INTERVIEW: Superorganism

There is something about the band Superorganism that is so fascinating to me. They’re a collective of musicians who came together over the internet with no intent to ever perform live, but just wanted to experiment and make music together. Their 2018 self-titled debut album was the result of that passion and freeing experimentation that immediately captivated and offered something uniquely fresh to listeners. From there they toured the world, and even performed at Splendour In The Grass where they cemented themselves as ones to watch. 

Over the pandemic their fever rise continued to grow even though they weren’t releasing new music, and that was all because of the TikTok viral nature of their 2017 single ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D’, which was having a complete resurgence online. So many new fans were discovering them, and luckily for them new music was just on the horizon. 

Earlier this year the collective returned with ‘Teenager’ featuring CHAI and Pi Ja Ma, which ushered in a whole new chapter in their musical exploration. Their sophomore studio album ‘World Wide Pop’ is Superorganism styled experimentation at their finest. It’s bold, fresh, unique, and thrilling. With each listen, you hear new things within their IMAX-pop sized production that continues to pull you into their orbit.

I chatted to Orono and Harry from Superorganism about the importance time had on their long awaited sophomore record ‘World Wide Pop’, explored why the Solar System became a recurring theme, and discovered some of the unique samples you might hear on the record. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: ‘World Wide Pop’ is this IMAX-pop sized record that hits the listener with an experimental fusion of sounds and elevates the sonical vision of your debut. With your debut you did a lot of touring, so from those songs having such a big live identity, how did that shape how you approached this record? 

HARRY: I think it did in the sense that we made that first record without any intention of ever playing it live because we were all living in different places, and we didn’t think that would be a thing. So we had to figure out how to play it live after the fact. So from just being out on the road and playing all the time, you start to learn what works and what doesn’t, and what is more fun and vibey. So I think that’s then seeped into the songwriting that way, but we also didn’t write this record thinking “how are we going to play this live” either. We decided to make the record the way we wanted to, and then to figure out the logistics of doing it live later. 

TB: Was there a song from the debut album that didn’t work live?

ORONO: No, we actually played all the songs live. We kinda had to. 

H: I remember there was a show we played in the Netherlands, and it was a really sick show, and everyone kept chanting for an encore but we had literally run out of songs to play. The venue manager came backstage and was like “you need more songs. That was a good show, but that’s not enough for people’s money” and I was like “I don’t know what to tell you mate, we’ve played every song we have” *laughs*. So yeah, we did end up playing all the songs live, and now we have so many more ones to add to the show. 

TB: It’s been 4 years between records – how important was time for all of you instead of rushing out music to ride the heavy acclaim you were receiving? 

O: I worked on the album artwork throughout the pandemic and that alone took three years, so I don’t think I would’ve finished it if it wasn’t for that extra time, so that was really important I think. I also don’t like being rushed with anything I do. But you also kinda have to be rushed at the same time because otherwise you’ll never finish it. That’s also a problem I have. 

H: Sometimes having that final deadline lights the fire under your ass to finish it. I think something else that was really cool about having so much time was that we could have time to reflect and come back to the songs. So for example we could work on a song and then come back to a version we did a year before and re-analyse it and see how it can fit with other songs we had recently wrote, and allow us to adjust the song to fit with where we were at. The album is a little bit all over the place sonically, but I like to think there is a level of consistency which I think comes from having that time and space to come back and revisit a lyric or a specific sound. Having the time allows you to be a bit more objective about it. 

TB: What song do you think you revisited the most?

H: It’s hard to say. I think it would be one of the songs we finished with Stuart Price who came in right at the end to refine some songs we had. He’s an absolute legend, and he mentored us a bit with nailing some of the sections. We did seven songs with him, but I don’t think I could tell you what one actually went through the most versions.

O. Maybe ‘’ if you include how many versions it went through before Stuart even jumped on it. 

H: Oh yeah! 

TB: ‘Black Hole Baby’ explosively opens the album with this colourful production and refrain that goes “welcome back to black hole baby”. It felt like the perfect setting of tone with a playful cheek of we are going to literally introduce you into the world of our album. Where in the process of the album did this song come to life, and when did it fall into place for the start of the record.

H: It was probably around the middle of the production process. It wasn’t one of the later songs, but I also wouldn’t say it was one of the earlier ones either. I think it felt pretty quickly that this was the natural song to open the record with. The fact that we wrote it in the middle of the production of the record meant that sonically it had a lot of the parts. 

To my ears I always felt like that was the opening song of the record, ‘Solar System’ was the midway point, and ‘Everything Falls Apart’ was the closer. It always felt like that. We tried other ways of sequencing it, but if those three things weren’t in place then it didn’t feel right. 

TB: The inclusion of the radio announcements and acclaim of the band was a really cool touch to bring into the song. Did doing that feel like a nice processing of what happened over those first wild few years?

