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Superorganism
SuperorganismPhotography Steph Wilson

Meet Superorganism: part-pop group, part-cult, full hivemind

The eight-piece hail from all corners of the globe, live together in a house in London and are led by a teenager from Japan – and they’re bringing a sense of fun back to music

When Superorganism released their first single “Something For Your Mind” back in February, it set in motion a massive, online whodunnit. From the moment the bonkers cut of cartoonish guitar pop crash-landed into the public consciousness, the web was awash with theories and speculation regarding the identities of the mysterious collective – depending on where you looked, they were anything from a side-project of The Avalanches to Kevin Parker’s answer to Gorillaz. All that anyone really knew for sure was that there were an eight-piece, fronted by someone named Orono, a 17-year-old Japanese girl living in Maine.

Seven months later, three of them – the famous Orono included – are perched in a near-empty London café, smiling as they debunk a few of those internet fabrications. As her bandmates Harry and Emily, pints in hand, do most of the talking, the teenage frontwoman sips patiently on a bottle of Orangina, chiming in with chiming in sporadically with brief, eloquent responses. She sniggers frequently at their jokes, watching on like a proud, younger sibling. It’s been quite the year.

Turns out, Superorganism is the result of a group of longtime friends deciding it was finally time to work together. Harry and Emily met Orono during one of their old band’s Japan shows (she attended as a fan), and they struck up a Facebook friendship with their future bandmate. After discovering she could sing, they invited her to add lyrics and vocals to a demo they’d been cooking up for a new project at the beginning of this year. The track in question became “Something For Your Mind”.

Today, the group all live together in one big, East London house that doubles up as a live-in, 24-hour studio. Orono moved in a month ago and sleeps in the living room, while the rest of the band – currently a total of seven songwriters, producers, and artists, all hailing from different corners of the world, with their eighth member set to join them from Sydney shortly – each occupy a bedroom designated for their respective role in music-making process. According to the group, the Superorganism – part-band, part-nutty musical commune – is multiplying and on the move. Prepare to follow them as they continue the process, down their weird and wacky rabbit hole. Whatever happens, it promises to be wonderfully unconventional.

So, Orono – how did you feel when your friends first got in touch and asked if you wanted to sing on ‘Something For Your Mind’?

Orono: I think like the day before (I recorded it), Emily had been like, ‘Hey, do you wanna be a part of the project?’ I had no idea what to expect. So the next day they sent me (the demo) and were like, ‘Do you wanna write some lyrics?’ I was in bed, so I wrote the lyrics, recorded it on GarageBand on my shitty MacBook in like 30 minutes, then sent it back to them.

Harry: With the time difference, we were sat in the kitchen having some drinks, and within an hour of it getting sent through to Orano, we get this back from her. We were like, ‘Holy shit, can you believe how good this is?’ It’s one of those things where you get the right kind of combination of people and it all falls into place.

Emily: You get a few of those moments every so often in music, but this was just like, ‘Yeah.’

Harry: It really felt natural. That was the first song that was created.

Then, of course, everyone else got to hear the song – and it blew up.

Emily: We just put it up on SoundCloud and sent it to a couple of blogs. We had some more songs, so we thought we’d work on them in the meantime – and that was sort of it. It only took a couple of days. We started to get a whole lot of listens on SoundCloud and Spotify, then people started putting it on blogs and stuff. People started messaging us – all these labels and managers. We were like, ‘Woah, we need some help, this is insane.’

“A lot of pop culture for quite a long time has been quite inward looking – kinda morose... ‘Something For Your Mind’ stands out when it’s played alongside something like that ‘cos it’s fun” – Harry, Superorganism

Why do you think the song resonated in the way that it did?

Harry: I can only tell what the internet has told me. To me, I think it has a real sense of playfulness. A lot of pop culture for quite a long time has been quite inward looking – kinda morose. I like a lot of stuff that’s like that, but pretty much since 808s & Heartbreak, the groundwork has been introspective, sad stuff. That means that a track like ‘Something For Your Mind’ stands out when it’s played alongside something like that ‘cos it’s fun. But Orono’s lyrics and her voice are personal and intimate. 

