curious, not like they’ve bought tickets to your headline shows. It’s really fun playing to those people who are still maybe unsure, and know maybe some of the songs, and trying to win them over with the show.”
Now, the tour bus rolls on for a two week tour of the UK and Ireland, starting in Bristol, ending in Oxford, and hitting all the major cities in-between, including their biggest headline show to date at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. If you’ve seen them live before, I’m told to expect “reinvigorated” set with colourful costumes, interludes, and back-projections, courtesy of the band’s visual artist, Robert Strange, also responsible for the band’s all-lights-flashing music videos. If you haven’t, it’s sure to be as fun and delightful you’d expect a Superorganism gig to be:
“When we decided we were going to make it a live project, and we were all just really keen to make it a multi-sensory experience, more of a performance and a show than your average rock concert.
“And we’ve changed the show up a little bit for this most recent tour, We’ve added a another song into the set, and we’ve moved around so we’ve updated a lot the dancing, which has been very fun, but we’re always kind of changing it depending on what the audience is doing. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun, and a lot of silliness really.”
Superorganism play the Oxford O2 Academy on Tuesday 30th October. Be there.