The internet has provided us with many of the 21st Century’s greatest exploits, from dank memes, cat videos and Kanye West’s Twitter rants; the lengths the internet can go to provide quality entertainment is endless and leaves us waiting with baited breath for whatever craze is coming next. Aside from endless scrolls of Twitter fun, the internet is also a place that allows us to be incredibly creative, to make friends with people across the world and, most importantly, to share music. These attributes are what psycho-pop super group SUPERORGANISM have harnessed to become one of the most exciting music and art collectives of the digital age.
Without the internet, this musical octet would literally not exist, as the majority of the band met through online forums or YouTube algorithms from their computers around the world, which funnily enough, considering our reliance on platforms like social media, is not the most conventional way to form a band in this day and age. “I feel like it was kind of fate, a string of events that led us all together,” Soul, one eighth of the band recalls. “It was [on] a music forum maybe 10 years ago that Tucan and Emily met on in New Zealand. For them they were sort of outcasts in their respective high schools; it wasn’t cool to do music then, it was more cool to do sports. Forums are good for finding like-minded people and that’s where it all got started, you can’t really find like-minded people in a small town in New Zealand.”
Photo by Steph Wilson
Over the years the band began to grow, with members joining from Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. Orono, the group’s lead vocalist who was based in Maine, America at the time, “found them through a YouTube algorithm when she was listening to Princess Chelsea who were on the same label as the original band, The Eversons. I didn’t meet them through the internet,” Soul tells me during our phone conversation, “rather, I met them through a music festival in New Zealand. So, it was all these little things, these string of events that brought us all together.” Through the ability to meet people online and clever algorithms, these random events led to Superorganism officially being transformed into an eight piece at the beginning of 2017. Their new name truly reflects what the band are doing, they have formed a new musical supergroup, unlike anything else currently in the blogosphere, a whole new kind of virtual organism that produces its own unique sound we can study and pick apart. “It [the band’s name] originated kind of spontaneously,” Soul explains. “It was around the time that we were discussing all the seeds of the band being planted and the demos being constructed, things were kind of coming together and Superorganism summed up what the band was about.”
The powers of the internet not only brought them together, it kept them together and allowed them to create music separately, yet together as an online collective. Talking online and sending files across Dropbox and WeTransfer was working for the small-scale project at the time, however, their quick growth in popularity soon saw them crossing oceans to form a physical group. “It was just going to be a recording project,” Soul recalls. “I was in Sydney, Orono was in Maine and the rest of the band were in London. It would only make sense for it to be a recording project at the time. It was only when there was the demand to see a live show that we thought maybe Orono and I should move to London. It was a pretty momentous occasion.” The result of the move was a large town house in the East End of London which seven of the eight members of the band now live in. Soul, the only member who does not live in the house (turned 24/7 art factory), describes how there is now a stronger chemistry between the group but it hasn’t changed the way in which they make music. “We are still sharing files within the same household because it still makes sense, the Internet is pretty quick so you’re sending files rather than burning a CD.” Being in the same time zone also helps: “You can just walk into the next room if you have any spontaneous ideas that you want to do quickly, you don’t have to wait. It’s just a little bit easier, not too different.”
Living together also allows the group to collectively share each other’s interests and musical influences to continuously keep developing their art. “We talk a lot about music and if someone has released new music we’ll discuss that,” Soul explains. “We all recently listened to Ariana Grande’s latest album and we were discussing what sounded like a Max Martin track or a Pharrell track, talking about the production of it. We’re all watching the new Bojack Horseman together at the moment as well, all these things really influence us.” Their musical ability goes much deeper than throwing a few samples and pop culture references together to make a track, they truly understand their art form and what they can take inspiration from. “We understand the power of the unconscious, we all like reading and watching things and when you just sit down an idea forms. The best ideas are always flopped out naturally.” This hedonistic approach to music has allowed the group to be very experimental with their sound making. By using everyday items such as toy cash registers and radio static to biting into apples and blowing bubbles into water in front of a microphone, they are able to create sounds you wouldn’t hear on conventional pop tracks. “Water is a good one for me,” Soul muses, “the tiniest droplet of water can get a different sound to a gush of ocean wave, the way you can use it is so versatile, like a sampler or a piano.”
Turning their experimental art factory style of music production into a live show has been a challenge for the band and sadly their collection of toys and buckets of water don’t currently make it onto the stage with them. Soul doesn’t rule out the possibility of it in the future though: “We could do it, I mean they are integral to the songs so you wouldn’t be able to do the songs without them. We would like to do it all miked up, we have enough hands in the band to do it.” However, this doesn’t make their show any less immersive or compelling for fans, if anything it only adds to the air of mystery of what to expect from a Superorganism show. “The show has got bigger and bigger and now we have massive projections, its really spell binding and mind blowing to see people there that are excited to see the show. In the US and sometimes Europe, you come out on stage and it smells of weed smoke and we’re like, ‘Yeh, you’re all here to have a good time’.”
“It’s like a circus or a production as much as it is a show, we like to transcend a rock show and go into something that is other worldly and mesmerising. I feel like we are sort of magicians trying to play this magic trick of distorting space and time and making you feel like you have less reality for a time. Life is hard and you want to go to a show and forget about your problems and enjoy yourself. We have something positive to offer the world and make you go home feeling a little better.”
Let’s not forget, this musical supergroup have only been putting songs about prawns starting world wars, giant floating whales and the sound of bubbles into the virtual and living world for the last 18 months. Harnessing the power of the internet has allowed them to bypass the early awkward stages of forming a band and the small gigs in tiny basements and jump right into viral fame. Having slots on Later… with Jools Holland and BBC Introducing within months of forming is something most bands could only dream of and they have even been nominated for an MTV award at this year’s EMAs in the Best Push category. “It’s been so exciting, it’s been so fast you don’t really have time to process it,” Soul comments as he reflects on the band being thrust into the spotlight so quickly. “The times we do have to process it, sharing a joint backstage in an ally and talking about it, it really sinks in. Those moments are really profound to me, it feels very romantic in a sense that time stops. Even if this all ended tomorrow we’d be like, ‘Wow, we did something’.”
It is very unlikely the journey will all end tomorrow for Superorganism, as long as the internet keeps spinning and the memes keep coming, they will always have a home within the virtual world, and I for one cannot wait to experience the circus for myself.
Superorganism play Arts Club on 16th October. Tickets are available here.