Emily: It’s all about how life is a bit heavy, but rather than being like, ‘Oh, everything really sucks,’ it’s like, ‘Well, some things suck, some things are good.’ It’s about not letting it overwhelm you.

With the success of the song came this massive online interest regarding your identities – particular yours, Orono. How did that feel?

Orono: I posted so many articles that I thought were funny, ‘cos they didn’t think that I was a real person. I just sat there and laughed at the whole thing – all these cool blogs and websites that I read on a daily basis wrote about how I might not even be real.

A number of those websites referred to you as a ‘supergroup’. What do you think about that title?

Emily: It’s just ‘cos it says ‘super’ in the band. They also like to say that our name sounds like ‘Super Orgasm’.

Harry: I feel like ‘supergroup’ only really applies to Cream, or when famous musicians get together. Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett getting together, that’s a super group.

Did you know the track was going to get played on Frank Ocean’s show?

Harry: No – it didn’t quite compute at first. It’s moments that like that bring it out of the house and make it feel like a real thing. You know, we’re all living together, recording at home. Orono moved into the lounge about a month ago.

Must have been an interesting conversation to have had with your parents, Orono.

Orono: They were kinda unsure at first. You know, when you graduate high school, you go to college – that’s always been my dream, to go to college in the states. But, I didn’t really get into the schools that I wanted to go to, and at the same time the band thing was starting to really happen, so I was supposed to be really depressed at the time, but I was also really, really happy and excited.

It seemed like I should be doing this. I always wanted to do music as well. I can go to college at any point in my life; I explained that to them and I think they’re still kinda worried, but they’re pretty cool. They’ve always known what I wanted to do and I think they’re really supportive compared to other parents.

“Contrary to the music of our band, I think I’m a very boring person... I’m an insecure teenager, just like everyone else” – Orono, Superorganism

Living and creating in such close quarters must contribute to that real amalgamation of sound you have going on.

Harry: Yeah. I think about my dad’s generation, ‘cos he’s a bit of an old punk. Back then, you had your tribe: you were a punk, or you were into disco, or whatever. There was overlap, but I feel it was way more tribal in the past – whereas these days, if you are hung up on certain genre definitions, or prejudiced against one style, that’s a weird thing. I think we’re all products of that. 

Emily: When you get a big group of people like that together, they function as one, that’s how that works. Full hive mind. In that way, the band is just a cult (laughs).

I’ll walk past the house later and hear you all chanting.

Harry: No, seriously – we do these vocals practices. Sometimes there are tradesmen working on houses across the street and who’ll yell something after we’ve finished a song. We get heckled, man. 

Emily: I think we got heckled by an Uber driver the other day.

So, the first live show is coming. How are you feeling?

Harry: Yeah, we play Reeperbahn Festival in September. Then the first London show is in October at the Village Underground – we’re really psyched about that. Because of the nature of how we’ve approached the initial stage of the band, we’ve not had that straight-up, face-to-face reaction yet. That will make it feel real and defuse any anxieties than any of us have about it. Orono’s dad is coming over for the London show.

Orono: I just hope he enjoys the show – and doesn’t complain about it.

Speaking of milestones – is there an album on the way? 

Emily: We’ve been cooped up recording it. It’s done – and it sounds sick. It’s been a real cabin fever kinda thing, getting it going, but it’s come together super smoothly and the whole process has been so much fun, ‘cos there are so many ideas. You can’t really hope for anything better than that. 

“When you get a big group of people like that together, they function as one, that’s how that works. Full hive mind. In that way, the band is just a cult” – Emily, Superorganism

Finally, because we’re here, and there’s been so much mystery and speculation, is there anything you’d like to officially declare?

Emily: Well one thing that people wouldn’t know is that our final member, Soul, is on his way right now from Sydney. We’ve never been in the same room together – Orono’s never met Soul before.

Harry: Erm… what else don’t people know?

Orono: Contrary to the music of our band, I think I’m a very boring person. 

Harry: Come on, that is the least true thing.

Orono: I’m an insecure teenager, just like everyone else.

Superorganism tour from September, with a show at London’s Village Underground on October 5

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