In 2013, Talking Heads’ powerhouse and musical pioneer David Byrne stated, “the internet will suck all creative content out of the world”. Though the statement was mainly referring to the decreasing monetary value of music due to the rise of digital piracy and increased popularity in streaming platforms, there’s also an argument that the internet can make us lazy, distracted, less likely to flex our own creative muscles and more likely to replicate someone else’s creative work. SUPERORGANISM, however, are a band who kick against the grain, acting as a beacon of Technicolor hope and proving that the internet can spur innovative creativity.
Without the internet, our conversation with Harry, one of the group’s songwriters and producers, would have been a lot more difficult, for one. Sat on a couch on a dreary Birkenhead evening, I facetime Harry – who also plays guitar on live duties – half the world away. “Technology is the central feature of this band getting together in a lot of ways,” a faint New Zealand accent tells me, from the midst of touring the States with a band who only released their debut track online just under two years ago. “We wouldn’t have met each other in the first place if it wasn’t for the internet, we wouldn’t have learnt how to make records at home if it wasn’t for the internet, we wouldn’t have been able to make records at home if it weren’t for digital fuckin’ workstations.”
Flying the flag for a new breed of bands who formed on the web alongside the likes of hip hop collective Brockhampton, Superorganism are a band doing things differently. “None of this could have ever come together 20 years ago, so, in that sense it’s very of the moment. It’s in the way that we met. It’s in the way that we make music and send it before opening it in programs like Logic. It’s just so fundamental to the band that it’s hard to separate technology from the existence of Superorganism in a lot of ways.”
Superorganism’s background certainly shows a change in the way music is made and groups are formed. With little public exposure, the group signed a record deal with independent trendsetters Domino and, before long, were doing sessions with Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and appearing on the BBC behemoth Later…. “It’s been kinda crazy but kinda mundane at the same time,” Harry admits. “It doesn’t really sink in in a way. It all seems kind of normal and then you’ll have moments like playing on Jools Holland and Noel Gallagher’s there and you’re kind of like ‘What? Like, what’s going on?’ It’s this weird thing because we don’t feel like we’ve changed as people very much but everything’s moving so fast. It can be a little bewildering at times and it’s difficult to keep up.”
Propelled through hyperspace at breakneck speed, they’ve quickly become one of the blogosphere’s most hyped bands and it’s easy to see why they are so loved: offering up crazy, Technicolor electro-infused indie pop with a delicious psychedelic edge. It’s obvious a plethora of influences gathered from across the globe have made the music what it is. Much the opposite of Byrne’s comment, the transcontinental collective are one of the most interesting and revitalising bands in recent times, taking advantage of services such as streaming and reaping the benefits.
With the group hailing from all four corners of the globe, they have educated each other on their own personal tastes. “Orono [lead vocalist and songwriter] filled me in on quite a lot of J-Pop stuff which there’s no way I would’ve come across independently so that sinks in and starts to make you think differently in terms how you write and think about music. Just as one of the guys from New Zealand showing someone something that they know from home which might be quite obscure. At the same time, with the age thing, when I started working with Orono, I hadn’t watched much in terms of YouTubers and that started to make us think about how content is created and consumed.”
With the band ranging from their late teens to early thirties and coming from the likes of North America, Australasia, Asia and Europe, their wide range of influences seem to be the creative melting pot which manifests itself as Superorganism. Despite their collected differences, there is one thing that unites the band. “Perhaps the thing that has had the biggest impact on the band is being born in one country and raised in another. I’m from Burnley originally but I lived in New Zealand about half of my life and so that starts to have an effect on you. When I go to Burnley I’m clearly not like the rest of the people in Burnley, but when I’m in New Zealand I don’t feel as though I’m a true New Zealander. Emily [songwriter, producer, and synth] moved from Australia to New Zealand. Orono moved from Japan to America when she was 14 and went to boarding school. We’ve all been bounced around between Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Korea so I feel that’s what’s made the most impact. There’s this feeling of not being culturally or geographically tied to one place which I guess is the most important thing as none of us connect to one strong cultural identity.” It’s this nomadic quality which seems to allow the group to work separately, yet bring together a final product so perfectly.
There is more to Superorganism than the music. “We see ourselves as a pop art project with a band at the centre of it. With the fear of sounding pretentious, we feel it’s a bit like Andy Warhol’s Factory. There were filmmakers, artists… I mean, he had The Velvet Underground for God’s sake, and that’s kind of what we’re going for.” Operating from their London-based modern day Factory, the band do resonate with one of the 20th Century’s most iconic visionaries. With their social commentary on topics such as fame, bold bright homages to pop culture and an in-house production unit, they are a self-facilitating force, unafraid of hard work.
Delving beyond the music, everything about the collective seems to flow effortlessly. From the music to the art to the playable video game for Something For Your M.I.N.D., the attention to detail seems effortless. Superorganism offer up not only music but a whole ecosystem inhabited by stock footage scenery, flying mammals and retro game references, all punctuated by hazy vocals and joyous instrumentation and it seems that as they release more songs, another biosphere is revealed from behind an 8-bit curtain.
Now based in London in a shared house, the new experience of living together hasn’t meddled with their process too much. “It’s not really changed our workflow. We still mostly work alone and send files to each other even though we live in the same house because we didn’t want to break up the method when we were halfway through an album. We knew that if we all started jamming in one room it would be like having two albums in one. So, we kind of wanted to stick to that method – but it also just works for us. It gives you a lot of space and time to think of your own ideas without the pressures of being around other people.”
Wrapping up our conversation I wonder where we’ll find such an ambitious group in the future. “We don’t wanna sit stagnant on things and be a band who take four years to make a new album. At the moment we are focusing on making the best live show we can, and this is only gonna get better as we start to play bigger and bigger venues.” Much like the likes of The Velvet Underground and The Flaming Lips before them, it seems that fame will only open new opportunities for their ambition, and we can’t wait to see where that takes them.
Superorganism perform at Hangar 34 on Saturday 5th May.