O: Yeah it’s definitely some sort of processing tool. But we also just like to get meta. It’s so weird hearing all of those people talk about us. So we decided to include all of that just on a whim basically. 

H: It’s a little bit self-indulgent, but it’s also a record of the fact that all of that happened on our first album. There are very few career milestones that my parents understand. Like they don’t necessarily clock getting added to playlists, or how cool it is for us to do some performances, but they understand Elton John saying something nice about us. They are like “oh wow, that is real” *laughs*. So part of the self indulgence was we’ll put all of this stuff on the first song of the record just for the parents, and maybe they will stop asking us to get real jobs *laughs*. 

TB: *Laughs* You’re like see this is real, this IS my job! 

H: *Laughs* yeah! Tucan said it’s only recently that his mum has stopped asking him “when are you going to go back to Uni and do a computer science degree” *laughs*. 

TB: ‘Flying’ is a very infectious moment on the record, and I personally loved the inclusion of the Saxophone at the end. Can you explain the creative process behind the track? 

O: We actually originally wrote it for a kids animated movie.

H: Yeah, we got asked to pitch for this movie so we wrote this song. It never ended up happening for the movie, but we thought the song was sick so we decided to keep it and make it a bit more us by adding in a bit of darkness and extending it out. It was a really interesting creative process because it was originally quite direct about the movie lyrically, and that was the foundation we set for the tone of it, which is why it’s so upbeat and energetic. But we did take down some of the original cheesiness and put more of ourselves into it. I think it went through a lot of drafts as a result, but I can’t really remember them beyond that to be honest with you. 

But I do remember that the Saxophone solo was a reasonably late addition as someone said the song sounded a bit like Bruce Springsteen, and I hadn’t thought that before. So the more I heard it I agreed, and I wanted to lean into that a little further, so we added the saxophone. I originally thought the guitar was a bit New Order, so I definitely used them for inspiration for the guitar riff. 

TB: There is a lot of influence of space and the solar system specifically on this record with ‘Black Hole Baby’, ‘Into The Sun’, ‘Solar System’, and the music video for ‘On & On’ as direct examples of that. What is it about space and the solar system that feels like a strong reference and inspiration for you as a band? 

H: The whole album is a self-indulgent meditation on our place in the world both as individuals and as a collective. And the solar system is the ultimate existentially humbling force to us. It’s something we don’t have a grasp on. Humans feel like they are in-control of a lot of things, but one thing nobody can pretend to understand and have control of is space. It’s not that we are trying to be super conscious of this, but it’s almost a reflection of that feeling with those references throughout the record. It’s about feeling fragile and small at points, and acknowledging that. 

TB: If Superorganism could take over any planet in the solar system, what would it be?

H: I reckon one of the moons of Jupiter, actually. Like, Europa. It’s a weird and interesting place. I like the idea of the sky being dominated by a giant beautiful gas planet.

TB: I really loved the music video for ‘On & On’. What is one of your favourite moments from shooting that video clip?

H: I like the bits where we were doing the desert shooting scenes. It was really chaotic. We just had a treadmill, and all of these stupid costumes. 

O: I like the mountain climbing parts. That was pretty funny to shoot. 

TB: The thing I fell in love with about Superorganism in 2018 is the layering of production and the very innovative direction you take, and this album is just as chaotically brilliant sonically. So what is one of the strangest samples or instruments that people may hear on this record? 

H: I don’t know. This is one of those things that because we work on it for so long, we end up burying all of these sounds throughout it that I forget they’re even in there. I forget what it was, but I was listening back to the record the other day while preparing some of the live stuff and going “hang on a minute, I don’t remember that being in there”. It all kinda gets buried in the avalanche of it all. 

O: I was hanging out with Nardwuar one day and I asked him to say some shit, and he just said “keep on rockin’ in the free world, Superorganism”. So yeah, we ended up sampling that, so I guess that is strange, but it’s one of my favourites. 

TB: Do you ever put anything in as niche little jokes or references for each other, or any easter eggs I guess?

O: Yeah, there is something on the record that you need to play it backwards to hear.

H: Oh yeah! 

O: We aren’t going to tell you what it is though as we don’t want to get sued. 

TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the record. Are you ready?

H: Yeah!

TB: The emoji that best describes our new album ‘World Wide Pop’ is the…

H: The world. 

TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the album was…

H: ‘Everything Falls Apart’! There was talk about it for a while for it to not be on the album, but we really pushed for it. 

TB: The song we are enjoying playing live the most so far is…

H: ‘Don’t Let The Colony Collapse’!

O: That’s the same for me!

TB: The first song I’d want you to show your friends from our album would be…

H: ‘Solar System’ for me!

O: ‘Teenager’ or ‘World Wide Pop’ for me. 

‘World Wide Pop’ is out now!